Drones in Djibouti

The drone wars are expanding. Regardless of who is President after the November election, it's clear there will be no winding down of the drone strike/targeted killing program begun under the Bush administration and drastically expanded by President Obama.

Recently, Washington Post released a detailed report on the Obama administration's central hub for its drone wars in Africa and the Middle East in Djibouti City, Djibouti. Some key points highlighted below:

Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.

JSOC drones from Djibouti and CIA Predators from a secret base on the Arabian Peninsula converged over Yemen and killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric and prominent al-Qaeda member.

Sandwiched between East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, Camp Lemonnier enables U.S. aircraft to reach hot spots such as Yemen or Somalia in minutes.

Of particular importance is the discussions of drones being far more likely to have bizarre "mishaps" than conventional aircraft:

In March 2011, a Predator parked at the camp started its engine without any human direction, even though the ignition had been turned off and the fuel lines closed. Technicians concluded that a software bug had infected the “brains” of the drone, but never pinpointed the problem.

“After that whole starting-itself incident, we were fairly wary of the aircraft and watched it pretty closely,” an unnamed Air Force squadron commander testified to an investigative board, according to a transcript. “Right now, I still think the software is not good.”

The article goes on to note that in 2011, the Djibouti base experienced a number of crashes with the drones, having at one point lost four drones in four months. That should be particularly disturbing to readers when one considers the Federal Aviation Administration estimates that by 2020, there could be 30,000 drones flying over America.

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