A Christian NGO has warned against the increased use of remote-controlled weapons that are leading to civilian deaths in Afghanistan. Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), known as drones, allow bombs and missiles to be dropped from a control room thousands of miles away.
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) described drones as "playstation warfare", creating a worrying mental distance between armed forces and those they target. UK drones are fired in Afghanistan by operators at a US Air Force base just outside Las Vegas.
FoR urged the government to publish information about casualties caused by drones. Conservative estimates suggest that US drones in Pakistan kill one civilian for every two combatants, but the Ministry of Defence has so far refused to release information about the UK's own drones.
Amy Hailwood of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: "Armed drones involve a form of playstation warfare and risk creating a culture of convenient killing. Drones reduce the physical and mental distance between operator and target and are likely to lower the threshold for launching an attack.
"Given that conservative estimates suggest that drones kill one civilian for every two combatants, these robotic weapons deserve much greater public scrutiny. The government must address the accountability vacuum by releasing information about drone attacks and the casualties incurred."
Leaked government documents reveal that the British reaper drone had been fired 97 times in Afghanistan by July 2010. The US budget allocation for drones increased from $1.7bn in 2006 to $4.2bn in 2010. Eyewitness reports suggest that drones were used extensively by Israeli forces in Gaza in 2009.
FoR will release a report on the use of drones at the Drone Wars conference in London on 18 September.