A secret document obtained by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.
The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.
The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.
Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.
The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
Based on confidential reports from a network of government agents in the field, it outlines 75 separate CIA drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009 and provides details of casualties in many of the attacks. Five attacks alleged to be carried out by Nato or other unspecified forces are also listed.
The numbers recorded are much higher than those provided by the US administration, which continues to insist that no more than 50 to 60 ‘non-combatants’ have been killed by the CIA across the entire nine years of Pakistan bombings. New CIA director John Brennan has described claims to the contrary as ‘intentional misrepresentations‘.
The document shows that during the 2006-09 period covered, when Pakistan’s government and military were privately supporting the CIA’s campaign, officials had extensive internal knowledge of high civilian casualties.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the Bureau the present Pakistani government opposes drone strikes: ‘Pakistan’s position on drone strikes has been stipulated on several occasions. The drone strikes violate our sovereignty and international law. These also entail human rights and humanitarian implications.’
A former Political Agent for North Waziristan who was shown the leaked report by the Bureau says he does not believe the casualty figures to be exaggerated.
‘There was no benefit in officials “cooking the books” here, since this document was clearly never intended to be seen outside the civilian administration,’ said Rauf Khan Khattak, who also recently served in Pakistan’s caretaker government.
The leaked document – which the Bureau obtained from three separate sources – is based on field reports by government officials rather than on media coverage. The Bureau understands that the document is continually updated as attacks occur – although the copy obtained ends with a strike on October 24 2009.
Prepared for the FATA Secretariat – the political administration of the tribal areas – the document was never intended for public release. Since no individual victims are named, the Bureau has assessed that it is safe to publish the paper in its entirety.
Of 746 people listed killed in the 75 drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of those are said to be children.
The document often includes fresh information on strikes, for example confirming the location and target of a September 2 2008 CIA attack, only previously alluded to in a US intelligence document.