ISIS taken down largely by US killer drones

Yahoo News:
As the Islamic State’s physical caliphate shrinks to nothing after an almost five-year campaign led by U.S. special operations forces, military insiders say one small unit has killed more of the extremists than any other: the company of Gray Eagle drones in the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment.

Although the military has thrown a cloak of secrecy over its operations, the unit — officially called E (or “Echo”) Company of the regiment’s Second Battalion and established less than a decade ago — is increasingly being lauded in special operations and Army aviation circles.

“They are doing the most killing of anyone in the national mission force,” said a former 160th officer, referring to Joint Special Operations Command, which runs counterterrorism task forces in Afghanistan, and does battle against the Islamic State in Iraq, Syria and the Horn of Africa. “They’re out there doing the nation’s bidding in a ferocious way.”

Echo Company is credited with “well over 340 enemy killed in action” in Afghanistan and the Iraq-Syria theater between August 2014 and July 2015, according to a November 2015 Army write-up of an award for the unit. The company has also played a key role in a special operations task force established in Iraq in 2014 to roll back the Islamic State’s physical caliphate and hunt its leaders. Flying from a base in Iraq to attack targets in Syria, the drone company has launched “more than a thousand” Hellfire missiles in the last two to three years, the former 160th officer told Yahoo News. “That means to me they’ve been very busy in Syria.”

Echo Company’s achievements are remarkable, in part, because unlike the Air Force, whose drones are operated from air-conditioned trailers in Nevada and flown by officers, the pilots in this Army aviation company are mainly enlisted soldiers who are deployed in combat theaters.

The U.S. drone campaign against Islamist militants has been enmeshed in controversy since it began in 2001, with accusations that some attacks caused needless civilian casualties or hit the wrong target altogether. On Wednesday, President Trump rescinded an executive order that required the intelligence community to disclose information about U.S. drone strikes outside of declared war zones, including civilian casualties. The White House last year had already ignored the requirement, put in place by President Barack Obama. Trump’s order does not affect a law that requires the Defense Department to send Congress an annual report detailing civilian casualties.
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“Echo Company [is] the most lethal company in the Army, and it may very well be the most lethal company-size element in all of [the Defense Department],” Brig. Gen. John Evans, at the time the head of U.S. Army Special Operations Aviation Command, told attendees at the aviation association’s conference in April 2017.
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There is much more.

The attack drones have several advantages over using choppers and manned aircraft.  The enemy can't hear them coming and take evasive action or attack the planes.  It marks a significant improvement in the use of drones in combat operations.   The Marine Corps needs to set up similar units to provide cover and support for infantry operations.

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