Significant test for Republicans

The United States has made little or no progress in explaining how and why it orders lethal drone strikes, even as America’s reliance on the unmanned aircraft soars worldwide, a report found yesterday.

According to a study by the Stimson Centre, a Washington-based non-partisan think-tank, US President Barack Obama’s administration has failed to provide basic transparency into the drone programme that has become a keystone in America’s counter-terrorism efforts.

“In terms of the justification for the programme and all the legal basis – that still remains out of reach of the American public,” study author Rachel Stohl said.

Her paper gives American school-style grades in a “report card” to the US government, rating how it has improved its drone accountability since the Stimson Centre wrote a damning report on the matter in June 2014.

The report card gave the Obama administration an “F” – or a failing grade – in three areas: a lack of progress on releasing information on targeted drone strikes, developing better accountability mechanisms and explaining the US lethal drone programme’s legal basis.

A seemingly ever-expanding global war against extremist groups means the US relies heavily on drones to monitor hostile lands and launch missiles at suspected extremists.

Obama has drastically expanded the drone programme during his tenure, but his administration provides scant information on strikes.

Critics say many drone strikes kill civilians, and the aircraft alienate and radicalise local populations on the ground.

Since June 2014, the US has reportedly carried out lethal drone strikes in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen, as well as against Islamic State jihadists in Iraq and Syria.

The Stimson Centre said at least a dozen countries host US drone bases, including Ethiopia, the Seychelles and Yemen.

Obama has promised to curb the secrecy around the strikes and in 2014 said any operation should not “create more enemies than we take off the battlefield”.

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