Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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How Many Pakistani Civilians Have Been Killed by CIA Drones?

by Micah Zenko
October 30, 2013


How many Pakistani civilians have been killed by CIA drone strikes? As I have noted, this is an inherently difficult question to answer due to the covert nature of the operations, the fact that some groups targeted by drones purposefully operate out of civilian facilities in an effort to avoid being killed, and the lack of reliable direct access for journalists who are threatened by the Pakistani army or targeted groups. To appreciate how contested the answer to this question is, consider three separate Pakistani government estimates of civilian casualties caused by drones.

A March 2013 statement from the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson read:

Nonetheless the Special Rapporteur was informed that the Government has been able to confirm that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, and that a further 200 individuals were regarded as probable non-combatants.

In July 2013, an internal Pakistani government document prepared for the FATA Secretariat and covering the period between January 13, 2006 and October 24, 2009 was published by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. That document, which included most but not all drone strikes in that period, read:

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of these are said to be children.

Today, the Pakistani Ministry of Defense reportedly responded to a Senate inquiry that requested official data on CIA drone strikes. The Ministry of Defense provided the data in a typed response that read: “The number of civilian casualties and the number of terrorists killed in the said strikes with year wise breakup is as under:”

Pak pic

Post a Comment 3 Comments

  • Posted by Phillip Bolster

    The lack of clear information concerning civilian deaths and the legal contortionism which the US admin has employed since journalists and human rights groups forced this debate into the public, only in the last couple of years, has brought the issue away from the physical reality that the US has been engaged in a messy immoral poorly executed assassination campaign which has abused the tool of robotic drones flown by 22 year old so called pilots who operate from total safety with 6 months training from 7000 miles away.

    The inability to properly report upon and investigate this targeted killing program is what allows it to continue. I guarantee that IF the actual strike files on at least 50 of the most heinous drone strikes which have killed 20+ people EACH were uncovered to the public, and to congress, showing the open eyed mass slaughter of innocent civilians and family members of the supposedly intended targets – then this program would have been shut down a long time ago.

    The CIA started this quasi paramilitary kill program, they own the drones. The CIA is an out of control kill squad now and needs to be slapped back into its cage – back to its remit. The only reason the CIA took the lead on this is that they don’t have to answer to anybody and their oversight is and has traditionally been – laughable.

    Obama was given an option when he came into office by John Brennan and co which was:

    1. You can’t put US troops in harms way any more right?
    2. and we can’t go into Pakistan where AQ hide in the mountains right?
    3. but we have to be ‘seen’ to do something against the so called ‘Global Terror’ ..so… your only option is to use drones !
    5. We’ll do it through the CIA and nobody will be able to report properly on it so we can get away with it for at least a few years before people start making enough noise and then we’ll just change our tac i.e. slow down the strike frequency and maybe reduce the number of signature strikes.

    That was the strategy option they gave him and he took it with both hands, even though it went against every fiber of what he stood for in his career as a constitutional lawyer. It was all theory to him until he saw the raw Intel when he sat down in the Oval office and then the world went from Black and White to All Grey – real fast!

    He chose what he thought was the best choice of a bad selection. He was wrong.

    They thought that assassinating anyone who even looked like a terrorist in some far away mountainous region in Pakistan would physically make the US safer but they were wrong… and it got away from them and now Obama has to answer for it. Him and the ‘drone priests’ who took him for the ride.

    That’s the reality.

    Out of the 4000+ men women and kids blown to bits by drones since 2004 how many of those people represented a clear and imminent risk to the USA?

    Was there even one single known intercepted terrorist plot against the US homeland averted by the use of a targeted drone assassination? even one?

    Is that not the ultimate justification of all this death?

    Can somebody answer that question please?

  • Posted by Chris Weber

    Phillip Bolster: Where do you get your facts from? A UFO that flies by your house? Where can you document 4000+ “men, women and kids” blown to bits by US drone strikes? Or are you just guessing. How many were men, women and “kids”?
    There certainly will be civilian casualties just like in any other major conflict. It is very sad, but true.
    Why should we stop our pursuit of the cowardly enemy that hides amongst the innocent men, women, and kids?
    If our enemy wants to surrender, this madness can end.
    Can you answer these questions please?

  • Posted by Phillip Bolster

    2,500-4000 people have been killed by CIA Directed US Drones since 2004.

    Remember you have an opinion and you’re welcome to it and I welcome any debate on the subject but your opinion is not supported by data. The data is not perfect in this area for various understandable reasons but it certainly points towards the fact that thousands have been killed including hundreds of kids and that is an important if morally abhorrent reality that people must accept when considering this subject.

    Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican and Armed Services Committee member:

    “We’ve killed 4,700,”
    “Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I hate that, but we’re at war, and we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al-Qaeda,”

    Every serious authority on the issue agrees there have been upwards of 2000 people killed in total by drones. I won’t do the work for you just google it and it’ll take you 10-15 mins to see we are talking thousands.. not hundreds.

    The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that a total of 2,528-3,648 people have been killed by CIA drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004.


    Of the 350+ strikes since 2004, 72% hit North Waziristan.


    There is no shooting war between the US military and the Taliban and Al Qaeda members who as you rightly say hide out in Waziristan in Pakistan amongst family members and tribes which contain many elderly, women and children. That dangerous Terrorists are surrounded by innocent people is a complex debate which must take into account many factors but certainly cannot be reduced to:

    ‘ These bad guys know they’re putting these people at risk form an MQ-9 Reaper Drone Strike so it’s their fault not ours. ‘

    That type of simplistic stuff might suit some BS internet forum post but your lying to yourself if you claim the world works like that.

    In fact there is no war, as such, at all.

    The Global War on Terror is a falsely titled modern construct and you should not just lap it up. 9/11 caused so much outrage and pity that people just accepted the phrase ‘War on Terror’ or ‘Global War On Terror’ or ‘GWOT’ and although that is perfectly understandable it does not however make the GWOT a real war – it isn’t. Most respected journalists on the subject echo this sentiment. The use of the ‘War Construct’ is and has been nothing more than political tool or meme. I reality there is Terrorism and there is Counter Terrorism.There are terrorist organizations and there are countries who wish to stop those criminal terrorist organizations who wish to attack them. But there is no live armed conflict in play. There is no US military servicemen or women fighting against these Taliban and AQ members in Waziristan or on any battlefield. There is no ‘fighting’ and no ‘battlefield’ at all. There is just Targeted Killing i.e. Assassination. And don’t tell me the entire world is a battlefield. Step back and see the drone strikes for what they are and how they began and why Drones are used to kill people with zero real-time risk to any US troops or Navy Seals etc

    In total the US has managed to target and kill by design or by chance approx 50-70 Taliban OR Al Qaeda High Profile individuals, Operational Leaders or would be Shot-Callers.

    The breakdown is in the map at the bottom of this page:

    It is easy to argue that it is a war and people die in wars and Pakistan is the battlefield and the US is merely killing enemies in war but that is not supportable by the facts and the real world.

    I do not disagree with any individual drone strike operation which attempts to kill an Al Qaeda Terrorist Operational planner who represents an identifiable and actually ‘imminent’ risk to the US Homeland which takes every possible precaution to limit the unnecessary loss of innocent life.
    But – the general consensus amongst respected investigators and journalists of the 400+ Drone strikes which have taken place in various countries since 2004 is that only a relatively small number of those drone strikes come under this definition. In fact during the period of the highest frequency of drone strikes 2009-2011 in which Obama is responsible for 250+ drone strikes it is thought that a large proportion, if not most, of these strikes were in fact ‘Signature Strikes’ .

    ‘ when the CIA or the military makes the decision to fire based not on who the targets are but on whether they are exhibiting suspicious patterns of behavior thought to be “signatures” of terrorists ‘

    In short,

    70 AQ leaders vs 2000-4000 deaths is simply not justifiable and there is much evidence that Drone Strikes have create more terrorists than they kill.

    The argument has always been that Drone Strikes are carried out in the global war on terror to Al Qaeda leaders to make the US safer. This is not supportable.

    9/11 was a blip in history and was entirely masterminded by KSM who was grabbed and tortured almost to death and now sits in the most secure prison on earth. He was a vicious genius terrorist planner who managed to bring together resources and a complex plan the likes of which the world had never seen before and will unlikely see again.

    Michael Hayden and John Brennan and a handful of guys around Obama managed to lobby and push for this Drone Strike program and it very simply got way out of control. It is not morally justified and represents a very dark chapter in US foreign policy. Drones were supposed to be a military tool for the battlefield – instead they became day to day policy and transformed the CIA into an out of control kill squad which is now responsible for 3000-4000 deaths the vast vast majority of which did NOT represent a clear and imminent threat to the US.
    Those Drone Pilots, Sensor Operators, Commanders, all the guys in Creech, their bosses, John Brennan, Michael Hayden, all the analysts who threw names at target lists and everyone who attended Obama’s Terror Tuesdays have to live with that on their conscience forever.

    Here is a list of 122 Children blown to bits by Obama’s Drones which have been identified so far in Pakistan and Yemen. Obama has been hands-on with Drone Strikes on his watch, personally vetting a large number of them. He is responsible for the carnage which has ensued. I hope he reads this list and asks himself whether it was worth it.


