The Obama Administration has made targeting killing of suspected terrorists with drones the centerpiece of their counter-terrorism strategy. Data released by the Air Force only pertains to drone strikes in Afghanistan, and do not include the more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan and estimated 50 or more in Yemen. According to a report by the Military Times, the use of drone strikes has steadily increased:
The statistics represent the first time the Air Force has provided annual breakdowns on the number of strikes by unmanned aerial vehicles inside Afghanistan, after years of rebuffing requests for the information.
Air Force UAVs average more than one strike per day in Afghanistan, and are on pace to have more 2012 strikes in that country than the U.S. has launched against Pakistan over the past decade.
Since the start of 2009, there have been 1,160 strikes in Afghanistan. There were 255 strikes in 2009, 278 in 2010, 294 in 2011 and 333 through Oct. 31.
The statistics include only strikes in Afghanistan because the Air Force is no longer actively supporting activities in Iraq.
As UAV use has increased, the average number of manned flights in which weapons were used has dropped, from 165 a month in 2011 to 139 a month this year.
Since taking office in January 2009, President Obama has embraced the use of UAVs and expanded their operations globally.