National Security Brief: Drone Strikes Decline

The New York Times reports today that amid the controversy surrounding the Obama administration’s targeted killing couterterror program, and in particular that program’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles, the number drone strikes U.S. forces have conducted over the past few years has declined:

[L]ost in the contentious debate over the legality, morality and effectiveness of a novel weapon is the fact that the number of strikes has actually been in decline. Strikes in Pakistan peaked in 2010 and have fallen sharply since then; their pace in Yemen has slowed to half of last year’s rate; and no strike has been reported in Somalia for more than a year.

President Obama will address his counterterrorism policy on Thursday and is expected to discuss drones and targeted killing. Reports surfaced this week ahead of the speech that the White House is looking to move some of CIA’s covert drone operations over to the Defense Department in an effort to increase transparency and accountability.

In other news:

  • A new Washington Post/ABC News poll found that a majority of Americans believe that the Obama administration is trying to cover up facts about the Benghazi attacks last year and the administration’s response to it. Republicans have been making these claims for months but there is no evidence to support them.
  • The Washington Post dug into former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus’s role in the talking points the Obama administration generated for the Benghazi attacks. “A close reading of recently released government e-mails that were sent during the editing process, and interviews with senior officials from several government agencies,” the Post reports, “reveal Petraeus’s early role and ambitions in going well beyond the [House Permanent Select Committee’s] request [for unclassified talking points], apparently to produce a set of talking points favorable to his image and his agency.”
  • Politico reports: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is exempting around 500 civilian sexual assault prevention personnel from this year’s mandatory furloughs, a senior defense official told POLITICO, in a bid to show the Pentagon is serious about cracking down on sexual assault in the ranks
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