Obama Acts to Curb|Deaths From Drones

     WASHINGTON (CN) — With 64 to 116 civilian bystanders killed by U.S. military and CIA drone strikes, President Barack Obama issued an executive order Friday to help reduce future casualties.
     These figures reflect civilian casualties only in countries with which the United States has not officially declared war – places like Yemen, Pakistan, Libya and Somalia. They also exclude casualties in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria.
     Human-rights groups and other groups say the actual number of civilian casualties is much higher. The London-based Bureau for Investigative Journalism says U.S. drone strikes have killed between 424 and 966 civilians in Pakistan alone, including up to 207 children.
     Up to 4,000 total Pakistanis have been killed by U.S. drone strikes, which have spiked under the Obama administration, the group added.
     By contrast, the Obama administration says the strikes have killed roughly 2,500 members of terrorist groups.
     The president’s executive order will prioritize protecting civilians during drone operations and will require annual disclosure of civilian-death figures, lifting some of the long-standing secrecy around one of the most controversial tactics employed by the United States in the War on Terror.
     “Civilian casualties are a tragic and at times unavoidable consequence of the use of force in situations of armed conflict or in the exercise of a state’s inherent right of self-defense,” the 4-page executive order says.
     It outlines best practices for avoiding civilian deaths, lessons learned and how to respond when they do occur.
     The order suggests development of better training, surveillance and weapons systems, and recommends warning civilian populations. The order also requires review of civilian casualties when they do occur, along with acknowledgment of U.S. responsibility and the offering of condolences, which would include payments to family members and survivors.
     The executive order, which a future president can cancel or change, will require the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to publicly issue an annual report by May 1 with the number of drone strikes, and assessments of combatant and civilian deaths.
     It will also address “general reasons for discrepancies” between U.S. government assessments of civilian casualties, and those put forth by credible nongovernmental organizations, which so far are strikingly dissimilar.

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