The CIA drone program sure feels like a war: unmanned aircraft incinerating thousands of terrorists we're at war with, as well as some civilians. And if you look at the reach of the program — now that everyone seems to be looking at the reach of the program again — well, it's nearly worldwide. American drone strikes haven't led to casualties near what the 20th century's world wars caused, but it covers almost as much geography. A few years into the Iraq war, the Bush administration tried to coin the term Global War on Terror. It didn't stick, aside from a few conservative military blogs who faithfully deployed the clunky acronym GWOT. But if you put together all the reports about the American drone program since President Obama's taken office — particularly in advance of John Brennan's confirmation hearing on Thursday to become the next CIA chief — the breadth of the program is remarkable:
In our map, the dark red countries are the ones in which the U.S. has conducted airstrikes. Medium-red countries are places where the U.S. has bases from which it's piloting the drones (including the one in Saudi Arabia that was made public overnight). The light red countries are the ones where the U.S. has used drones for surveillance. The relative number of drone strikes is indicated by the size of the blue dots.
Here's the full list of countries in which the U.S. has conducted drone airstrikes in the War on Terror and Arab Spring — that we know about:
- Afghanistan. According to the British site The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which uses local reports and information made public by the military, there have been 1,015 drone airstrikes in Afghanistan since 2008.
- Iraq. There have been 48 drone airstrikes in Iraq since 2008, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalsim.
- Pakistan. 362 airstrikes since 2004, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says. Long War Journal has a lower number, at 332 since January 2008.
- Yemen. Between 42 and 52 drone strikes since 2002, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says.
- Libya. 145 airstrikes between April 21 and October 21, 2011, Wired reported.
- Somalia. Between 3 and 9 drone strikes since 2007, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says.
- Mali. The U.S. is considering deploying drones to stop Al Qaeda in the North African country, the Telegraph reported in October.
The U.S. operates its drones out of many more countries. Based on information released by WikiLeaks, Foreign Policy reported last May that drone pads were in eight countries. The New York Times and The Washington Post, apparently in light of drone leak week, added one more today:
- Afghanistan. (4 bases.)
- United Arab Emirates
- The Philippines
- Saudi Arabia. The Times reports Brennan worked closely with Saudi Arabi to get a CIA drone base there not long after the Obama administration's first drone strike in Yemen in December 2009.
And the U.S. has used drones to conduct surveillance missions in these countries, according to Foreign Policy.
- North Korea