Obama to release details of US drone-strike killings

White House to publish data ‘in the coming weeks’ in effort to improve transparency

The US government plans to release details of the number of militant suspects and civilians killed in drone strikes since 2009 in an effort to increase transparency around the controversial remote killing method.

Fulfilling a commitment by Barack Obama in 2013 to be more open about his administration's strikes against militants, the US president's counter-terrorism and homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco has said that the details would be released "in the coming weeks".

The report will include details of alleged combatants and civilians the United States believes were killed in the strikes but will not cover theatres of war such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan – only areas where extremists operate in Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia and other parts of north Africa.

Counterterrorism actions

“We know that not only is greater transparency the right thing to do, it is the best way to maintain the legitimacy of our counterterrorism actions and the broad support of our allies, Ms Monaco said in a speech to the council on foreign relations on Monday.


The information, which the administration planned to release on an annual basis, would reflect the “latest intelligence from all sources” and information from human rights groups that track US military strikes, including by unmanned drones and other attacks, she said.

"There will obviously be some limitations about where we can be transparent, given a variety of sensitivities, including diplomatic ones," Mr Obama's press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters on Monday.

The disclosure that there would be greater transparency around the use of drones coincided with the announcement by the Pentagon that more than 150 militants were killed in strikes on a training camp operated by al-Shabab militants in Somalia by manned and unmanned aircraft.

The Pentagon said that the air strikes, conducted on Saturday, struck a site called Raso Camp about 120 miles north of Mogadishu as the militants were, according to US military officials, preparing to leave the camp to carry out an attack against US or African government forces.

The extremist group, which pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda in 2012, has carried out attacks across east Africa, including the massacre of 67 civilians during a four-day siege at the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi, Kenya, in September 2013 and the attack on Garissa University College in eastern Kenya in April 2015 which killed almost 150 people.


The US drone programme, operated by the department of defence and the

Central Intelligence Agency

, has been shrouded in secrecy with attempts to chart the full extent of the number of militants and civilians killed only being provided independently by human rights groups.

The Long War Journal, a project by the Washington think tank, the Foundation for the Defence of Democracies, that tracks US drone strikes in Pakistan found that 2,797 Taliban, al-Qaeda and other extremists and 158 civilians are estimated to have been killed in 388 attacks since 2006.

The group has monitored 135 US air strikes in Yemen that are estimated to have killed 657 combatants and 105 civilians. An analysis by human rights group Reprieve in 2014 found the US killed 1,147 people in Pakistan and Yemen in attempts to kill 41 men.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is The Irish Times’s Public Affairs Editor and former Washington correspondent