The Council on Foreign Relations has released its estimates on the year’s covert targeted killings in Yemen and Pakistan, carried out primarily by drones. The numbers are based on reports from The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, The Long War Journal, and The New America Foundation. Each source provides slightly different numbers, but the Long War Journal figures estimate a total of 54 strikes and 253 casualties, of whom 31 were civilians. The Council estimates a total of 3,520 casualties since the drone strike program began in 2004, of whom 457 have been civilians.
The numbers are only estimates, as data on civilian casualties is notoriously unreliable, but CFR is straightforward about its goals in releasing the report. “The current trajectory of US drone strike policies is unsustainable,” author Micah Zenko wrote in his initial report last year, to which these new numbers are an update. “Without reform from within, drones risk becoming an unregulated, unaccountable vehicle for states to deploy lethal force with impunity.”