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: Special Operations Raids, European Drones, and CIA Detentions

by Micah Zenko
October 11, 2013

USS San Antonio The USS San Antonio transits through the Gulf of Oman on February 4, 2009. An elite American interrogation team is now questioning the senior al-Qaeda figure Abu Anas al-Liby, who was seized by special operations forces in Libya, onboard the USS San Antonio in the Mediterranean Sea (Zalasky/Courtesy Reuters).

Hearing to consider the nominations of Mr. Michael D. Lumpkin, Honorable Jamie M. Morin, and Honorable Jo Ann Rooney, U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, October 10, 2013.

Lumpkin: We’re not going to be able to kill our way to victory. One at a time, doing one-eaches…

I would argue [al-Qaeda is] less capable to attack the homeland directly but U.S. interests – it still has the capability.

McCain: Al-Qaeda is gaining strength in the ungoverned regions of northern and eastern Syria. Washington Post reports that fewer than one thousand Syrian rebels have been trained. Do you think the training cited by the Washington Post is capable of altering any balance of power in Syria?

Lumpkin: As it sits right now, I don’t see a significant balance change based on that…

(3PA: Note that the person that Lumpkin is scheduled to replace, Michael Sheehan, seemed to champion an eliminationist counterterrorism approach: “Whack-a-Mole, in my view, works — because terrorists aren’t plastic things that pop up again. When you kill them, they don’t come back. Yes, somebody else may come back, but that guy is probably less effective, less trained, and by the way, knows his buddy before him got … killed.”)


White House Top Priority on Raids: Go After Those Who ‘Seek To Do Us Harm’,” PBS Newshour, October 8, 2013.

LISA MONACO: I think these determinations are always made with great care, but also with the appreciation for the incredible precision and dedication that our armed forces and, in fact, our entire national security and intelligence community brings to these operations. And the standard is one to go after those who would seek to do us harm. And what you saw in the case of the al-Libi raid was, frankly, the unrelenting focus of the United States government to go after and to not forget, no matter how long it takes, to go after those who would seek to do us harm.


David Pearson, “European Defense Firms’ Drone Push Remains Elusive,” Wall Street Journal, October 8, 2013.

But a tally of unmanned aircraft owned by various European air forces tells a different story: all the large and advanced drones in service in Europe were imported from the U.S. or Israel.


Mark Hosenball and Phil Stewart, “Elite Interrogators Question Seized al-Qaeda Leader at Sea,” Chicago Tribune, October 6, 2013.

A U.S. official, said the two commando operations did not represent a change in counterterrorism strategy – even though Obama insisted in a speech in May that he wanted to scale back the used of armed drones, a tactic that he has controversially used against militants in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen.


Elizabeth Williamson, “Skateboarders See a (Kick) Flip Side to the Government Shutdown,” Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2013.

Where most people see ornate, neo-Classical federal buildings and sweeping stone plazas in this city, skaters see something else: opportunity, in the form of sturdy railings, low stone benches, ramps—ideal “obstacles” for skateboarding stunts. And now, after years of ducking the national park police that patrol these plazas, this week’s closure of public buildings and easing of surveillance offered skaters hope of revisiting their favorite spots. It was, said one, “on.”


Globalizing Torture: CIA Secret Detention and Extraordinary Rendition,” Open Society Foundations, 2013.

To date, owing to the extraordinary secrecy surrounding CIA secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, there is no precise estimate of the total number of detainees subjected to these operations. By 2005, the United States had reportedly extraordinarily rendered 100 to 150 suspects to foreign countries.

(3PA: Since 9/11, the United States has killed an estimated 3,700 people outside of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya.)


Christopher Paul, Colin P. Clarke, Beth Grill, and Molly Dunigan, “Counterinsurgency Scorecard: Afghanistan in Early 2013 Relative to Insurgencies Since World War II,” Rand Corporation, 2013.

In the 2011 Afghanistan scoring, the scorecard result was found to be in that gap between historical wins and losses. In the 2013 scoring reported here, the result has crossed that gap and now, at +2, is among the historical COIN winners.

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