Iraqis Fume Over US Drone Use
State Department is operating surveillance drones in the country
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 30, 2012 6:05 AM CST
Updated Jan 30, 2012 7:55 AM CST
A US Army Shadow unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) launching on February 22, 2008 in Diyala province, Iraq. Despite the US military exit from Iraq last month, the State Department continues to fly drones...   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – Many Iraqi officials are outraged that the US is operating drones in the country a month after the American military left, calling the drones a violation of Iraq's sovereignty, reports the New York Times. It's the State Department, not the CIA or Pentagon, that's behind the program, and it says the drones—which are surveillance, not armed, drones—are only there to help provide security to our embassy and consulates. But many Iraq officials bristle at suggestion. “Our sky is our sky, not the USA’s sky," said Iraq's acting minister of the interior, who, along with other officials, says the US has yet to request formal approval from Iraq to run the program.

The Times reports that the State Department has about two dozen drones in the country, though not all are operational. But experts say that small group of unmanned aerial vehicles foreshadows a general increase in State Department power: Sources told the Times that the State Department may expand the drone program to other "high-threat" countries, such as Pakistan, Indonesia, and Afghanistan after the troops leave. Some worry that the State Department isn't equipped to oversee such a complicated program: It "needs to get through its head that it is not an agency adept at running military-style operations," says one expert.