Washington-After waiting so long since the U.S. President Barack Obama pledged to be transparent and said he will announce the real number of the civilian victims, who were inadvertently killed in strikes in countries where America is not at war, a major disclosure likely to inflame debate about targeted killings and use of drones.
The current administration of the United States of America admitted in a statement that it unintentionally killed between 64 and 166 civilians in the period between 2009 and the end of 2015.
Obama’s goal for the release of the numbers, which are higher than any previously acknowledged by his government but vastly below private estimates, is to create greater transparency about what the U.S. military and CIA are doing to fight militants plotting against the United States.
Non-governmental organizations estimate that hundreds of civilians were killed in such strikes, many of them by drones, in countries including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Terrorism distinguished between these three countries and the other three where military operations are carried out, which are Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria.
“The numbers reported by the White House today simply don’t add up and we’re disappointed by that,” said Federico Borello, executive director for the Center for Civilians in Conflict.
Drone advocates, including those within the U.S. military, argue the strikes are an essential part of reducing the ability of militant groups to plot attacks against the United States. They say the government goes to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties.
“We’re still faced with the basic question: Is the number of bad guys who are taken out of commission by drone strikes greater or less than the number of people who are inspired to turn to violent acts,” said Paul Pillar, a former senior CIA specialist on the Middle East and now a professor of security studies at Georgetown University.
For his part, Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar, who says he represents a hundred families of civilians killed by drones, questioned the validity of the data even before their release by the director of National Intelligence. He said Washington needed to better explain its criteria for declaring someone a civilian, something that can be difficult to do from a camera on a drone.
“President Obama is worried about his legacy as a president who ordered extrajudicial killings of thousands, which resulted in a high number of civilian deaths,” Akbar told Reuters. “As a constitutional lawyer himself, he knows what’s wrong with that.”
Obama issued an executive order on Friday requiring annual disclosure of such strikes, which fall outside America’s conventional wars.