Dr. Larry Lewis is a leading research scientist at the US Center for Naval Analyses, a research group with close ties to the US military. He also advises the military’s Joint Staff and has conducted six studies of civilian casualties and other episodes in Afghanistan for the military.
His seventh study examined data on air strikes in Afghanistan from mid-2010 to mid-2011, using classified military information on the strikes and the civilian casualties they caused.
Lewis found that drone strikes in this period caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.
General David Petraeus, the commander from mid-2010 to mid-2011, reversed restrictions on air strikes imposed by his predecessor, Stanley McChrystal and by February 2011, air force pilots, both in and outside the cockpit, is alleged to have launched 10 bombing missions daily, nearly double the rate of the previous year.
The new study contradicts a number of claims by:
- US officials, who insisted that robotic planes are more precise than their manned counterparts
- President Obama, who asserted that “conventional airpower or missiles are far less precise than drones”
- John Brennan, who said in 2012 they provide “targeted strikes against specific al-Qaida terrorists“.
- Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate intelligence committee, who said in February that drones kill only “single digits” worth of civilians annually.
Most of the study is classified
Lewis said he could not provide specific figures about the numbers of civilian casualties caused by drones and manned aircraft in Afghanistan, as this – and the whole report except for the executive summary – is classified information.
The report was published in Prism, a journal published by the Center for Complex Operations at the Defense Department’s National Defense University.