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AFCENT removes drone strike public records

Air Force Central Command has removed drone strike statistics in Afghanistan from its monthly reports at a time the Pentagon, CIA and the White House is receiving pressure from Congress to provide more information on the process to approve such strikes.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-KY, staged 13 hour filibuster on March 6 to delay the confirmation of CIA Director John Brennan. Paul wanted the White House to tell him if the president has the authority to approve a drone strike on a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

Brennan was confirmed the next day, but the statistical category for drones that AFCENT provides for air strikes from all aircraft in Afghanistan disappeared the day after Paul's filibuster. Military Times first reported on the missing statistics.

AFCENT officials had added the separate category for drones in order to "provide more detailed information on [remotely piloted aircraft] ops in Afghanistan," an Air Force official said. That bit of transparency disappeared just four months after it was started.

For example, the Central Command record stated that as of Jan. 31, the U.S. had executed 44 weapons releases for the month of January in Afghanistan. For 2012, the U.S. executed 494 weapons releases from drones. That was a significant increase from the 294 weapons releases executed in 2011, according to the AFCENT records.

A weapons release is likely the firing of a Hellfire missile, the munition most often fired from U.S. drones.

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