The New York Times reports: There were more drone strikes in Pakistan last month than any month since January. Three missile strikes were carried out in Yemen in the last week alone. And after Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistanis on Thursday that the United States was winding down the drone wars there, officials back in Washington quickly contradicted him.
More than two months after President Obama signaled a sharp shift in America’s targeted-killing operations, there is little public evidence of change in a strategy that has come to define the administration’s approach to combating terrorism.
Most elements of the drone program remain in place, including a base in the southern desert of Saudi Arabia that the Central Intelligence Agency continues to use to carry out drone strikes in Yemen. In late May, administration officials said that the bulk of drone operations would shift to the Pentagon from the C.I.A.
But the C.I.A. continues to run America’s secret air war in Pakistan, where Mr. Kerry’s comments underscored the administration’s haphazard approach to discussing these issues publicly. During a television interview in Pakistan on Thursday, Mr. Kerry said the United States had a “timeline” to end drone strikes in that country’s western mountains, adding, “We hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”
But the Obama administration is expected to carry out drone strikes in Pakistan well into the future. Hours after Mr. Kerry’s interview, the State Department issued a statement saying there was no definite timetable to end the targeted killing program in Pakistan, and a department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, said, “In no way would we ever deprive ourselves of a tool to fight a threat if it arises.”
Micah Zenko, a fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, who closely follows American drone operations, said Mr. Kerry seemed to have been out of sync with the rest of the Obama administration in talking about the drone program. “There’s nothing that indicates this administration is going to unilaterally end drone strikes in Pakistan,” Mr. Zenko said, “or Yemen for that matter.” [Continue reading…]