Huffington Post, 5 May 2013
In Afghanistan, the military struck at targets 494 times last year with armed drones, according to data that has since been removed from the Air Forces Central Command website. Information on the number of Afghan civilians killed in these strikes is anecdotal, but powerful.
These attacks are often portrayed as a highly technical, robotic form of warfare. But behind every strike are hours, days and even weeks of surveillance and analysis by the airmen who work inside this Air Force Distributed Common Ground Station. It is the largest of five globally networked facilities that receive and analyze the data flowing back from drones and manned spy planes like the venerable U-2, and then package the intelligence for operations.
Senior Air Force officers acknowledge that in this vast, darkened room where hundreds of analysts struggle to keep up with the deluge of data, the potential for error — the possibility of taking innocent life — is ever-present, just as it is in ground combat operations.
“Burn-out is obviously a big concern for us,” said Air Force Col. Mike Shortsleeve, a veteran intelligence officer who commands the 497th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Group that mans and operates the center here.
Air Force researchers and others who have studied the airmen here know that the stress and tension that build during weeks and months of staring at monitors can lead to loss of concentration. What is not clear is whether fatigue plays a role in the tragic errors that occur in wartime, as happened in the NATO air strike in Aghanistan earlier this month that reportedly killed 11 children.
Phi Beta Iota: The military is more meticulous, more focuses, and more timely (in relation to real military need at the tactical level) than the CIA, but the raw fact is that CIA is killing 2% allegedly legitimate targets and 98% innocent women, children, and bystander males. The military is probably 20% effective, at best.