Roboski massacre and the U.S. drones

Wall Street Journal investigates role of U.S. drones in Roboski massacre
In a long article published on the Wall Street Journal, Adam Entous and Joe Parkinson investigate the massacre in the village of Roboski. On 28 December Turkish military forces bombed a group of villagers crossing the border into Iraq for small smuggling, the sole activity in that impervious mountain area. Thirty four people were killed when war planes stroke.
The civilian toll also set off alarms at the Pentagon: It was a U.S. Predator drone that spotted the men and pack animals, officials said, and American officers alerted Turkey.
Entous and Parkinson writh that the U.S. drone flew away after reporting the caravan’s movements, leaving the Turkish military to decide whether to attack, according to an internal assessment by the U.S. Defense Department, described to The Wall Street Journal. “The Turks made the call,” a senior U.S. defense official said. “It wasn’t an American decision.”

The journalists underline that “the U.S. role, which hasn’t previously been reported, revealed the risks in a new strategy for extending American influence around the globe. It raises an outstanding question for the White House and Congress: How far do we entrust allies with our deadly drone technology?”

The article argues that “after a decade of troop-intensive land wars, the Obama administration is promoting advanced drones, elite special forces and intelligence resources as a more nimble, and less expensive, source of military power. The strategy relies heavily on close cooperation with regional allies, in part to reduce the need for American troops on the ground”.

The downside to such arrangements, say to the WSJ current and former U.S. officials, is that “countries can use U.S. intelligence in ways the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency can’t control. Allies have varying standards for deciding who is a justified target. And these partnerships can embroil the U.S. in local disputes with only slender links to the security of Americans”.

The article quotes chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep Mike Rogers as saying: “What happens if this information gets to the [foreign] government and they do something wrong with it, or it gets into the hands of someone who does something wrong with it?” said Rep. Mike Rogers (R., Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, who didn’t know specific details of the attack”.

At the Pentagon, press secretary George Little said when asked about the strike, “Without commenting on matters of intelligence, the United States strongly values its enduring military relationship with Turkey.”

The WSJ underlines that “U.S. drone flights in support of Turkey date from November 2007, when the Bush administration set up what is called a Combined Intelligence Fusion Cell in Ankara, part of an effort to nurture ties with the government led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. U.S. and Turkish officers sit side by side in the dimly lighted complex monitoring real-time video feeds from Predator drones.

The Obama administration has moved to expand cooperation—by stepping up intelligence sharing and by supporting Turkey’s request to buy armed and unarmed U.S. drones to give the Turks full control”.

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