Practice Makes Perfect?: The Changing Civilian Toll of CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan

Avery Plaw, Matthew S. Fricker, Brian Glyn Williams

Abstract


U.S. officials have recently claimed that the CIA has sharply reduced the number of civilian casualties resulting from covert Predator and Reaper drone strikes in the Taliban-controlled agencies of Northwest Pakistan. Critics, especially in Pakistan, along with human rights NGOs have, however, questioned these claims. This article examines independent databases tracking the drone strikes and finds that there is significant support for the U.S. officials’ claims, or at least for their more moderate assertions. It also briefly reviews the explanations that have been offered for the declining civilian death toll from drone strikes. It shows that there is reason to believe that this development is the deliberate result of adjustments to CIA targeting procedures and improvements in spy networks and technology, and thus is likely to prove broadly sustainable at least for the immediate future.


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ENHANCING SECURITY THROUGH COLLABORATIVE RESEARCH

Perspectives on Terrorism is  a journal of the Terrorism Research Initiative and the Center for Terrorism and Security Studies

ISSN  2334-3745 (Online)

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