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Report: drone attacks by US may lead to perpetual war

[JURIST] The use of lethal Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones [JURIST backgrounder] poses a risk of putting the US on a "slippery slope" to perpetual war, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] published Thursday by the Stimson Center [advocacy website]. From a one-year extensive study, the report offers eight recommendations for overhauling UAV strategy including: executing a cost-benefit analysis for the use of drones, improving oversight, accountability and transparency, developing forward-looking international norms relating to the use of lethal force in nontraditional settings and devising sound UAV export control and research and development policies. The report urges [NYT report] the Obama administration to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of the use of drones and to give a public accounting of both militants and civilians killed in drone strikes. Additionally the report warns the use of drones may set a dangerous precedent for future conflicts and military action, which other countries will follow. The Stimson Center, a non-profit and non-partisan think tank whose mission is to find pragmatic solutions to global security challenges, is composed [WP report] of several former senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] and military officials.

The US has executed drone attacks in the Middle East to combat terrorism, but drone strikes have also resulted in the death of a number of civilians and placed the US under heavy scrutiny for their deployment and use as a military weapon. Earlier this month the Islamabad High Court [official website] ordered the arrest [JURIST report] of former CIA official Jonathan Banks for his involvement in a 2009 drone strike that killed civilians. Kareem Khan, whose brother and son were killed in the drone strike in Waziristan, petitioned the court [Al Jazeera report] to charge Banks with murder. Banks left Pakistan in 2010 after his identity was revealed and it is unlikely he will return to Pakistan to face charges. In March the UN General Assembly (UNGA) [official website] called upon nations [JURIST report] to ensure military drones are used in accordance with international law, after a joint resolution was presented by Switzerland and Pakistan. In October two UN rights experts submitted reports to the UNGA [JURIST report], calling for increased accountability and transparency in the use of drone strikes. Also that month a UN report was released [JURIST report] which alleged the US is under-reporting the number of civilian deaths resulting from anti-terrorism drone strikes.

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