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The Remote Control Digest: New Ways of War: Is Remote Control Warfare Effective?

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10 October 2014


London, Monday 13th October 2014 – New forms of warfare deployed by governments – using remote and covert methods such as drones, cyber attacks and special forces – increase the risk of foreign policy failures, raising serious doubts about counter-terrorism operations and the current campaign against IS in Iraq and Syria, according to a new report from leading military researchers and academics.

Using new analysis from military and other sources, New Ways of War, published by the Remote Control Project, shows that, whilst “remote warfare” is being expanded to new levels of complexity and intensity, it erodes trust, fuels violence, undermines democracy and increases instability.  For the first time, New Ways of War provides evidence to show:

  • An increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan is a direct consequence of US anti-terror drone strikes
  • Counter-terrorism operations in the Sahel-Sahara run by the US and France rely heavily on remote warfare and have led to increased radicalisation, undermining regional stability
  • In the US, private corporations are integrated into the most sensitive special operations activities, including flying drones and running psychological operations, with eight companies accounting for 50% of contracts
  • Despite Afghanistan being the most drone-bombed country in the world, there is a vacuum of information on where strikes take place and who they kill.

One study for the report shows how militants fleeing from FATA and other parts of northwest Pakistan due to US drone action have “relocated” violence and extremism  to areas such as Punjab leading to suicide bombers killing hundreds of people and the radicalisation of the usually tolerant local Sunni Muslim population.

Another study, into counter-terrorism operations by the US and France in the Sahel-Sahara region of Africa, shows that the heightened visibility of US and French forces has increased the profile and activity of jihadist groups, including Boko Haram.

Many of the tactics described in New Ways of War are being used against IS in Iraq and Syria.  Together, the report editors claim the findings of New Ways of War paint a worrying picture of whether these distance warfare and covert methods are likely to succeed.

Manager of the Remote Control Project, Caroline Donnellan, said:

Remote warfare is intensifying as governments increasingly see it as an alternative to ‘boots on the ground’ in countering terrorism.  Yet our evidence shows that there are deeper issues which require greater consideration in terms of assessing its overall effectiveness.

The critical issue for policy makers is that remote warfare is not always the most effective strategy and a re-evaluation is needed. Terrorism and extremism have root causes which, if not addressed, can be worsened by remote control tactics.

Editor’s notes:

  1. New Ways of War: Is Remote Control Warfare Effective? will be published by Remote Control on Monday 13 October, 2014. For more information, interviews, and an embargoed copy of the report please contact Leo Barasi: leo@dhacommunications.co.uk; +44 (0)20 7793 4036 or +44 (0)7830 819121.
  2. The Remote Control project is a project of the Network for Social Change hosted by the Oxford Research Group. The project examines changes in military engagement, in particular the use of drones, special forces, private military companies and cyber warfare.
  3. Authors of the studies in the report include:
  • The Bureau of Investigative Journalism
  • The Oxford Research Group
  • Every Casualty
  • Crofton Black, an investigator and researcher specialising in US and UK counter-terrorism activities
  • Dr Paul Gill, lecturer in Security and Crime Science at University College London’s Department of Security & Crime Science

Our publications are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.