It appears that Senator Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) 13-hour filibuster shone a bit too much light on the drone issue.
On Sunday, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), which oversees the war in Afghanistan, issued a statement announcing that it would no longer be providing information about the number of airstrikes conducted by drones in that country.
Previously, in its monthly report on air activity conducted by the United States in Afghanistan, the Air Force would include a box that revealed data relating to the number of drone strikes carried out that month. After last week’s announcement, however, the drone strike tally will be included in the overall number of air strikes and will not be reported separately.
Down the memory hole go the drone data.
In the press release announcing the change, CENTCOM claimed that the drones actually fired missiles during only three percent of their missions and that by reporting on the drone strikes in a separate category, analysis was becoming “disproportionately focused” on the contribution to the “War on Terror” by the unmanned aerial vehicles (drones). Most sorties, the statement reported, were for intelligence gathering and surveillance only.
The Air Force Times reported the decision in a story published on March 8:
Last October, Air Force Central Command started tallying weapons releases from RPAs [drones], broken down into monthly updates. At the time, AFCENT spokeswoman Capt. Kim Bender said the numbers would be put out every month as part of a service effort to “provide more detailed information on RPA ops in Afghanistan.”
The Air Force maintained that policy for the statistics reports for November, December and January. But the February numbers, released March 7, contained empty space where the box of RPA statistics had previously been.
Additionally, monthly reports hosted on the Air Force website have had the RPA data removed — and recently.
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