17 October 2011
Miscommunication between military personnel is the reason the Pentagon is giving for a drone airstrike carried out by the American military in April that resulted in the death of two US servicemen.
Marine Staff Sgt. Jeremy Smith, 26, and Navy hospital staffer Benjamin D. Rast, 23, were both killed by an unmanned US aircraft back in April, which RT reported at the time was the first occurrence of a friendly fire death caused by American drones. Now following an investigation out of the Department of Defense, it has been revealed that the two men lost their lives because those commanding the craft assumed the men to be Taliban fighters, even though air force analysts weren’t certain.
Throughout the course of a 381-page report finalized last week by the Pentagon, it is suggested that could military officers working thousands of miles apart had better communication with one another, the needless death of two American soldiers could have been prevented.
The report reveals that marines in Afghanistan and the drone control-crew in Nevada believed both Smith and Rast to be Taliban insurgents, but Air Force analysts in Terre Haute, Indiana watching the event unfold live weren’t as certain. They noted that the gunshots coming from the Americans were directed away from their fellow US soldiers, suggesting that they were not enemy fighters. The controllers in Nevada and the commanders on the ground in Afghanistan “were never made aware” of the assessment, however, reveals the report.
According to the report, at one point analysts explicitly called Smith and Rast “friendlies,” only moments later to redact the statement. Shortly thereafter they wrote that they were “unable to discern who personnel were,” though an airstrike was carried out anyway.
According to the report, the crew commanding the Predator drone had not realized that the two men had separated from the rest of the American armed forces, though analysts in Nevada believed the men to be American. A written assessment was supposed to be transmitted to the command crew by the Mission Intelligence Coordinator, though the coordinator on duty at the time of the attack was a trainee being supervised by a military trainer.
Formally, the report says that “a lack of overall common situational awareness” caused the death, though no one with the American military can be found "culpably negligent or derelict in their duties."
According to the report, the analysts that believed the men to be American "should have been more assertive," and "should have persisted with their assessment until the crew either accepted or refuted the assessment."
Despite continuing criticism from the American public and the citizens overseas who are repeatedly forced to bear witness to the ongoing drone attacks, the United States has recently been reported to be constructing new drone bases in Africa in Asia. In August the US revealed that they would be investing around $23 billion in furthering the drone program as well.
Earlier this month a drone strike in Yemen killed two American men
who were believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda. Days later,
protesters with the October 2011 Stop the Machine movement in
Washington DC waged a demonstration at the Smithsonian National Air
and Space Museum in opposition to an exhibit showcasing drones, and
were met with a barrage of pepper-spray.