“The use of Drones as a United States Counterterrorism Measure” Assignment: Specialized Project Research Paper

Terrorism, whether it “domestic” or” international” is something that is known all over the world.It’s is not something that is new, it’s has been used to strike fear and terror into to the minds of people and governments all over the world. There are many aspects to terrorism, but what is truly known is that the people who carry out these acts of violence, plan and carry them out with strategy and tactics. Terrorist fight for many different reasons, dominance, power, but whatever the case maybe they feel that these acts of violence are necessary. They generally plan their attacks in a manner that will allow them to get noticed, they also attack the targets that symbolize who or what they are fighting against. Since terrorism is constantly changing, counterterrorism methods have to change along with it.

The Federal Bureau of investigation defines terrorism as: “a violent act that violent acts or acts dangerous to human life that violate federal or state law, the appears to be intended  to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping; and occur primarily outside the territorial jurisdiction of the U.S., or transcend national boundaries in terms of the means by which they are accomplished, the persons they appear intended to intimidate or coerce, or the locale in which their perpetrators operate or seek asylum. (“Terrorism Definition” 2016). That is a lot of information to intake and this threat is constantly changing and evolving. With each new technological advance that is made the terrorist threat grows.  So how is this treat combated? Counterterrorism, which is the military or political activities that are set in place to combat the terroristic threat. There are many different strategies that are used, in this paper this student will explain the use of drones as an effective counterterrorism strategy and effort used by the United States government.

A “drone” or unmanned aerial vehicle that is used by political or military use to conduct strikes against  and surveillance from above without the being seen. The Predator drone is one of the most fear pieces of military equipment. It was developed by “Abraham E. Karem”. At first it was considered to be an impossible dream to now being one of the militaries most used and one of the most needed weapon used by the United States military. However great this weapon is there is a lot of controversy that surrounds it use. Like all weapons the “drone” has both pro and cons but before I get into that, I will provide a more detailed back round about how the drone came into play with the U.S (CIA use).

A drone come in all shapes and sizes, most of the time used by the military but as of late have become more popular with private citizens or civilian operations. Its stealth and precious is what it is most known for. Drones have been used to prevent many terroristic attacks and drones where used to survey Osama Bin Laden. It is used by military personal in strategic and tactical strikes to cause as much damage to the enemy as possible without having to use “ground troops” in war torn areas all over the world. However drones are not just used as weapons. They are used to gather information that is used in planning counterterrorism strategies and attacks. When it comes to the war on terrorism gathering as much information is key.

They are generally composed of a light weight material, which in turn makes it light and easy to maneuver. A drone can be equipped with any number of things such as cameras used for surveillance, a global positioning system (GPS), missiles that are controlled by GPS, sometimes lasers can be added, and many other top secret equipment that is used by the military. These drones are usually controlled by pilots that are miles away and even other allied countries. The data and information they collect are transmitted via satellite. They are usually unseen in the sky but they do transmit a distinct nose that can be heard from the ground. This nose is usually where the equipment that has been attached to the drone can be found.

When the drone project was developed the main purpose of it was for gathering intelligence and surveillance. However since it removed having to have an actual human in the cockpit it gave the drone a unique advantage to be used for more than gathering information and surveillance. So to highlight this section the main purposes of the use of drones are as follows: to gather intelligence, provide tactical support, to search for bombs and other dangerous or deadly equipment on roads or near landing areas, they can be used to tap into landlines as well as computers to obtain information, to survey towns and areas as well as monitor the behavior of the local people in that area, they also provide air support, and lastly they are used to follow and track suspicions people and presumed terrorists.

So on average how much does a drone cost? First we have to identify what organizations operate these drones. It is well known that the CIA operates roughly thirty to forty drones, and The Pentagon operates up to seven thousand.   It is estimated that a Reaper as well as Predator drone cost in about four thousand dollars per flight hour. A predator drone can cost anywhere from 5 million upwards as opposed to a Reaper that can cost anywhere from 14 million upwards. So someone argue that this is very taxing on the American people. But can you really put a price on safety and security.

