Experts say the number is likely much higher.
The report, issued by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, analyzes 473 U.S. strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya, the vast majority of which were carried out by drones. It says 2,372 to 2,581 so-called combatants were killed in these attacks.
The U.S. government is not clear about how it defines combatant. The New York Times reported in 2012 that President “Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties” that “in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.”
For years, the U.N., Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have criticized the U.S. government’s secrecy in its drone assassination program, and have even implied that the Obama administration may be guilty of war crimes.
President Obama touted the report on Friday as a sign of his administration’s commitment to transparency. Yet scholars, journalists and human rights officials who have long monitored the drone program are worried that the investigation’s findings are drastically understated.