Editor’s Note: The armed drone has become the emblem of U.S. counterterrorism, but critics charge that it leads to high numbers of civilian casualties and a popular backlash in places like Pakistan. Asfandyar Mir, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford, argues that the drone campaign has proven highly effective at degrading (though not ending) al-Qaeda and other groups in Pakistan. He lays out conditions under which a drone campaign would be effective elsewhere, noting the importance of intelligence and the need for a rapid-response capacity.
Latest in drone strikes
Editor’s Note: One of the most common, and seemingly convincing, critiques of the drone program is that it produces "blowback"—each miss that kills civilians, or even each hit that kills a militant, angers locals near the blast zone and inflames national sentiment against the United States in ways that aid militant recruitment. Such arguments are difficult to evaluate, but Aqil Shah of the University of Oklahoma did extensive survey and interview research on this question.
Editor’s Note: Drone strikes are among the most important, and among the most contentious, U.S. counterterrorism instruments. Data limits and the complexity of both cause and effect when it comes to terrorism make many judgments on efficacy difficult. A bigger problem, however, is that effectiveness is often divorced from strategy. Jacqueline Hazelton of the Naval War College takes this challenge on, building on her research published in the Journal of Strategic Studies.
In yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, Gordon Lubold and Shane Harris reported that President Trump “has given the Central Intelligence Agency secret new authority to conduct drone strikes against suspected terrorists, … changing the Obama administration’s policy of limiting the spy agency’s paramilitary role and reopening a turf war between the agency and the Pentagon.” The article is sparking a lot of hand-wringing. Should it?
What security-related executive orders are likely to be repealed in whole or in part soon after Donald Trump is sworn in as president? I list some obvious ones below, and will be happy to update the list with predictions others may send me.
1. Executive Order 13491 (Jan. 22, 2009) ("Ensuring Lawful Interrogation")
Over the past decade, military drones, whether weaponized or merely equipped for surveillance, have been at the center of many heated arguments, whether about targeted killing, counterterrorism, the supposedly "too easy" resort to force through drones, and a host of other controversies.
CENTCOM has just released a summary of publicly-acknowledged airstrikes conducted against AQAP targets in Yemen over the first five months of 2016. The list includes three strikes from February and March that were not previously acknowledged, interestingly, and there is no guarantee that there are not others of that kind still awaiting public disclosure.
The DOD airstrike that may have killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour is interesting, from a legal perspective, at many levels.
Readers of Lawfare will be interested to learn that the UK Parliament’s Joint Committee on Human Rights has just published its report on the British Government’s policy on the use of drones for targeted killing. The report is the outcome of an inquiry launched by the Joint Committee in October 2015.
This Intelligence Studies Essay assesses open source research to determine the relative effectiveness of two alternative strategies for directing lethal attacks against terrorist groups: leadership decapitation, or degradation of mid-level management.