‘Playbook’ to give CIA free hand for drone strikes in Pakistan: WP

An unmanned MQ-1 Predator drone

The Obama administration is nearing completion of a detailed counterterrorism manual that is designed to establish clear rules for targeted-killing operations but leaves open a major exemption for the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan, according to a report by Washington Post citing US officials. The carve-out would allow the CIA to continue pounding al-Qaeda and Taliban targets for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in a classified document that officials have described as a counterterrorism “playbook”.
The document, which is expected to be submitted to President Obama for final approval within weeks, marks the culmination of a year-long effort by the White House to codify its counterterrorism policies and create a guide for lethal operations through Obama’s second term. A senior US official involved in drafting the document said that a few issues remain unresolved but described them as minor. The senior US official said the playbook “will be done shortly.”
The adoption of a formal guide to targeted killing marks a significant and to some uncomfortable milestone: the institutionalisation of a practice that would have seemed anathema to many before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. US officials said the effort to draft the playbook was nearly derailed late last year by disagreements among the State Department, the CIA and the Pentagon on the criteria for lethal strikes and other issues. Granting the CIA a temporary exemption for its Pakistan operations was described as a compromise that allowed officials to move forward with other parts of the playbook. The decision to allow the CIA strikes to continue was driven in part by concern that the window for weakening al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan is beginning to close, with plans to pull most US troops out of neighbouring Afghanistan over the next two years. CIA drones are flown out of bases in Afghanistan.
The CIA exception is expected to be in effect for “less than two years but more than one,” the former official said, although he noted that any decision to close the carve-out “will undoubtedly be predicated on facts on the ground.” Obama’s national security team agreed to the CIA compromise late last month during a meeting of the “principals committee,” comprising top national security officials, that was led by White House counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan, who has since been nominated to serve as CIA director. Senior administration officials have expressed unease with the scale and autonomy of the CIA’s lethal mission in Pakistan. But they have been reluctant to alter the rules because of the drone campaign’s results. The playbook is “a step in exactly the wrong direction, a further bureaucratisation of the CIA’s paramilitary killing programme” over the legal and moral objections of civil liberties groups, said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberty Union’s National Security Project. Signature strikes contributed to a surge in the drone campaign in 2010, when the agency carried out a record 117 strikes in Pakistan. The pace tapered off over the past two years before quickening again in recent weeks. None of the rules applies to the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan, which began under President George W Bush. The agency is expected to give the US ambassador to Pakistan advance notice on strikes. But in practice, officials said, the agency exercises near complete control over the names on its target list and decisions on strikes. Imposing the playbook standards on the CIA campaign in Pakistan would probably lead to a sharp reduction in the number of strikes at a time when Obama is preparing to announce a drawdown of US forces from Afghanistan that could leave as few as 2,500 troops in place after 2014.



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4 Comments

  1. ali said:

    There is no such thing as a free hand, the US pays the corrupt General and govt handsomely for killing Innocent people. Once a patriotic govt or a general come to power in Pakistan the drone will stop. US dare not attack Iran or North Korea because their govt. are not sell out.

    • nota said:

      Let's not forget the army/air force join in this killing of innocent people. If you look at the numbers, I am sure you will find the number of those killed by 'our' F-16s, gunships and military ops much higher than those killed by drone strikes….That fact is undeniable, no matter how unpleasant it is.

      And it is because of this complacence that US can today openly talk of giving itself a "free hand" to continue the killings:
      ‘Playbook’ to give CIA free hand for drone strikes in Pakistan: WP

  2. ali said:

    It is a shame that a Nuclear Armed nation allow itself to be humiliated like this. This clearly show the inept govt and military is just sucking the blood of its own people and are getting billions. They should not forget that when US gets chance, it wont think twice about attacking Kahuta to de nuke Pakistan.

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