TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

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TRIALS BY FIRE - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

eda’s leadership, which increasingly has had to worry about self-preservationrather than planning attacks or training recruits.” 243Risk to US personnel is mitigated. Since the US’s preferred method of killingutilizes missiles fired from airborne drones, pilots are not placed in harm’s way.Collateral damage is minimized. Deploying US troops to capture or kill a singleperson often results in a messy, bloody affair, especially when the troopsare deployed in hostile territory. For example, US ground forces in 1993 triedto capture associates of Somali clan leader Mohammad Farah Aidid in Mogadishu,Somalia; the resulting melee killed 18 US servicemen and hundredsof Somali militia and civilians. 244 By contrast, targeted strikes from a singleairborne platform, rather than flattening an entire neighborhood, let militaryofficials precisely pinpoint the location for the hit.Targeted Killings’ DisadvantagesDespite its benefits, the targeted killing program nevertheless raises othertroubling ethical and political concerns. These include:Violations of national sovereignty: Lethal US strikes on foreign soil may constituteviolations of national territorial sovereignty, even if they do not violatedomestic US law. Although it should be noted that many of these strikes occurin areas that the nominal state government does not fully control—such asthe Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) in Pakistan—whether or nota particular place has fallen into ‘failed state’ status is often subject to debate.Even if there is a secret understanding between the head of a foreign country’sgovernment and the US over targeting specific individuals, the rest ofthe foreign country’s political structure may be unaware of the relationship.For instance, after a September 2008 US Special Forces ground assault intothe FATA resulted in the deaths of at least 15 people, Pakistan Army Chief ofStaff Afshaq Kayani angrily stated, “…no external force is allowed to conductoperations inside Pakistan” and the military would defend its territorial sovereignty“at all costs.” 245Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs | Harvard Kennedy School95

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