Drones have changed the character of warfare as countries globally have started increasing use of this technology against militant groups or enemy hideout.
Recently, the United States on Friday carried out a drone strike against an Islamic State “planner” in eastern Afghanistan, the military said, a day after an attack outside Kabul’s airport killed 13 U.S. troops. “Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties,” a U.S. military statement said.
The strike against IS hideout is not new. The use of predator drone started as early as 2001 when the US started ‘War on Terror’ against the Islamist outfits based in Afghanistan. However, precision remained the issue back then.
Analysts estimate that more than 80,000 surveillance drones and almost 2,000 attack drones will be purchased around the world in the next 10 years, a report in The Guardian said.
Here are some of the countries that have heavily relied on drone technology in warfare and some others which inspite of possessing the technology, haven’t used it for combat:
Post 9/11 attacks, predator drones were already used to observe Osama bin Laden, the al-Qaida leader, from the skies. The first strike, in October 2001, however, missed its intended target, Taliban leader Mullah Omar, killing some of his bodyguards outside the leader’s compound. The US since then employed the use of drones in Afghanistan and Iraq. The country also used drones in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Libya to carry out operations.
Between January 2018 and April 20, 2019, the US carried out at least 149 air and drone strikes in Somalia, killing up to 1,333 people. Although US denied killing any civilians in these strikes, Amnesty International identified 14 civilians who were killed in just five of those attacks.
In Obama’s first two years in office, 2009 and 2010, 186 drone strikes were launched in Pakistan, Syria and Yemen. In Trump’s first year and 11 months in office 238 drone strikes were launched, The Guardian reported.
Turkey have been conducting drone attack in northern Iraq in a bid to “clean up” outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). Turkey regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK rear bases in Iraq. Since 2016, Turkey has used drones heavily, against the separatist Kurdish PKK in its own country, in northern Iraq and more recently against Kurdish groups in Syria.
Iran Drone Attack on Saudi Installation
In 2019, senior US officials had claimed that the attack on Saudi oil defences were reportedly carried out by locations in southern Iran, at the northern end of the Gulf. Iran however, denied involvement in the attacks, which disrupted global oil supplies.
Loud explosions had erupted at Khurais oilfield and Abqaiq processing facility in September 2019, both owned by Saudi Aramco, the country’s state-owned oil company, often described as the kingdom’s crown jewel. The Houthis, the Iran-aligned militants fighting a Saudi-led military coalition in neighbouring Yemen for the past four years, claimed responsibility for the attack.
China is a supplier of drones to a range of countries including UAE. The drone attacks has been used in a string of deadly strikes in Libya – as well as Egypt Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
Chinese-made drones have been extensively used in combat outside China, but the Chinese military has avoided conducting lethal strikes themselves. A New York Times report said that in 2013 China considered using a drone to kill a Burmese drug lord, but opted to capture and try him in court. He received a death sentence.
Hamas and Israel
Hamas has recently started using kamikaze drones against Israel this year. The Palestine based group is using an unmanned aircraft packed with explosives and employed as a miniature cruise missile. In this clash between the Israel and Palestine, the Islamic militant group has fired more than 4,000 rockets at Israel, some hitting deeper in Israeli territory.
Israel, on the other hand, reportedly used a swarm of drones to locate and attack Hamas targets during the 11-day conflict that broke out in May. The Israeli Defense Forces reportedly employ artificial intelligence to identify and strike targets in the Gaza Strip, New Scientist said in a report.