US CENTCOM discusses 'unmanned systems' use in Middle East

US CENTCOM discusses 'unmanned systems' use in Middle East
General Michael "Erik" Kurilla spoke with reporters Thursday to discuss regional threats and security technology, including what he referred to as 'unmanned systems'.
2 min read
Washington, D.C.
23 December, 2022
General Michael "Erik" Kurilla spoke with reporters Thursday [The Washington Post via Getty/archive]

A representative from US CENTCOM spoke with reporters Thursday to discuss regional threats and security technology, including what they referred to as "unmanned systems".

General Michael "Erik" Kurilla from the US Central Command – whose area of responsibility includes the Middle East as well as Central and South Asia – began by noting that the US is no longer engaged in active wars in the region.

He spoke of the importance of the use of data integration, artificial intelligence and unmanned systems, which appeared to be in part a reference to drones.

"We’re using unmanned systems paired with artificial intelligence, or AI, to give us better information faster. This allows us to employ our manned systems more efficiently and strategically. All of this helps us achieve decision dominance," he said.

Kurilla said unmanned sea vessels both above and below water that collect data could help achieve safer seas for global trade, an issue of major concern for all US regional partners. He also noted that they are testing unmanned land vehicles.

Though he described the transition from "boots on the ground" to innovation in a seemingly positive light, the US use of advanced military technology in the region is far from neutral. Its use of drones in civilian areas without full transparency continues to be a major source of controversy.

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The CENTCOM representative gave a brief overview of US concerns about a resurgence of the Islamic State (IS) group, and what they are doing to try to keep them in check. 

At present, he said, there are roughly 10,000 IS fighters in detention camps throughout Syria, and approximately 10,000 more held in detention centres in Iraq.

The camps in Syria are secured by the Syrian Democratic Forces, partners of the US. There is, however, concern of indoctrination in the Al-Hol camp, where many Syrian families with young children are held.

During the briefing, Kurilla repeatedly cast Iran as the main threat in the region.

"Iran continues to undermine regional security and stability through militia groups, ballistic missile capabilities, UAVs, and routine threats to international waterways," said Kurilla. "Iran continues to violate sanctions and embargoes, proliferate weapons to its network of proxies and affiliates, and seize shipping in international waters."

Kurilla said that it is important for the US to cultivate deep partnerships as these threats prevail.

"For China and Russia, partnerships to them are transactional relationships. For CENTCOM, our partnerships are values-based relationships.

"That’s what makes us the partner of choice in the region."