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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Showing posts for "Drones and Targeted Killing"

America’s 500th Drone Strike

by Micah Zenko

The most consistent and era-defining tactic of America’s post-9/11 counterterrorism strategies has been the targeted killing of suspected terrorists and militants outside of defined battlefields. As one senior Bush administration official explained in October 2001, “The president has given the [CIA] the green light to do whatever is necessary. Lethal operations that were unthinkable pre-September 11 are now underway.” Shortly thereafter, a former CIA official told the New Yorker, “There are five hundred guys out there you have to kill.” It is quaint to recall that such a position was considered extremist and even morally unthinkable. Today, these strikes are broadly popular with the public and totally uncontroversial in Washington, both within the executive branch and on Capitol Hill. Therefore, it is easy to forget that this tactic, envisioned to be rare and used exclusively for senior al-Qaeda leaders thirteen years ago, has become a completely accepted and routine foreign policy activity. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones, Obama on Proxies, and U.S.-China Military Relations

by Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama waves after holding a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 16, 2014. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama waves after holding a news conference at the conclusion of the G20 Summit in Brisbane on November 16, 2014. (Lamarque/Courtesy Reuters)

Remarks by President Obama at G20 Press Conference, White House, November 16, 2014.

Obama: But we’re also very firm on the need to uphold core international principles. And one of those principles is that you don’t invade other countries or finance proxies and support them in ways that break up a country that has mechanisms for democratic elections. Read more »

What Leon Panetta’s Memoir Says About Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
Former U.S. secretary of defense Leon Panetta discusses his new book "Worthy Fights" at George Washington University on October 14, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters) Former U.S. secretary of defense Leon Panetta discusses his new book "Worthy Fights" at George Washington University on October 14, 2014. (Ernst/Courtesy Reuters)

Leon Panetta, Worthy Fights (New York, NY: Penguin Press, 2014), pp. 388-391. Read more »

U.S. Transparency and the Truth of Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko

This morning, the White House released an unusual statement: “The Department of Defense confirmed that Ahmed Godane, the leader of al-Shabaab, is dead as a result of a U.S. military targeted airstrike in Somalia undertaken over the weekend.” What was particularly unique about the statement is that, previously, the Pentagon has purposely refused to confirm the deaths of terrorist leaders killed with legal counterterrorism strikes. On June 5, 2012, when Pentagon spokesperson then-Capt. John Kirby was asked about the reported death of al Qaeda’s no. 2 official, Abu Yahya al-Libi, Kirby replied: “We don’t discuss the specifics of counterterrorism operations.  So I’m not going to speak to specifics of operations.” Read more »

Ten What’s With…Sarah Kreps

by Micah Zenko
Drone Warfare by Sarah Kreps and John Kaag. Drone Warfare by Sarah Kreps and John Kaag.

Sarah Kreps is a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and an associate professor of government at Cornell University.  She is the author of Coalitions of Convenience: Military Interventions after the Cold War and the co-author of Drone Warfare. Additionally, I was fortunate to coauthor a recent CFR report, Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation, with Sarah. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Drones in Iraq, U.S.-China, and Hackers

by Micah Zenko
Zhao Xiaogang, drill director of the Chinese fleet participating in the RIMPAC multi-national military exercise, gives a statement during a news conference kicking off the exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 30, 2014. (Gentry/Courtesy Reuters) Zhao Xiaogang, drill director of the Chinese fleet participating in the RIMPAC multi-national military exercise, gives a statement during a news conference kicking off the exercise at Joint Base Pearl Harbor Hickam in Honolulu, Hawaii on June 30, 2014. (Gentry/Courtesy Reuters)

David Cenciotti, “Armed U.S. Predator Drone Appears Over Iraq,” Aviationist, July 25, 2014.

Allegedly filmed in the skies over Anbar, south of Mosul, in Iraq, the video below shows what clearly seems to be an MQ-1 Predator. As some analysts noticed the aircraft appears to be armed with Hellfire missiles, even if the first images are a bit too blurry to say it with certainty. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Israel-Palestine Death Toll, Iraq Drone Strikes, and Afghan Civilians

by Micah Zenko
Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 9, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip July 9, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Media Availability with Secretary Hagel at Eglin AFB, Florida, U.S. Department of Defense, July 10, 2014.

SEC. HAGEL: A lot of questions always come with any possibility or decision whether to take strikes or not. So those are all questions that are being asked and factors are being—are put into the process. And those are still options. Read more »

One Decade of Drone Strikes in Pakistan

by Micah Zenko

In May 2002, Gen. John Keane, commander of the 101st Airborne Division, vowed: “We have broken their will and they are trying to establish another safe haven now in Pakistan…when the time is right, we will deal with that one as well.” Indeed, two years later, his prediction came to pass on June 17, 2004, when a Hellfire missile killed Taliban commander Nek Mohammed, beginning the CIA campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan that continues to this day. One decade later, the United States has conducted a total of 371 drone strikes in Pakistan, killing an estimated 2,878, of which 376 were civilians. Read more »

What Would Air Strikes in Iraq Achieve?

by Micah Zenko
Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters) Fighters of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) stand guard at a checkpoint in the northern Iraq city of Mosul, June 11, 2014. (Stringer/Courtesy Reuters)

Demands by current policymakers to use military force are rarely accompanied by a specific objective of what it is intended to achieve. In the binary debate about what to do in Iraq, several policymakers have called for air strikes with some assertion of why and what they would accomplish. See below for an early collection and judge for yourself the validity of their claims. Read more »

You Might Have Missed: One Year After Obama’s Drone Speech

by Micah Zenko
U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters) U.S. President Barack Obama gestures as he speaks about his administration's counterterrorism policy at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013. (Downing/Courtesy Reuters)

Harold Hongju Koh, “Ending the Forever War: One Year After President Obama’s NDU Speech,” JustSecurity.org, May 23, 2014.

The President’s historic move in that speech was to call for the eventual repeal of the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) and the end of what I had called at the Oxford Union the “Forever War”… Read more »