As the United States continues to increasingly depend on the unmanned aerial vehicles some might argue that be UAVs that they are much needed in regards to politics and for the military. You could say that these drones have become an effective way to attack adversaries. However some people will suggest that using this method might not be the best thing to do because there is a lot of Civilian casualties when they are deployed. This has become very useful to terrorist organizations because some feel that they will use the cries of the victims’ families to gather supports, recruit new members, as well as to legitimize their acts of violence against the United States. However there really is very little evidence that would support that either position is correct. “ Drones are a politically and Military attractive way to counter insurgents and terrorists but paradoxically this may lead to their use in situations where they are less likely to be effective and where there is difficulty in predicting the consequences” (Walsh 2013, pg. 13). The United States has been using drones actively and all of the world recognizes this participation. However it is more known in places such as Afghanistan, Iraq they have also been used against the government of Libya against terrorist groups and insurgencies.

Some of the more known strikes where in Pakistan and Yemen against those who supported Al-Qaeda as well as the al-Shabaab movement that was started in Somalia. Now let’s take a look at the objectives of the strikes. The United States set out to punish and/or disseminate insurgencies and terrorists from engaging in more violent acts. In order to stop this organization there must be fear and uncertainty among its group. Also killing high-ranking officials something else that is set out to be done.

The use of drones in this case have gotten the attention of these terrorist groups. It is safe to say that we do not know if the drones are considered to be like other technologies that are used in violent acts. So at this time it is safe to say there is a lot of questions in regards to the use of drones. “The technical logical capabilities of drones are an important Advance over similar forms of violence because they remove American military personnel from immediate Battlefield and allowed the collection of real-time intelligence and its tight integration with decisions to launch attacks” (Walsh 2013, pg. 16). This is important because on the American side as stated before there is little loss of life as well as it is more convenient to gather and collect intelligence.

Now we should not think that the United States government is just launching attack after attack. When a strike is planned out there is always a reasonable amount of intelligence that has been gathered and reviewed before any launch is conducted. To quote a senior United States official by the name of John Brennan “We only authorize a strike if we have a high degree of confidence that innocent civilians will not be injured or killed except in the rarest of circumstances the unpreceded advantage we have made in technology provide a greater proximity to targets for longer periods of time and as a result allow us to better understand what is happening in real time on the ground in a way that were previously impossible” (Jinks, Maogoto, & Solomon undated, pg. 94).  It has been hard to effectively assessed if drone strikes have been truly effective because there’s inadequate data and there is really no type of technology for an analysis of this data. We must understand that collecting this data is not easy and this is because most of these attacks happen in remote areas and the majority of these missions are covert.

Not to say that civilians have not tried to collect this data more notably in Pakistan because that is where some of the longest running and most expensive drone campaigns have been launched. Needless to say we might never really know if the drones are truly an effective counterterrorism strategy one can only have their opinion about it such as the student who feels that it is a good counterterrorism strategy and effort thought out by the U.S. so what makes these drones difference and why are they so important to the U.S. first we’ll take a look at the combat drones such as the Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper. Drones such as this are heavily armed with guided missiles most of these drones can collect and transmitted via satellite to their handlers the information that is collected whether it be pictures, different signals, it could even possibly be sensors that they are picking up off the ground. There are also an armed drones that are strictly just for gatherings and transmitting information.

The majority of the time the combat versions of drones are what are used in the field. “The first known use of an armed wrong to strike militants occurred in Yemen in the late 2000 killing a senior Al-Qaeda leader and five other men including a U.S citizens” (Walsh 2013, pg. 20). This in essence was the game changer. It now allowed for the United States to be able to select which terrorist group or target, they could attack without having to put troops on the ground. This is now known as “selective violence” basically they select the target and or insurgent while distinguishing between innocent civilians. So what are the advantages of selective violence? Well it basically leave the enemy guessing as to what’s going to happen next. It has the ability to undermine the terrorist group and stop whatever plans or actions they begin to engage in some of which might include political acts of violence.

