“Over the Horizon” Operations: The Future of Drone Strikes


Extraordinary reporting by The New York Times in September revealed that a U.S. drone strike in Kabul during the U.S. evacuation killed 10 Afghan civilians — including 7 children. The alleged ISIS-K target turned out to be an Afghan employee of an American aid organization who was observed delivering water jugs, not petrol bombs. After a staunch denial, the Pentagon finally admitted that the strike was a “tragic mistake” and said it is now reviewing its policies and procedures around drones.

The U.S. military has conducted at least 91,340 airstrikes over the last two decades, as open-ended authorizations for the use of military force provided a blank check, and drones became America’s preferred weapon against alleged terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan, East Africa, and the greater Middle East. Unlike the botched strike in Kabul, most of these take place without scrutiny of the official claims about who was actually killed. These deadly strikes traumatize entire populations and frequently drive terrorist propaganda and recruitment.

With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Biden has declared “endless war” over, but Washington appears determined to continue “over-the-horizon” airstrikes in Afghanistan and beyond. Join Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, ACLU national security director Hina Shamsi, and Annie Shiel, senior advisor at the Center for Civilians in Conflict, for a panel that explores the human and strategic costs of Washington’s reliance on drone strikes and explores when, if ever, they should be used. Quincy Institute Research Fellow Adam Weinstein will moderate.


Rep. Ilhan Omar

Rep. Ilhan Omar represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Rep. Omar was sworn into office in January 2019, making her the first African refugee to become a Member of Congress, the first woman of color to represent Minnesota, and one of the first two Muslim-American women elected to Congress. Born in Somalia, Rep. Omar and her family fled the country’s civil war when she was eight. The family spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya before coming to the United States in 1990s. In 1997, she moved to Minneapolis with her family. In 2016 she was elected as the Minnesota House Representative for District 60B, making her the highest-elected Somali-American public official in the United States and the first Somali-American State Legislator.

Hina Shamsi

Hina Shamsi is the director of the ACLU National Security Project, which is dedicated to ensuring that U.S. national security policies and practices are consistent with the Constitution, civil liberties, and human rights. She engages in litigation, research, and policy advocacy on issues including the freedoms of speech and association, privacy and surveillance, discrimination against racial and religious minorities, use of force, torture, and unlawful detention. She is the author and coauthor of publications on surveillance, targeted killing, torture, and extraordinary rendition. She is also a lecturer-in-law at Columbia Law School, where she teaches a course on international human rights.

Annie Shiel

Annie Shiel is senior advisor for U.S. policy and advocacy at the Center for Civilians in Conflict. Annie leads CIVIC’s work engaging with U.S. policymakers, lawmakers, and advocates to enhance the protection of civilians in conflict. This includes leading CIVIC’s policy analysis and advocacy around the civilian harm implications of U.S. military operations and security assistance, and building and working with coalitions of likeminded organizations to advance U.S. policies that improve the lives of civilians living in conflict. Annie holds a Master’s Degree in International Policy from Stanford University and a BA in International Development from McGill University. She is also a Truman National Security Fellow.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is a member of the American Pakistan Foundation’s Leadership Council, and previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He received a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law with a concentration in international law and transitional justice. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.