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.

United States

The US military has admitted responsibility for two more civilian casualties in Yemen following a report that claimed there were dozens of incidents where innocent lives may have been lost. In a statement to Business Insider, Maj. John J. Risbee, a spokesperson for US Central Command, said the military had reviewed the report, from the monitoring group Airwars, and determined that a 2017 airstrike had indeed “caused injuries to two civilians.”

Airwars estimates that as many as 154 Yemeni civilians have been killed since President Trump took office in January 2017, including between 28 and 32 children. [Business Insider / Charles Davis]

US military admits a February US airstrike injured two civilians in Somalia. AFRICOM released their third civilian casualty assessment report since they started this practice in April 2020. While three incidents remain open and under review, AFRICOM assessed that one of these incidents on February 17, 2020 resulted in two civilian injuries. [Garowe] [CGTN]

Arm sales
The State Department has informally told Congress that it plans to sell 18 armed aerial drones worth approximately $2.9 billion to the United Arab Emirates. The reported sale would mark the first armed drone export since the Trump administration reinterpreted a component of the Missile Technology Control Regime, which prevents its 35 members from selling armed drones to other nations. [The Hill / Celine Castronuovo]
TWEET: “Trump administration just gave Congress formal notification for a massive arms transfer to the United Arab Emirates: 50 F-35s, 18 MQ-9 Reapers with munitions; a $10 billion munitions package including thousands of Mk 82 dumb bombs,  guided bombs, missiles & more, per source.” [WaPo / John Hudson]

President Trump’s plan to approve the $10 billion sale of F-35 stealth fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates is expected to proceed, regardless of the outcome of the 2020 election and despite questions from Democrats in the Senate.[Washington Examiner / Joel Gehrke]

STATEMENT: “Amnesty International USA is calling for the United States to immediately halt transfers of all arms, equipment, and military assistance to all parties to the conflict for use in Yemen; and to enforce the United Nations arms embargo on Libya by prohibiting the transfer of arms and equipment that may be used in the armed conflict there.” [Amnesty International]
COMMENTARY: “How the UAE has used the ‘war on terror’ to crack down on its people for nine years.” [Responsible Statecraft / Sydney Boer]

The U.S. State Department cleared the potential sale of four sophisticated U.S.-made aerial drones to Taiwan in a formal notification sent to Congress, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, the last step before finalizing a weapons sale that will further anger China. [Reuters / Mike Stone and Patricia Zengerle]

The commander of AFRICOM explained to the Washington Examiner why drones alone cannot stave off terrorists intent on attacking the United States. “American soldiers on the ground provide capacity and capability unmatched across the world today,” U.S. Army Africa commander, Maj. Gen. Andrew Rohling told the Washington Examiner. “You can’t do that with just a drone.” [
Washington Examiner / Abraham Mahshie]

The U.S.-led multinational coalition launched almost 35,000 strikes against Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria over the past six years. [Air Force Times / Jared Morgan]

Biden’s expected foreign policy agenda
COMMENTARY: “Joe Biden said he’s against the Yemen War. He needs to end it on day one. Here’s what Biden can do to halt all U.S. assistance to the onslaught he helped start.” [In These Times / Sarah Lazare]

What the former vice president to Barack Obama will do in Iraq and Syria remains in question. “We saw what Obama did to Iraq when he was the president, his decision to withdraw American troops from Iraq is an example. It led to increased Iranian intervention in Iraqi affairs,” said Yousif Emad, a 26-year-old dentist. “Biden will bring us back to Obama’s era or even worse!” [AP / John Leicester, Jill Lawless and Jamey Keaten]

“We are likely to see more continuity than divergence from the Trump to the Biden administration in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” said Elizabeth Threlkeld, deputy director for South Asia at the Stimson Center. “In general, any changes will be more in tone and process than on substance.” [RFE/RL / Abubakar Siddique]

