Democratic senators urge Biden to curb lethal drone strikes after 10 civilians were killed in Kabul

yemen drone
Men look at wall graffiti depicting a U.S. drone along a street in Sanaa, Yemen, November 9, 2013.
  • In August, a US drone strike in Kabul killed 10 Afghan civilians.
  • The US military admitted the mistake earlier this month.
  • The Biden administration is currently conducting a review of US policy on drones.
  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Two of the top Democrats in the Senate are urging President Joe Biden to "make a decisive shift away" from US policies that have led to the killing of innocent civilians abroad.

In a letter sent to the White House on Monday, Dick Durbin of Illinois and Patrick Leahy of Vermont write that the August 29 killing of 10 civilians in the capital of Afghanistan - including as many as seven children - highlights the need to rethink the United States' reliance on armed drones and other forms of airpower to combat the threat of terrorism.

"Far too many people are erroneously labeled as targets based on faulty or inadequate intelligence," the senators state. "These failures fuel resentment toward the United States and boost terrorist recruitment, undermining the central goal of counterterrorism over both the short and long-term."

The US military admitted this month that the strike in Kabul, which was said to have targeted suicide bombers associated with the terrorist group ISIS-K, was in fact a "horrible tragedy of war."

There have likely been many such tragedies - most occurring far from the eyes of international media. As a recent report detailed, as many as 48,000 civilians are believed to have been killed by US airstrikes since the War on Terror began in 2001.

After taking office, the Biden administration noticeably curtailed drone strikes, as Insider was the first to report. In March, The New York Times reported that the use of unmanned aircraft was being limited as part of a comprehensive review of US policy.

Under former President Donald Trump, the CIA and US military were given broader leeway when choosing targets, increasing the risk to civilians. The Trump administration also stopped revealing the number of innocents killed by US drone strikes.

In their letter, Durbin and Leahy ask the White House to spell out how it intends to "end the use of lethal force" outside areas where the US is actively engaged in armed conflict, what it's doing to better protect civilians, and how it plans to "chart a new course after 20 years."

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