May 23, 2013

Obama defends drone strikes but says no cure-all

The Washington Post

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The revised drone policy comes amid a plunge in the overall number of strikes overseas. There were more than 120 strikes in Pakistan and Yemen combined in 2010, but there have been just 23 so far this year.The pace has been slowed by a range of factors, including the diminished number of senior operatives among al-Qaida's thinned ranks, as well as pauses triggered by diplomatic ruptures in Pakistan and political turmoil in Yemen.

Obama signaled he is open to more fundamental changes, including the creation of a "drone court" that could evaluate targeting criteria and decisions. But he noted the drawbacks of such proposals, and made no commitment of support.

He contrasted the relative precision of drones to the risks of inserting commando teams or relying on the larger and more lethal munitions of conventional airpower.

Even so, his assertions about the drone program's accuracy may have been undercut by the administration's disclosure on Wednesday that four U.S. citizens had been killed in strikes over the past four years — and that only one of those, the U.S.-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, had been specifically targeted.

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