Use of armed drones increasing under Trump: study

This MQ-1C Gray Eagle drone aircraft, armed with Hellfire missiles, was developed by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems for the US Army. (Shutterstock photo)
Updated 08 June 2018
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Use of armed drones increasing under Trump: study

  • US President Donald Trump has given battlefield commanders greater leeway to authorize drone strikes without first seeking approval from the White House or Washington security officials.
  • Study author Rachel Stohl has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s drone policy, which she said was already shrouded in too much secrecy.

WASHINGTON: America’s use of armed drones is increasing under President Donald Trump just as oversight of the lethal technology appears to be dwindling, a study released Thursday found.
The report by the nonpartisan Stimson Center think tank looks back at Trump’s drone actions during his first year in office, when he moved quickly to loosen some of the constraints put in place by his predecessor Barack Obama.
Trump has given battlefield commanders greater leeway to authorize drone strikes without first seeking approval from the White House or Washington security officials.
The Pentagon says this gives commanders better ability to make real-time decisions and insists the looser restrictions have not lowered the threshold at which it is prepared to execute a drone strike that could risk civilian deaths.
The Stimson report found that Trump is on pace to dramatically intensify America’s use of lethal drones, which already had seen a rapid increase under Obama.
For instance, in the eight years from 2009-2016, Obama authorized more than 550 strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, as well as other countries where the United States was not technically at war.
“President Trump reportedly authorized at least 80 strikes in his first year in office in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, and is on pace to surpass the strike tempo of both of his predecessors, which perhaps signals a greater willingness to use lethal force,” the Stimson study states.
The study also notes that the CIA reportedly wants to expand its power to conduct covert drone strikes in war zones such as Afghanistan, where such actions are usually led by the military.
“Should such a policy proposal be adopted, it would mark a shift in CIA activities in Afghanistan and represent an expansion of the agency’s authority to conduct covert strikes in counterterrorism operations, thereby decreasing levels of transparency,” the report states.
Study author Rachel Stohl has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration’s drone policy, which she said was already shrouded in too much secrecy.
But she said she was now “wistful” for even Obama’s limited attempts to provide some sort of public accounting of the US drone program.
“US drone policy under the Trump administration has thus far been defined by uncertainty coupled with less oversight and less transparency,” Stohl said.
The report outlines a series of recommendations including for the Trump administration to publicly release and explain any new drone policies and standards.


Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

Updated 21 May 2019
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Taste of kindness: Buddhist monks serve iftar at a Dhaka monastery

  • The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims

DHAKA: As the clock strikes 6 p.m., Shudhhanondo Mohathero hurries to the kitchen to alert his army of 15 monks that they have less than 40 minutes until iftar. 

Soon, people will begin queuing outside the Dharmarajika Bouddha Bihar, a Buddhist monastery in Dhaka, where Mohathero hands out free food packs to fasting Muslims who are too poor to buy a meal to end their fast.

It is a tradition that 89-year-old Mohathero started 10 years ago when he assumed responsibility for the temple’s upkeep.

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return,” Mohathero told Arab News.

Built in 1951, the monastery, which is located in Basabo in the eastern part of Dhaka, has been involved in various social welfare activities. Since the start of Ramadan this year, almost 200 food packs have been doled out every day, with plans to double the number by the end of the month. The 15 monks who live in the monastery prepare the food boxes for iftar.

At a cost of around 80 cents, which is funded by the temple, each box contains traditional Bangladeshi iftar items such as puffed rice, boiled and seasoned chickpeas, jilapi (a deep-fried sweet pastry), beguni (deep-fried eggplant) and dal bora (a fried item with smashed lentils and dates).

“In previous years, our junior monks used to prepare iftar at the monastery. This year, however, we are starting to outsource the items due to the sheer volume,” Mohathero said. 

“Since the early days of the monastery, we have received tremendous support in celebrating different Buddhist festivals from our Muslim friends. So I thought it’s time to do something in return.”

Shudhhanondo Mohathero, Chief monk of Dhaka’s Buddhist Monastery

The monastery’s generosity has not gone unnoticed by the fasting Muslims.

“I have been receiving iftar from the monastery for three years. Since my husband works as a daily-wage laborer, this iftar has made our lives very comfortable,” Asma Khatun, a local resident, said.

Another devotee, Sharif Hossain, said that iftar from the monastery “is like a divine blessing.”

“After losing all my properties in a river erosion, I moved to Dhaka just a few months ago and started living in a slum. I can finally feed my family with the iftar provided by the monks,” he said. 

Talking about his experience being part of a project that builds communal harmony, Prantar Borua, an apprentice monk at the temple, said: “We feel proud and happy to be doing such an extraordinary thing. It’s a small contribution to the community, but it’s the best we can do at this moment.”

The monastery’s generosity has won praise from the Bangladesh authorities, too.

“It’s a nice initiative from the Buddhist community, especially at a time when the world is experiencing many hate crimes and interreligious conflicts. It upholds the spirit of religious harmony,” Abdul Hamid Jomaddar, joint secretary of the Religious Affairs Ministry, said.

“Our government believes in the coexistence of different religions, which is the beauty of this secular land,” he added.