Micah Zenko

Politics, Power, and Preventive Action

Zenko covers the U.S. national security debate and offers insight on developments in international security and conflict prevention.

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You Might Have Missed: Invading Syria, Arming Yemen, and Military Dogs

by Micah Zenko
July 20, 2012

A soldier patrols with his dog in a village in southern Afghanistan (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters). A soldier patrols with his dog in a village in southern Afghanistan (Denis Sinyakov/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, “Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Use in the National Airspace and the Role of the Department of Homeland Security,” July 19, 2012.

GAO’s ongoing work has identified several UAS issues that, although not new, are emerging as areas of further consideration in light of greater access to the national airspace. These include concerns about privacy relating to the collection and use of surveillance data. Currently, no federal agency has specific statutory responsibility to regulate privacy matters relating to UAS. Another emerging issue is the use of model aircraft (aircraft flown for hobby or recreation) in the national airspace. FAA is generally prohibited from developing any rule or regulation for model aircraft. The Federal Bureau of Investigation report of a plot to use a model aircraft filled with plastic explosives to attack the Pentagon and U.S. Capitol in September 2011has highlighted the potential for model aircraft to be used for unintended purposes. An additional emerging issue is interruption of the command and control of UAS operations through the jamming and spoofing of the Global Positioning System between the UAS and ground control station.


Craig Whitlock and Julia Tate, “U.S. Increases Planned Aid to Yemen in Fight Against al-Qaeda,” Washington Post, July 19, 2012.

In the aftermath of Saleh’s resignation in February and an easing of the country’s political crisis, the Obama administration notified Congress last month that it intends to resume military aid to Yemen. The aid is restricted for use by Yemen’s counterterrorism forces, which are locked in a struggle with an al-Qaeda affiliate that has also targeted the United States.

In June, the Pentagon told lawmakers that it would give $75 million worth of small arms, ammunition, vehicles, hand-launched surveillance drones and other equipment to Yemen’s Interior Ministry.

New documents show that the military aid will be more extensive. Earlier this month, the Pentagon notified Congress that it would give Yemen an additional $37 million for its U.S.-trained special-operations units. Included in that package are two small troop-transport aircraft, 100 night-vision devices, five small “raiding” boats for commandos as well as more small arms and ammunition.

(3PA: For how much (overt) security assistance the United States gave Yemen before the fall of President Saleh, read this GAO report. And for how little the United States got in return from $327 million in aid, click here.)


Conor Friedersdorf, “Flawed Analysis of Drone Strike Data is Misleading Americans,” The Atlantic, July 18, 2012.

(3PA: Read the response from TBIJ.)


Hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Subject, “The Future of Homeland Security: Evolving and Emerging Threats,” July 11, 2012

GENERAL HAYDEN:  Let me give you a bit of a dilemma. Some of the things we’re doing—and let me use targeted killings against al-Qaida as an example, because that’s—a lot of that has been declassified—so much of that is in the public domain that right now this witness, with my experience, I am unclear what of my personal knowledge of this activity I can or cannot discuss publicly. That’s how muddled this has become. And I think, to a first order, just clarity so that folks understand what’s on the one side and what’s on the other in terms of public discussion. That would be the first order.


Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), “Final Forensic Audit Report of Iraq Reconstruction Funds,” July 13, 2012.

The precise amount lost to fraud and waste can never be known, but SIGIR believes it is significant.  As of June 30, 2012, SIGIR audit reports had questioned $635.8 million in costs, and SIGIR Investigations, working with other agencies, had resulted in $176.84 million in fines, forfeitures, and other monetary results.


Brendan McGarry, “Outsourcing Adds 2,806 Contractors to War Toll,” Bloomberg Government, July 12, 2012.

Government contractors led by L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. had almost half as many fatalities as U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan during the past decade, government insurance records show.

The BGOV Barometer shows that workers’ survivors or employers have filed at least 2,806 insurance claims for deaths in those countries and Kuwait since Sept. 1, 2001, according to Labor Department data compiled by Bloomberg. By comparison, 6,526 U.S. service members have been killed.

(3PA: This is an important news story. As I noted previously, the Pentagon does not track contractor deaths. According to the GAO in September, “Although all [State Department, USAID, and DOD] are required to track the number of personnel killed or wounded while working on contracts and assistance instruments  in Iraq or Afghanistan, DOD still does not have a system that reliably  tracks killed and wounded contractor personnel.” Puzzling, since last weekend a Pentagon spokesperson knew exactly how many dogs have died in Iraq or Afghanistan: twenty-nine.)


Laurel E. Miller, Jeffrey Martini, F. Stephen Larrabee, Democratization in the Arab World: Prospects and Lessons from Around the Globe, July 2012.


Brian T. Haggerty, “Safe Havens in Syria: Missions and Requirements for an Air Campaign,” Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, July 2012.


Paul B. Stares, “Intervention in Syria: Three Things to Know,” Council on Foreign Relations, July 19, 2012.

Post a Comment 2 Comments

  • Posted by Peter Duveen

    For your headline, Mr. Zenko, you mentioned Syria, but I read nothing in the body of your blog entry about Syria. Let me supplement, then. Seems Richard Haass has, in contrast to his opposition to the Libyan invasion by NATO forces, and regime change in that country, expressed his support for intervention and the toppling of the Syrian government. There is no indication that such a move has popular support within the country, and we can expect that people would rather live with Assad and the prosperity he has created than die during a NATO intervention. Does NATO have a right to impose its will on another country and bring its government down by supporting an insurgency that does not have the support of the people? Is this international law, that a sitting head of state can be openly toppled by belligerant external powers and their internal surrogates? Interesting.

  • Posted by ally

    history has shown that when a minority is in power,it is not in power through democracy,the power in syria is there through the takeover from bashar al assad father,and it is important fact that the regimes in the middle east,have been most deadly when there are more secularistic,not that i am anti secular,but power in the middle east takes a tribalistic form and when in the case of saddam,or gaddafi,or mubarak and assads,economic benefits for the few at the expense of the vast who simply want normality,take on power ,they create undemocratic regimes,take for example the kurds in turkey the vast majority of kurds are sunni,and the sunni kurds are less anti-turkey,then the alevi turks who are anti turkey and in extreme forms yet they have a far more better lifestyle than the kurds in iraq,who were slaughterd by saddam,yet the alevi kurds who cannot be termed as religious,are in my days of travel in turkey very much,violence oriented.another example is india,where the vast majority of indias muslims are proud of their indianess,there is a small minority who are or call themselves memons,they have benefited from their trade and links with dubai and karachi,are mainly settled in mumbai,are anti india,one dawood memon was involved in one of the most attrocious crime in mumbai in 1991,some groups are agressively oriented and they can be less religious.

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