This effect happens to waves directly and or indirectly. Because the insurgents or terrorist group is unaware of when a strike is going to happen it leaves them in a constant state of fear or worry and it makes them keep having to change their behaviors which in turn stops them from engaging in a violent act because they have to change location change strategy and start all over from scratch.

These attacks have indirect effects such as financial difficulty for the terrorist group to recover from, is also deter current and future members from possibly staying within the group or even joining. Because some may begin to wonder where the U.S is obtaining its information on the group’s whereabouts which might cause mistrust between its members. Which is a big advantage the United States has when it comes to the war on terror. Another Advantage for the use of drones is that the U.S. military does not have to send ground troops to conduct this high-stakes operation. When it comes to having to deal with military forces in a foreign country the occupants of that country may not perceive the U.S military as friendly they may be looked upon as intruder and become targets themselves.

However some feel that the use of drones lacks the human aspect whether to kill or to capture. Some also feel that by not capturing some of the members of the organization even possibly a high-ranking official can cause the U.S to lose a lot of information that they might have been able to obtain by that individual or individuals during what could have been a possible interrogation. Whether this is true or not it is hard to tell because there is not accurate data in order to back up that claim.

Drone strikes are not unlike targeted killing. When a drone strike is conducted it is to seek out and Target the leaders and other high-ranking members of these terrorist organizations also they try and integrate intelligence into the targeting decision. So what in essence is targeted killing well it is defined as ” killing of a specific civilian for unlawful combatants who cannot reasonably be apprehended who is taking direct part in hostilities the targeting done at the direction of the state in the context of international or non-international armed conflict”(Walsh 2013, pg. 29). However when dealing with targeted killing it is important to be able to separate the terrorist from the rest of the population. The death of non-combatants when conducting a drone strike is rare but not uncommon the United States President Barack Obama has openly and publicly announced that drones have killed or even possibly injured innocent civilians. The opposing side would say that causing the deaths of innocent civilians because of the use of drones can provide more ammunition for the terrorist group to justify its actions.

In any case the use of drones has many critics and has been criticized greatly. Some will even say that yes even though the drone strikes do takeout militant some of these individuals might not even be involved in direct conflict against the United States at the time of their death. So then they pose the question was the killing of that individual necessary? I say yes because even if they weren’t involved with an organization at the time of their death it does not mean that in the future they would not return to their organization or terrorist group.

So what is the future of drone use? It is safe to say that the use of drones is not going to stop. As a counterterrorism method it has great value. The information that is collected by the use of drones is very important in combating the threats that we face all over the world. Information is key when it comes to knowing what a group or organizations as planned next. Also the strikes that are carried out are needed in order to protect the citizens of the United States. Casualties and cost are simply a part of war and cannot be helped, it is rare when these things happen but I am certain that based on the evidence (even though there is very little) that the United States government takes care when making a decision on whether or not to strike.










Work Cited

Ian G. R. Shaw, (2014), “The Rise of the Predator Empire: Tracing the History of U.S. Drones”, Understanding Empire, https://understandingempire.wordpress.com/2-0-a-brief-history-of-u-s-drones/

Jinks, Derek, Jackson Nyamuya Maogoto, and Solon Solomon. Applying International Humanitarian Law In Judicial And Quasi-Judicial Bodies.

“Terrorism Definition”. 2016. FBI. https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/investigate/terrorism/terrorism-definition

Walsh, James. 2013. The Effectiveness Of Drone Strikes In Counterinsurgency And Counterterrorism Campaigns. Ebook. 1st ed. United States Army War College Press. http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pdffiles/PUB1167.pdf

Wolff, Stefan. 2016. Drone Warfare: Effective Or Counter-Productive. Ebook. 1st ed. University of Birmingham. Accessed March 11. http://www.stefanwolff.com/files/Drone%20Warfare–effective%20or%20counter-productive.pdf.