    Name | Age | Gender

    Noor Aziz | 8 | male
    Abdul Wasit | 17 | male
    Noor Syed | 8 | male
    Wajid Noor | 9 | male
    Syed Wali Shah | 7 | male
    Ayeesha | 3 | female
    Qari Alamzeb | 14| male
    Shoaib | 8 | male
    Hayatullah KhaMohammad | 16 | male
    Tariq Aziz | 16 | male
    Sanaullah Jan | 17 | male
    Maezol Khan | 8 | female
    Nasir Khan | male
    Naeem Khan | male
    Naeemullah | male
    Mohammad Tahir | 16 | male
    Azizul Wahab | 15 | male
    Fazal Wahab | 16 | male
    Ziauddin | 16 | male
    Mohammad Yunus | 16 | male
    Fazal Hakim | 19 | male
    Ilyas | 13 | male
    Sohail | 7 | male
    Asadullah | 9 | male
    khalilullah | 9 | male
    Noor Mohammad | 8 | male
    Khalid | 12 | male
    Saifullah | 9 | male
    Mashooq Jan | 15 | male
    Nawab | 17 | male
    Sultanat Khan | 16 | male
    Ziaur Rahman | 13 | male
    Noor Mohammad | 15 | male
    Mohammad Yaas Khan | 16 | male
    Qari Alamzeb | 14 | male
    Ziaur Rahman | 17 | male
    Abdullah | 18 | male
    Ikramullah Zada | 17 | male
    Inayatur Rehman | 16 | male
    Shahbuddin | 15 | male
    Yahya Khan | 16 |male
    Rahatullah |17 | male
    Mohammad Salim | 11 | male
    Shahjehan | 15 | male
    Gul Sher Khan | 15 | male
    Bakht Muneer | 14 | male
    Numair | 14 | male
    Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
    Ihsanullah | 16 | male
    Luqman | 12 | male
    Jannatullah | 13 | male
    Ismail | 12 | male
    Taseel Khan | 18 | male
    Zaheeruddin | 16 | male
    Qari Ishaq | 19 | male
    Jamshed Khan | 14 | male
    Alam Nabi | 11 | male
    Qari Abdul Karim | 19 | male
    Rahmatullah | 14 | male
    Abdus Samad | 17 | male
    Siraj | 16 | male
    Saeedullah | 17 | male
    Abdul Waris | 16 | male
    Darvesh | 13 | male
    Ameer Said | 15 | male
    Shaukat | 14 | male
    Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
    Salman | 12 | male
    Fazal Wahab | 18 | male
    Baacha Rahman | 13 | male
    Wali-ur-Rahman | 17 | male
    Iftikhar | 17 | male
    Inayatullah | 15 | male
    Mashooq Khan | 16 | male
    Ihsanullah | 16 | male
    Luqman | 12 | male
    Jannatullah | 13 | male
    Ismail | 12 | male
    Abdul Waris | 16 | male
    Darvesh | 13 | male
    Ameer Said | 15 | male
    Shaukat | 14 | male
    Inayatur Rahman | 17 | male
    Adnan | 16 | male
    Najibullah | 13 | male
    Naeemullah | 17 | male
    Hizbullah | 10 | male
    Kitab Gul | 12 | male
    Wilayat Khan | 11 | male
    Zabihullah | 16 | male
    Shehzad Gul | 11 | male
    Shabir | 15 | male
    Qari Sharifullah | 17 | male
    Shafiullah | 16 | male
    Nimatullah | 14 | male
    Shakirullah | 16 | male
    Talha | 8 | male


    Afrah Ali Mohammed Nasser | 9 | female
    Zayda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 7 | female
    Hoda Ali Mohammed Nasser | 5 | female
    Sheikha Ali Mohammed Nasser | 4 | female
    Ibrahim Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 13 | male
    Asmaa Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 9 | male
    Salma Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | female
    Fatima Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye | 3 | female
    Khadije Ali Mokbel Louqye | 1 | female
    Hanaa Ali Mokbel Louqye | 6 | female
    Mohammed Ali Mokbel Salem Louqye | 4 | male
    Jawass Mokbel Salem Louqye | 15 | female
    Maryam Hussein Abdullah Awad | 2 | female
    Shafiq Hussein Abdullah Awad | 1 | female
    Sheikha Nasser Mahdi Ahmad Bouh | 3 | female
    Maha Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 12 | male
    Soumaya Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 9 | female
    Shafika Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 4 | female
    Shafiq Mohammed Saleh Mohammed | 2 | male
    Mabrook Mouqbal Al Qadari | 13 | male
    Daolah Nasser 10 years | 10 | female
    AbedalGhani Mohammed Mabkhout | 12 | male
    Abdel- Rahman Anwar al Awlaki | 16 | male
    Abdel-Rahman al-Awlaki | 17 | male
    Nasser Salim | 19


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