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 11 - 20 of 57 results for "somalia"

You Might Have Missed: Targeted Killings, Syria, and Military Contractors

by Micah Zenko

Lance M. Bacon, “Soldiers Go Global,” Army Times, June 10, 2013.

While the Army’s primary mission remains its ability to fight and win the nation’s wars, this new model places greater emphasis on those areas “left of the bang.” Training will enable soldiers to prevent and shape so they don’t have to fight and win, especially if that fight may become a large-scale conflict a cash-strapped Army is not equipped to fight. In the words of one commander, the “battle is to prevent battle.” Read more »

Enhancing the Obama Administration’s Drone Strikes Transparency

by Micah Zenko

Two weeks ago, President Barack Obama gave a wide-ranging speech on U.S. counterterrorism policies. The result has been significant confusion regarding targeted killings, because what was reported in the press and what the president actually said were different, particularly on the matters of transferring drone strikes from the CIA to the military and ending signature strikes. Two hours before Obama’s speech, three anonymous administration officials gave a background briefing to reporters, which provided some clarity on several counterterrorism matters. Since the White House did not make a transcript of this briefing available, in the interest of transparency, I have re-printed it below in its entirety. Where “(inaudible)” appears, the transcription service did not include the name of the official mentioned. Read more »

Obama’s Low Bar for Drones Transparency

by Micah Zenko
Obama Counterterror Speech at National Defense University U.S. President Barack Obama listens to an audience member interrupting his speech on the administration's counterterrorism and drone strike policies at the National Defense University on May 23, 2013 (Reuters/Courtesy Downing).

I had a column published at Foreign Policy today that analyzes the divergence between what President Obama said about drone strikes in his counterterrorism speech last week, and what his senior aides selectively leaked to journalists. Subsequently, many columnists and journalists have mistakenly characterized Obama’s speech as placing tight restrictions on who can be targeted with drone strikes. Others listened to the speech and believed, as National Public Radio stated: “Obama Pledges To Be More Transparent About Drone Program.” Read more »

The AUMF and America’s Forever War

by Micah Zenko

See below for the most important and alarming sections from Thursday’s Senate Armed Services Hearing with senior civilian and military officials on the Pentagon’s interpretation of legal authorities for conducting counterterrorism operations. The hearing, “The Law of Armed Conflict, and the Use of Military Force, and the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force,” contained several revelations these Pentagon officials that suggest that President Obama’s repeated claim that “the tide of war is receding” is not the operative guidance for the U.S. military. The four witnesses were: Michael Sheehan, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict; Acting Defense General Counsel Robert Taylor; Maj. Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Director for Special Operations/Counterterrorism, J-37, Joint Staff; Brig. Gen. Richard Gross, Legal Counsel, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Read more »

Formalizing Oversight of Military Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense). Six members of the U.S. House of Representatives, including Mac Thornberry (R-TX) who stands at the podium, hold a press briefing at the Pentagon on November 6, 2003 (Ward/Courtesy Department of Defense).

On Friday, Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-TX), vice chairman of the house armed services committee (HASC), introduced a bi-partisan bill with twenty-nine co-sponsors. The full text of the bill (H.R. 1914) was only made available today by the Library of Congress. The “Oversight of Sensitive Military Operations Act” essentially formalizes into law existing oversight procedures for non-battlefield capture or targeted killing operations conducted by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) forces. As Thornberry acknowledged last week, “We’ve been doing a lot of this oversight anyway,” with the military briefing the HASC’s subcommittee on intelligence, emerging threats, and capabilities within “hours or days” after drone strikes or other “lethal targeting actions.” This is much faster reporting than required under current law—a “global update on activity within each geographic combatant command” every three months. Read more »

Should the United States Conduct Drone Strikes for Iraq?

by Micah Zenko

Today, Qassim Abdul-Zahra and Diaa Hadid wrote a story for the Associated Press that describes growing cross-border collaboration between al-Qa’ida in Iraq (AQI) and Jabhat al-Nusrah, or al-Nusrah Front, in Syria. An Iraqi government spokesperson is quoted as describing the border area as “a nest of terrorist cells,” while an anonymous Jordanian counterterrorism official stated that the two groups were working, “with all possible means, including weapons, fighters and training.” This is not a new development. In December, the State Department claimed that the al-Nusrah Front was merely an extension of AQI, and was thus labeled a “Foreign Terrorist Organization.” Read more »

You Might Have Missed: Iraq, Yemen, and Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
The lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters). The lobby of the Central Intelligence Agency (Larry Downing/Courtesy Reuters).

Government Accountability Office, “U.S. Assistance to Yemen: Actions Needed to Improve Oversight of Emergency Food Aid and Assess Security Assistance,” March 20, 2013.

Two DOD programs account for the vast majority of U.S. security assistance to Yemen; however, DOD has yet to evaluate their effectiveness in building Yemeni counterterrorism capacity. As noted earlier, of the $497 million in total security assistance allocated to Yemen between fiscal years 2007 and 2012, DOD allocated over 70 percent ($361 million) to its Section 1206 and 1207(n) programs…. Read more »

U.S. Public Opinion on Drone Strikes

by Micah Zenko
An armed drone prepares to take off in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). An armed drone prepares to take off in Afghanistan (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Although the United States has been killing suspected terrorists with drone strikes in nonbattlefield settings for over ten years, public opinion polling of the controversial tactic began only a year and a half ago. Averaged together, the polls demonstrate that 65 percent of Americans support the targeted killing of suspected terrorists, and 51 percent approve killing U.S. citizens who are suspected of terrorism. Read more »

How Many Terrorists Have Been Killed by Drones?

by Micah Zenko
U.S. Predator drone (Handout/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Predator drone (Handout/Courtesy Reuters).

Yesterday, Senator Lindsey Graham, speaking to the Easley Rotary Club in Easley, South Carolina, offered a standard defense of drone strikes: “It’s a weapon that needs to be used. It’s a tactical weapon. A drone is an unmanned aerial vehicle that is now armed.” Graham also noted that without drones it would be hard to attack terrorists groups along the Afghanistan/Pakistan border, where “terrorists groups like the [Haqqani] network and Al-Shabaab are residing, very remote regions.” Forget that Al-Shabaab has never been reported to be in that region, Graham also maintained that the drone program “has been very effective.” Read more »

State of the Union Defends Targeted Killings

by Micah Zenko
U.S. president Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on February 12, 2013 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. president Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union on February 12, 2013 (Charles Dharapak/Courtesy Reuters).

Last night, President Obama’s State of the Union address included the following passage:

“Today, the organization that attacked us on 9/11 is a shadow of its former self. Different al-Qaeda affiliates and extremist groups have emerged – from the Arabian Peninsula to Africa. The threat these groups pose is evolving. But to meet this threat, we don’t need to send tens of thousands of our sons and daughters abroad, or occupy other nations. Instead, we will need to help countries like Yemen, Libya, and Somalia provide for their own security, and help allies who take the fight to terrorists, as we have in Mali. And, where necessary, through a range of capabilities, we will continue to take direct action against those terrorists who pose the gravest threat to Americans.” Read more »