For some years now, the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones as they are popularly known dictate the terms of modern warfare. The use of these weapons in war craft has entered a new dimension with its unprecedented rise in number and usage especially by the United States.
11 years ago when President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror, the Pentagon had fewer than 50 drones. Now it has around 7,500. Since then 2,500 people have been killed in more than 300 drone strikes by the Central Intelligence Agency and the military in Pakistan and Yemen since President Obama first took office.
With the Obama administration planning to expand their drone operations in Afghanistan following withdrawal of their ground troops, new details have emerged regarding the institutionalization of drone usage and the legal implications. The need for codifying US Drone policy became urgent following the possibility that Obama might not win a second term. Therefore, his administration accelerated work in weeks just before elections to develop explicit rules for the targeted killing of terrorists using drones.
This would have ensured that the new president, in this case Mitt Romney would have inherited clear procedures and standards regarding drone operations with the help of a ‘rule book’ for drone use. The book reveals details of the president’s role in the shifting procedures for compiling ‘kill lists’ and approving strikes.
The formation of a proper policy and procedure for drones will provide a legal standing to the matter which is still debatable under international law. President Obama has also voiced support for such rules. "Creating a legal structure, processes, with oversight checks on how we use unmanned weapons is going to be a challenge for me and my successors for some time to come," President Obama said in an interview with author Mark Bowden.
Even though after the third and final presidential debate on foreign policy it seemed that policies of both candidates were pretty similar, Obama was in no mood to have his own ‘kill list’ substituted by that of Romney, and hence policy formation regarding drones gained momentum in the final days before election.
The matter may have lost urgency after President Obama’s November 6 victory, but the silence suggests that the upcoming drone strikes in militant territories will be far more aggressive.