9 January 2013

Congo-Kinshasa: U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing: Drones in the DR-Congo


Excerpt from the United States Department of State Daily Press Briefing: 

QUESTION: Okay. All right. And I got one more that also may have come up yesterday, apologies if it did - you can ignore it if it did - and that is, I think it was yesterday at the UN Security Council there was some talk and discussion about using drones in Congo --

MS. NULAND: Mm-hmm.

QUESTION: -- and the fact that the UN mission there wants them. Does the U.S. have a position on this, or are you willing to lend them some, if they so wish?

MS. NULAND: We do. First of all, let me just say that at the end of his trip David Hale will - he's going to end up back in Amman where he's going to see Quartet and envoys. I bungled that --

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MS. NULAND: That's on - that's tomorrow. On Thursday.

QUESTION: There's a Quartet meeting in Amman?

MS. NULAND: In Amman.

QUESTION: Envoy meeting.

MS. NULAND: Envoy meeting at the David Hale level.

So, on the drone issue --

QUESTION: Still on --

MS. NULAND: Sorry?

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the Quartet?

MS. NULAND: Sorry?

QUESTION: Tomorrow in Amman?


MS. NULAND: Tomorrow in Amman. So I bungled this six-ways from Sunday.

We started in Jerusalem, we went to Amman, now he's in Cairo, and then he goes back to Amman for Quartet tomorrow.

So on to Matt's question about the drone idea. This is the idea that the UN peacekeeping authorities are putting forward to have unarmed UAVs participate in peacekeeping missions. This would only happen with the consent of the country or the countries where the mission would operate, and their use would not impact in any way on sovereignty. Again, they would be unarmed and they would only be carrying photographic equipment.

The United States does support the UN's proposal to use unarmed, unmanned aerial vehicles, for example in the democratic Republic of Congo to increase the surveillance capacity of the UN peacekeeping operation MONUSCO there. The DRC Government has also welcomed the UN's request. We're also looking at other missions where this might be possible. We think that building on MONUSCO's surveillance capacity will better enable it to protect civilians, and will support the efforts of the DRC to restore stability in the eastern part of the country.

QUESTION: All right. And when we're talking about - the kind of drones we're talking about are the kind of drone like the ones that we saw in Uganda, right? When the Secretary was visiting Ghana, they're not much bigger than a remote control model airplane --

MS. NULAND: Right.

QUESTION: -- that someone might have. They're not - even if they're unarmed - they're not these enormous things that people come to think of when they think of drones.

MS. NULAND: Well, the idea from the UN's perspective obviously is for this to be for photo surveillance, so you want to make it as cost effective --

QUESTION: Right. But I'm talking about these wee, little ones.

MS. NULAND: -- as possible. So you generally go for the small - right.

They're not - maybe not this big but --

QUESTION: Yeah. Right. Okay.

QUESTION: Whatever happened to the Secretary's idea that she brought up in Uganda about using U.S. drones possibly to find - to help - try and help find Joseph Kony?

MS. NULAND: Well, again, if we can move forward on this UN proposal to use drones, then that could be another place where they might be useful, the unarmed, unmanned.

QUESTION: Who would be operating them? Who - under whose control would they come?

MS. NULAND: Well, they can be offered by a nation. They can also be contracted services that are paid for through UN voluntary contributions. So there are any number of ways that this can be done and that it has been done in different parts of the world.

QUESTION: But who would actually operate and send them out on missions?

MS. NULAND: Again, it would be under the overall mission control of MONUSCO if you did it in the DRC, but likely the operators would be contracted.

MS. NULAND: Oh, sorry, poor Guy in the back, go ahead.

QUESTION: I'm sorry, I just wanted to follow up on the little discussion there about the drones in Africa, and see if you could give a little bit more detail. I think that you said that there are other corners of the world, or there are other countries where this is - this arrangement has already been made, where companies have been contracted to do this.

Could you give us an example of where else that's happening?

MS. NULAND: Well, not as a part of UN peacekeeping, but there are plenty of examples of military engagement where contracted drones have been used to enhance surveillance, particularly these unarmed/unmanned ones.

I'll send you to the Pentagon for any further detail on the kinds of places. But the U.S. military contracts these kinds of things as well as having our own, as do many other countries around the world.

All right. Thank you very much.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:35 p.m.)

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