Analysts say ‘trauma’ of drone strikes is fueling anti-American sentiment

The White House's policy to mitigate civilian deaths in its armed drone campaign against al Qaeda is "ambiguous at best" and sowing anti-American feelings in the Mideast and around the world, according to a new report. 

Drafted by analysts at Stanford University and the New York University School of Law, the report claims U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere are "giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities" in areas where drone strikes are carried out.

The anxiety about the strikes is creating a groundswell of anti-American sentiment that al Qaeda and other terror groups have used to increase their footholds, according to the report. 

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Efforts by the White House, Pentagon and U.S. intelligence community to ensure civilians are not harmed during drone strikes are "ambiguous" and counterproductive to U.S. counterinsurgency operations running in tandem with the drone strikes.  

One of the researchers quoted a resident in North Waziristan, Pakistan, where many of the drone strikes have been targeted.

"Before the drone attacks, we didn't know [anything] about America,” the Pakistani said. “Now everybody has come to understand and know about America ... [and] almost all people hate America.”

The report's release coincides with high-level diplomatic talks between Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and various leaders in the Arab World during the United National General Assembly meeting in New York. 

In June, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the international body is considering holding investigations into U.S. policies governing the strikes. 

The investigations would focus on the rate of civilian casualties generated by the American drone campaign, and whether those casualties constituted human-rights violations, Pillay said at the time.  

“Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law,” she told reporters in Islamabad after a four-day visit with the country's leaders that month. 

The expanded authorities implemented by the Obama administration regarding drone strikes has allowed U.S. military and intelligence officers to hammer away at suspected terror targets with increased accuracy.

Most recently, an American drone strike in northwest Pakistan reportedly killed four suspected terrorists on Tuesday, including Abu Kasha al-Iraqi, a high-ranking al Qaeda planner and facilitator, according to reports by Radio Free Europe. 

Last Saturday, U.S. drones killed three suspected al Qaeda operatives traveling in a vehicle near the town of Mir Ali, the main town in the northwest quadrant of Pakistan. 

Despite such successes, critics continue to argue the expanded drone strike policy includes loopholes allowing the White House to claim drops in collateral damage, when in reality the strikes are no safer to civilians than before. 

One loophole is that U.S. military and intelligence officials can operate under the assumption any individual in or around a suspected terror target — whether it's a house, car or building — can be considered terrorist suspects. 

If those individuals are killed during a drone strike, those deaths can be counted as legitimate kills, even if there is no tangible proof those killed had any terrorist ties. 

But the mere threat of a misfired missile from an American drone has been enough to terrorize, and in some cases radicalize, wide swaths of civilian populations in the Mideast region, particularly in Northwest Pakistan, according to the report. 

"Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning," the report said.

"Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves," it added. 

— This story was updated at 12:20 p.m.