Call for clarity on use of UK drones by US forces
25 March 2014
Churches are calling for the Ministry of Defence to clarify its
deployment of UK drones in Afghanistan. A Defence Committee report,
issued today, confirmed the likelihood of UK drones having been
used by US drone operators.
Leaders of the Methodist Church in Britain, the United Reformed
Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have backed a call
made in the Defence Committee report, urging the MoD to provide
clarity on whether UK Reaper aircraft have been operated by US
personnel. The Defence Committee report states that: "It is
important that it is clear that UK aircraft have only been utilised
within Afghanistan and always in accordance with UK Rules of
Steve Hucklesby, Policy Adviser for the Churches' Joint Public
Issues Team, said: "The lack of accountability over civilian deaths
from air strikes has been a serious concern in Afghanistan. UK and
US Rules of Engagement are likely to differ in some important
aspects. For example, the Defence Committee report states that the
Royal Air Force does not fire missiles from drones unless there is
a zero expectation of civilian casualties. Once you hand control of
your aircraft to another military, you have no say in how they will
The United Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that
in 2013 there were 182 civilian deaths from air strikes in
Afghanistan. Women and children comprised almost half of these
deaths. It is not known how many of these deaths were caused by
drones, or how many were a result of by US air operations as
opposed to UK air strikes. UNAMA suggest that the civilian death
toll indicates the need for further review by international forces
of pre-engagement considerations and precautionary measures.
Steve Hucklesby added: "Although the Ministry of Defence discloses
little in the way of information on the UK use of drones, it seems
likely that our use of drones operates to a more 'precautionary'
stance. However, it also appears that we then lend our aircraft out
to others who operate to different standards. The MoD states that
UK drones have not been used by the US in Pakistan. Nevertheless,
it seems that we do permit the use of UK drones by US forces with
no accountability to the British public."
- Defence Committee report. 2013 Annual Report on Protection of
Civilians in Armed Conflict; UNAMA Press Release
Defence Comm Report, released today.