WASHINGTON: Fulfilling a promise made in 2013, US President Barack Obama is set to issue an executive order on Friday to release the number of civilian deaths caused by CIA drone strikes in the countries where the United States is not officially at war.
According to the Associated Press, the still unreleased report focuses on the deaths in Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Somalia since 2009 -the year Barack Obama entered the White House.
In the same executive order, Obama will also recommend his successor to annually release such details. He is also expected to disclose parts of the classified legal framework undergirding the CIA drone program, which provide guidance to forces in making the decision of whom to kill, where and under what circumstances.
Media reports suggest that as many as 500 drone attacks in all four countries would be covered in the report, while civilian casualties in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan would remain secret.
“Some 100 civilian deaths have been caused by CIA drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya together since Barack Obama became president in 2009,” an unnamed US military official was quoted as saying by the AP.
However, independent estimates of civilian deaths have been much higher. London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism claims that anywhere between 492 to 1,100 civilians have died in drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia since 2002.
The collective number of deaths -civilians and militants- of the CIA drone program in Pakistan is estimated to be above 3,000. However, no official number of deaths or civilian casualties has ever been released by the governments of Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya.
A report by The Intercept last year also explained the reasons behind the tremendous discrepancy between US government and independent estimates for the civilian casualties of drone attacks.
According to the publication, the CIA refuses to consider “military-aged males” (between the age of 14 and 65) as civilians. Instead, it treats them as enemy combatants.