Monday, 10 February 2014

Drone Warfare and Resource Conflicts

News that Britain's RAF have fired missiles during the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan comes as no surprise as the UK is at the forefront with the US in applying this technology to the new challenge of 21st century warfare: containing and killing Islamist militants and securing access to resources.

The use of drones in covert operations in Afghanistan has been veiled in secrecy because they are a major military tool that is being tested out in preparation for a new epoch of resource wars. Afghanistan remains a theatre of operation for the British and US through military experts and private sector mercenaries.

The future of warfare is going to consist not, as in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, of having combat troops on the ground and suffering casualties against those such as the Taliban in some struggle for 'nation building'. It will be to protect mineral resources, fortified compounds and pipeline routes.

The Afghanistan War has continued for thirteen years with relatively heavy British casualties. Apart from the fact these are British troops, the problem is in 'perception management' with regards convincing the public that wars fought for purposes that are difficult to mention means drones are convenient.

Wars for the minerals such as lithium in Afghanistan and the construction of the TAPI pipeline and other infrastructure projects vital for advancing Western geopolitical ambitions in Central Asia require drones to be used in order to fend off Taliban attacks on the New Silk Route project.

As the earlier nation building plans of the 2000s in both Iraq and Afghanistan are now considered to be too expensive after the 2008 economic crisis, requiring ground troops over a long term, a new shift has seen  focus on protecting strategic zones with drones and training regional militias in places such as Somalia too.

For the US, that means defending sea lanes and strategic areas such as Yemen which is strategically located between Saudi Arabia and Somalia and the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa where more than 3 billion barrels of oil a day pass the country's coast on their way west.

Drones are in use in Yemen and Somalia against Al Qaida affiliates such as Al Shabaab that are threatening to disrupt international commerce and the flow of vital hydrocarbons north towards the Suez Canal. As in Afghanistan, so too in Somalia  and Yemen is it the protection of resource interests ultimately at stake. 

It could be argued that drones are useful and good in rolling back terrorist attempts to attack the West's vital interests. But evidence shows in Yemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan that drones sometimes kill civilians, thus recruiting new jihadists in these lands and even in the West due to recent patterns of migration.

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