Confessions of an American Drone Operator

confessions-of-a-drone-warrior-gq-magazine-november-2013-01BY MATTHEW POWER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY ETHAN LEVITAS

He was an experiment, really. One of the first recruits for a new kind of warfare in which men and machines merge. He flew multiple missions, but he never left his computer. He hunted top terrorists, saved lives, but always from afar. He stalked and killed countless people, but could not always tell you precisely what he was hitting. Meet the 21st-century American killing machine. who’s still utterly, terrifyingly human

From the darkness of a box in the Nevada desert, he watched as three men trudged down a dirt road in Afghanistan. The box was kept cold—precisely sixty-eight degrees—and the only light inside came from the glow of monitors. The air smelled spectrally of stale sweat and cigarette smoke. On his console, the image showed the midwinter landscape of eastern Afghanistan’s Kunar Province—a palette of browns and grays, fields cut to stubble, dark forests climbing the rocky foothills of the Hindu Kush. He zoomed the camera in on the suspected insurgents, each dressed in traditional shalwar kameez, long shirts and baggy pants. He knew nothing else about them: not their names, not their thoughts, not the thousand mundane and profound details of their lives. Read the rest of this entry »


Switching Sides: Afghan Special Forces Commander Defects to Taliban with Humvee Full of Guns

Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Zuliyal, Kunar Province. Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.

Mohammad Anwar reports: An Afghan army special forces commander has defected to an insurgent group allied with the Taliban in a Humvee truck packed with his team’s guns and high-tech equipment, officials in the eastern Kunar province said on Sunday.

Monsif Khan, who raided the supplies of his 20-man team in Kunar’s capital Asadabad over the Eid al-Adha religious holiday, is the first special forces commander to switch sides, joining the Hezb-e-Islami organisation.

“He sent some of his comrades on leave and paid others to go out sightseeing, and then escaped with up to 30 guns, night-vision goggles, binoculars and a Humvee,” said Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the governor of Kunar.

Zubair Sediqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami, confirmed that Khan had joined the group, saying he had brought 15 guns and high-tech equipment. Read the rest of this entry »