COMMENTARY: “We know how the movie ended last time. The Obama/Biden administration bombed weddings in Pakistan, pursued Edward Snowden around the world, and presided over a steady expansion of economic inequality at home.” [Jacobin Mag / Ben Burgis]

“The world according to Joe Biden is a much more traditional take on America’s role and interests, grounded in international institutions established after World War Two, and based on shared western democratic values. It is one of global alliances in which America leads free nations in combating transnational threats. What could change under Biden? A few things stand out – the approach to allies, to climate change, and to the Middle East.” [BBC / Barbara Plett Usher]

“Issues like arms sales, issues like human rights — there certainly will be a different approach on that,” said Dennis Ross, a former U.S. diplomat and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, in a recent webinar. [WaPo / Ishaan Tharoor]

The defense industry is taking a largely positive view of its prospects under an administration led by Joe Biden. [WaPo / Aaron Gregg]

COMMENTARY: “Major cuts to defense spending sought by more progressive Democrats are unlikely given Biden’s centrist tendencies and possible Republican control of the Senate. However, up to $25 billion could be cut however by eliminating the “supplementary” defense budget that is the Overseas Contingency Operations funding mechanism.” [Forbes / Sebastien Roblin]
COMMENTARY: “Though Biden and the foreign policy team he will likely install already have deep relationships with most of the major U.S. allies, they will have to work long and hard to restore trust in the United States’ word and capability for effective cooperation.” [WaPo / Jackson Diehl]

Joe Biden’s position on arms trade issues [Forum on the Arms Trade]

The Biden administration can both look inward and provide leadership on the global stage [The Atlantic Council / Christopher Preble]

Joe Biden has been elected President. Here’s what that means for the military [ / Patricia Kime, Gina Harkins, and Richard Sisk]

What will a Biden presidency mean for Iran? [Al Jazeera]

What a Biden administration means for defense [Air Force Magazine / Rachel Cohen]

Domestic affairs
A concerned law enforcement source provided The Nation with this Department of Homeland Security intelligence report about alleged violent threats asso­ciated with this summer’s protests against police brutality and mass incarceration. Its use of counter­terrorism terminology shows the DHS’s tendency to see terrorism threats where they may not exist. [The Nation / Ken Klippenstein]
COMMENTARY: “We need to know who’s surveilling protests — and why. If it closes a loophole, the FAA can hold all drone operators accountable to transparency.” [WIRED / Joel Carter and Samuel Woolley


The Ethiopian army on Thursday said the country had been pushed into an “aimless war” with its northern Tigray region, which in turn said that areas around its capital were being bombed by fighter jets. [DW] [Axios / Dave Lawler]

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday announced that the military carried out a round of airstrikes against regional security forces in the northern Tigray region, saying the operation destroyed rockets and other heavy artillery. His declaration on state television came the same day he moved to impose full federal control over Tigray and strip its ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front of power, while also disarming its large paramilitary force and local militia. [WaPo / Ermias Tasfaye Daba and Lesley Wroughton]

Ahmed defended his government’s military campaign amid mounting international criticism and fears the situation could descend into all-out war. [VICE / Tim Hume]


The French government on Monday, 2 November, stated that its forces had killed more than 50 terrorists linked to Al Qaeda group in airstrikes in central Mali, AFP reported. [
The Quint]

Less than a year after sending hundreds of extra troops to the Sahel, France is hoping to cut back its military presence in the restive region to make room for a stronger European commitment, army sources say. [AFP / Daphne Benoit]


Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan surprised his country and the world on Monday night when he announced that he had agreed to end the war in Nagorno-Karabakh on terms that were “unbelievably painful for me personally and for our people.” The deal calls for Russia to deploy peacekeepers to the region for five years, solidifying Russia’s influence there. [Axios / Dave Lawler]

Drones have wreaked havoc in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict [The National Interest / John Venable]

Saudi Arabia

The Saudi-led coalition on Monday destroyed two explosive-laden drones launched by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi group in the direction of Saudi Arabia, Saudi state TV said. [Reuters]

Read the full drone roundup here and here


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