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Do armed drones reduce terrorism? Here’s the data.


Washington Post

Do armed drones reduce terrorism? Here’s the data.

This research analyzes patterns of terrorism in the 18 countries that utilize drones

Analysis by Joshua A. Schwartz and Matthew Fuhrmann

At 6:18 a.m. on July 31, a CIA drone fired the two Hellfire missiles that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, a former deputy to Osama bin Laden. Since 9/11, the United States has conducted over 14,000 drone strikes like this against suspected terrorist targets. Countries such as Iran, Turkey, Nigeria and Egypt­ have also acquired armed drones and conduct their own strikes.

But do armed drone operations reduce terrorism, or do they actually make countries more vulnerable to it?

To find out, we analyzed patterns of terrorism in 18 countries — every country that has fielded armed drones to date. The evidence reveals that obtaining armed drones reduces the amount of terrorism a country experiences. Armed drones may raise ethical concerns but appear to be an effective counterterrorism tool.

Some analysts argue that the use of drones increases terrorism for two main reasons.

First, drones can cause “blowback” among civilian populations, when drones kill or psychologically terrify noncombatants and violate countries’ sovereignty. For example, data collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism suggests that U.S. drone strikes have killed up to 2,220 civilians since 2010, including up to 450 children. Blowback from drone strikes could motivate civilians to directly aid terrorist groups by joining them, providing material support or even carrying out lone-wolf attacks.

Second, drones may increase terrorism by empowering lower-level militants with a greater preference for violence. Drone strikes often target terrorist leaders — like Zawahiri — rather than rank-and-file members. This means a successful strike can have an unintended consequence: undermining the control that leaders have over their subordinates. So a drone strike can potentially backfire because lower-level militants are often younger and have a more limited understanding of the strategic pitfalls of attacking civilians, in comparison to the more experienced bosses they replace.


Full story https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/08/18/drone-alqaeda-terrorist-attack/

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