Drone Use Outside Combat Areas Increasing

Sunday, 21 Jul 2013 06:31 PM

By Greg Richter

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Whether it's helping Turkey locate Kurdish guerrillas near the Iraqi border, hunting Islamic terrorists in northern Africa or sniffing out drug operations in South America, U.S. unmanned aircraft are seeing more action outside combat zones.

Though the use of drone aircraft is being cut in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen, where they are used to fire missiles to kill their targets, the primary use in other parts of the world is surveillance, according to a story in The Washington Post.

Some drones will return to the United States when troops are drawn down in Afghanistan next year, but others will be redeployed to hot spots, such as Turkey, where the government has an agreement with the U.S. to keep an eye on Kurdish rebels.

The U.S. has about 400 drones of various sizes, and one high-profile loss of a Predator near the Turkey-Iraq border gave the Kurdish rebels a PR win in September when pilots lost contact with the craft and it crashed into the remote hills.

Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in April that the Pentagon plans to send larger and faster Reaper drones to parts of Asia. And Turkey, fearful that the help it gets from U.S. drones would wane after American forces withdraw in Afghanistan, specifically asked the U.S. to keep drones on a base there and continue its spying operations.

Turkey has even pressed the U.S. to sell it a fleet of drones, but Congress and the White House have balked at that idea.

But the current operation has been a success, an anonymous former Defense Department official told the Post.

"It’s been extremely effective in preventing cross-border operations by the Turks," the source said.


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