This roundup, curated by ReThink Media, looks at how the media is talking about drone warfare (and related topics) and what stories are being told.
With little transparency from governments on this topic, this roundup aims to be as comprehensive as possible, identifying breaking news, trends, developing stories, or interesting narratives. Rethink Media also use media coverage to compile a snapshot of strikes each week. The short version can be read here.
UAE arms sales
The State Department on Tuesday cleared a massive package of F-35 fighter jets and MQ-9 drones for the United Arab Emirates, making official a potential sale still opposed by many congressional Democrats. [Air Force Times / Aaron Mehta] [The Hill / Rebecca Kheel]
While the Trump administration approved the sales, contracts for the weapons have not been finalized. UAE could sign contracts as soon as soon as Dec. 10, when the clock runs out on the congressional review process. It’s rare for Congress to outright block an arms deal, but it can slow them. [Defense One / Marcus Weisgerber]
Senator Chris Murphy criticized the arms sale, saying it would constrain Biden’s options in the Middle East. [Reuters]
Kate Kizer, policy director of Win Without War, called on Congress to step in and reject the UAE sale. “The United States should not be in the business of arming human rights abusers — not when those weapons are used regularly in Yemen, Libya, and the Horn of Africa to massacre civilians, not when those weapons have repeatedly ended up in the hands of violent non-state actors in direct contravention of U.S. law, not during a lame duck period, not ever.” [POLITICO / Bryan Bender]
COMMENTARY: “A November 10 statement from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says that the UAE needs the weapons in order to “defend itself against heightened threats from Iran.” That sounds better than admitting that the UAE will use the weapons to kill innocent people in Yemen.” [Counterpunch / Charles Pierson]
COMMENTARY: Winners and losers of Trump’s F-35 Fighter sale to the UAE [Forbes / Michael Peck]
RESOURCE: The Trump Administration’s Arms Sales to UAE [Forum on the Arms Trade
Why selling Reaper drones to UAE is more controversial than F-35s [Forbes / David Hambling]
A group of senators pressed the State Department to take action to curb widespread violations of a United Nations arms embargo on Libya and ensure that US-manufactured weaponry and equipment are not used in the country’s prolonged conflict. [WaPo / Missy Ryan]
US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia
Under a draft order circulating at the Pentagon on Monday, the number of U.S. forces in Afghanistan would be halved from the current deployment of 4,500 troops, officials said. In Iraq, the Pentagon would trim force levels slightly below the 3,000 troops that commanders had previously announced. And in Somalia, virtually all of the more than 700 troops conducting training and counterterrorism missions would leave. [NYT / Eric Schmitt, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Charlie Savage and Helene Cooper]
In his memoir, Obama talks a little about his role in expanding America’s post-9/11 wars
Barack Obama said that he “took no joy” in the drone killings of terrorist suspects he signed off while US president, but defends them as “necessary” in an exclusive extract from his new book in The Times. In his book he writes: “The actual wars in Afghanistan and Iraq hadn’t involved the indiscriminate bombing or deliberate targeting of civilians that had been a routine part of even ‘good’ wars like World War Two; and with glaring exceptions like Abu Ghraib, our troops in theatre had displayed a remarkable level of discipline and professionalism. [The Times UK / David Charter]
REVIEW: “Presumably left for the future volume are, among other fraught subjects: the 2016 election, his abdication of his own “red line” in Syria, the entrenchment of the surveillance state and a discussion of drone strikes.” [NYT / Jennifer Szalai]
Kunduz, Logar, Balkh, Paktia and Faryab provinces have witnessed Taliban attacks by drones in recent weeks, local officials said. [TOLOnews / Tamim Hamid]
Drone strikes — targeting Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh soldiers and destroying tanks, artillery and air defense systems — provided a huge advantage for Azerbaijan in the 44-day war and offered the clearest evidence yet of how battlefields are being transformed by unmanned attack drones rolling off assembly lines around the world.
The expanding array of relatively low-cost drones can offer countries air power at a fraction of the cost of maintaining a traditional air force. The situation in Nagorno-Karabakh also underscored how drones can suddenly shift a long-standing conflict and leave ground forces highly exposed. “An air force is a very expensive thing,” Michael Kofman, military analyst and director of Russia studies at CNA, added. “And they permit the utility of air power to smaller, much poorer nations.” [WaPo / Robyn Dixon]