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.

COMMENTARY: Drone strikes are way down under Biden
President Biden says he is committed to continuing US counterterrorism operations through over-the-horizon operations. But at least so far, his administration has carried out very few drone strikes, and airstrikes in general, compared to his predecessors in their first year in office.
“A hugely significant change in foreign policy has happened — and almost nobody is paying attention,” Ryan Cooper writes in the Week.
Cooper notes that during Trump’s first 11 months in office, there were more than 1,600 air and artillery strikes in Iraq and Syria and just four during Biden’s term so far. Strikes in Somalia fell from roughly 75 last year to fewer than 10 this year. In Yemen, the annual total dropped from about 18 to maybe four, though precise figures are unclear because some strikes are classified. [The Week/ Ryan Cooper] [Twitter/ Ryan Cooper] [Airwars]

Spencer Ackerman: “The Peril and the Promise of Biden’s Drone Review”
Ackerman argues that the substantial decline in US drone strikes thus far under the Biden administration “opens up a tremendous opportunity for Biden to stop the drone strikes durably, rather than just grounding the drones until a successor president decides to launch them again.”
“You absolutely do not have to hand it to someone who’s launching fewer drone strikes but more than zero drone strikes,”Ackerman writes. But the fall off in strikes does raise a key question: “Doesn’t the quasi-pause demonstrate the hollowness of any U.S. claim that national security requires drone strikes?”
“The counterterrorism review should be looking at exactly this question of need,” HRW’s Sarah Holewinski told Ackerman. “The counterterrorism review will be a fairly useless exercise if policymakers didn’t question the assumptions the U.S. government has been making for twenty years now.” [Commentary/Spencer Ackerman/ Forever Wars]

Yet, a US drone strike in Syria seriously injured civilians, including children
A US drone strike in Syria’s Idlib province wounded a family of six, including a child who suffered severe head injuries, AP reported.
The strike occurred on Friday morning and injured 52-year-old farmer Ahmad Qassim, his wife, and his four children while they were in a vehicle driving home. The strike reportedly targeted a man on a nearby motorcycle.
CENTCOM said the strike targeted a “senior al-Qaeda leader and planner” and that the possibility of civilian casualties was immediately self-reported. The Pentagon is opening an investigation into the strike.
Qassim’s 10-year-old son Mahmoud remains hospitalized in intensive care and is being treated for serious head injuries that could cause permanent brain damage. His 15-year-old daughter underwent surgery for shrapnel wounds while his wife suffered a broken leg and his other children also suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
“It was horrible,” Qassim recalled. “We didn’t hear any sound of the explosion. The shrapnel hit the left side of the car, tearing through that side, which acted as a sort of filter for a lot of it.”
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that the strike killed a former member of the al-Qaeda linked Horas al-Din group. Local sources told Middle East Eye that the man who was killed was named Musab Kinan. The sources disagreed about his involvement with Horas al-Din. [AP] [Middle East Eye/ Harun al-Aswad] [CNN/ Oren Liebermann]

Kate Kizer: “We can’t trust the US military to investigate civilian casualties”
The Pentagon has vowed to launch an investigation into last week’s drone strike in Syria that seriously injured a family of six. “But U.S. policymakers should not defer to the military’s investigatory promises given its history of covering up or not sufficiently accounting for civilian casualties,” Kate Kizer writes.
“With such ‘over-the-horizon’ strikes likely to become a key component of Team Biden’s rebranded counterterrorism strategy, the national security committees in Congress have a duty to comprehensively review and interrogate the strategic and human costs of this approach.” [Commentary/ Kate Kizer/ Responsible Statecraft]

ICYMI: Rights groups call for a reinvestigation of civilian deaths in Yemen
On Tuesday, Yemen-based Mwatana for Human Rights and the Columbia Law School Human Rights Clinic sent a letter to Sec. of Defense Lloyd Austin calling for new investigations into past US strikes in Yemen.
A report released by Mwatana earlier this year found that US strikes in Yemen in recent years killed and injured far more civilians than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged.
In the letter, the rights groups also urged the Pentagon to issue apologies and offer payments to the families of civilians that the US has already acknowledged killing in Yemen, and the administration did following the Aug. 29 Kabul drone strike. [The Intercept/ Nick Turse]

NGOs call for hearings, reforms to reduce civilian casualties
Human rights and humanitarian organizations sent a letter to Sec. of Defense Austin on Wednesday calling for the Pentagon to commit to implementing meaningful, structural reforms to prioritize civilian protection in US military strikes and operations.
The groups, including the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, CIVIC, Amnesty International USA, and the Norwegian Refugee Council (USA), said the Kabul and 2019 Baghuz Syria strikes “illustrate an unacceptable failure” to protect civilians, investigate civilian harm, and provide accountability for US actions.
In a separate letter sent to the congressional armed services committees Tuesday, groups called for hearings to investigate the Kabul and Baghuz strikes and systemic failures of US policies to protect civilians. [Politico/ Alexander Ward and Quint Forgey]

Read the full roundup here, here and here.

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