The United States has conducted 550 targeted drone strikes in Libya, The Intercept reported today.
US military engagement in Libya began in 2011 when the Arab Spring uprisings swept across the Middle East. US drones started operating from the Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy, but within a month of the Arab Spring the US confirmed its first drone strike in Libya, striking Gaddafi’s regime.
“The more than 550 drone attacks in Libya since 2011 exceed the number of air strikes since 2001 in Somalia, Yemen, or Pakistan. Between 2001 and 2011, the United States built up its drone forces and developed a framework for employing RPAs in combat. Since then, Libya has served as a laboratory for new tactics and a proving ground for the next era of drone warfare”, the report said.
“During a four-month span in 2016, for example, there were approximately 300 drone strikes in Libya, according to US officials. That’s seven times more than the 42 confirmed US RPA attacks carried out in Somalia, Yemen, and Pakistan combined for all of 2016, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a London-based nonprofit news organisation. The Libya attacks have continued under the Trump administration, with the latest US drone strike occurring last week about 50 miles southeast of the town of Bani Walid.”
Former US President Barack Obama left behind an expansive war authority, permitting the US administration to strike countries around the globe with civilian casualties and strike data shrouded in secrecy.
Yesterday, Airwars, a British organisation mapping civilian casualty, teamed up with a US organisation New America to run a Libya Project, focusing on conflict data. The project revealed that hundreds of civilians have been harmed by air strikes in Libya since NATO’s 2011 intervention.
“In total at least 2,162 strikes were identified by Airwars during the nine-month research project, based on local public reporting and official claims made between 2012-2018. At least 242 civilians likely died in these actions according to local communities, yet not one of the eight belligerents identified in the new study has ever conceded casualties from its actions – an unwelcome echo of NATO’s 2011 Libya campaign, in which the alliance boasted at the time of causing zero civilian harm”, the study found.
“While American air strikes in Libya often capture international attention, domestic actors are in fact responsible for most bombings. Airwars has monitored 1,122 strikes allegedly involving the LNA (Libyan National Army) — more than half of all actions documented by Airwars. These allegedly led to the deaths of between 95 and 172 civilians – the largest non-combatant death toll tied to any one belligerent.”
Last year it was revealed that US drone strikes in Somalia doubled and tripled in Yemen in the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency. In March last year, Trump provided the US military’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) greater autonomy in striking targets in Yemen and Somalia without notifying the White House after it began considering parts of Yemen and Somalia “temporary battlefields”.