US Reliance on Governments Increases as Drone Strikes Decrease

Image: US Reliance on Governments Increases as Drone Strikes Decrease U.S. Predator drone

Tuesday, 20 May 2014 06:22 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The United States is scaling back on drone strikes in favor of partnering with foreign countries in anti-terrorism operations, The Hill reported.

There will also be fewer unilateral special operations missions against al-Qaida in favor of working to prepare foreign governments, such as Yemen, to fight terrorists on their own territory.

Still, long term, the U.S. military will invest more in its special operations forces, according to The Hill.

The administration has come under criticism from liberals and conservatives at home and from countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan over how it has employed military drones in the war against al-Qaida and other extremists.

Since the Obama administration came into office in 2009, several hundred civilians have accidentally been killed in drone strikes. The number of extremists killed is estimated at several thousand, according to the National Journal. President Barack Obama has already announced stricter guidelines for the using drones against terrorist targets.

In Yemen, for instance, the number of unmanned airstrikes dropped from 41 in 2012 to 26 in 2013. The tally dropped in Pakistan from 117 in 2010 to 28 in 2013, according to The Long War Journal.

In a speech at the National Defense University in Washington in May 2013, the president said the United States needed to target its efforts against "extremists that threaten America." Doing so required cooperation with other countries in "gathering and sharing of intelligence and the arrest and prosecution of terrorists," according to The Hill.

Analysts say that for now the biggest threat to U.S. security emanates from al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. The government of Yemen has not been a reliable player in going after these extremists, despite U.S. investment in training and financial support.

Western Iraq  has also become a major refuge for al-Qaida even though Washington has invested heavily in Iraq's military including supplying Hellfire missiles, The New York Times reported. As the United States has drawn down in Afghanistan, that country's military has been buffeted by Taliban and al-Qaida attacks.

In Libya and Syria, the United States has not found it easy to identify reliable partners on the ground.

"We need to be very clear about what our partners are able to do and what they are not able to do,"  Katherine Zimmerman, senior analyst at the American Enterprise Institute, said, according to The Hill.

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