Also published in International law studies, Vol. 87, 2011, p. 13-40
The civilian nature of the CIA personnel utilizing the armed drones precludes them from engaging in armed conflict and if they engage in armed conflict, this renders them "unlawful combatants". Outside of Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States is not engaged in an armed conflict with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or any other militant or terrorist group. If such attacks occur outside of an armed conflict, they must be treated as criminal acts and not armed attacks that give rise to the right to use military force in self-defense. Rather, they must be combated by law enforcement measures and governed by international human rights law, not the law of armed conflict. Because armed drones are not law enforcement tools, the critics contend, they may not be used outside of combat zones.