Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed in drone strikes which were escalated under the administration of President Barack Obama. Pakistan government has ‘publically’ been calling them counterproductive saying these strikes have helped militants gain sympathy among locals to the disadvantage of its forces fighting the terrorists for last many years.
In a dispatch published on Sunday, The Washington Post said that the carve-out would allow the CIA to continue bombing suspected militants for a year or more before the agency is forced to comply with more stringent rules spelled out in a classified document that officials have described as a counterterrorism “playbook”.
The policy document is expected to be submitted to President Barack Obama for final approval within weeks, the Post said. A senior US official involved in drafting the document said that a few issues remain unresolved but described them as minor. The senior US official said the playbook “will be done shortly”.
Among the subjects covered in the playbook are the process for adding names to kill lists, the legal principles that govern when US citizens can be targeted overseas and the sequence of approvals required when the CIA or US military conduct drone strikes outside war zones, according to the newspaper.
The decision to allow the CIA strikes to continue was driven in part by concern that the window for weakening al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Pakistan is beginning to close, with plans to pull most US troops out of neighbouring Afghanistan over the next two years, the Post said. CIA drones are flown out of bases in Afghanistan.
“There’s a sense that you put the pedal to the metal now, especially given the impending” withdrawal, said a former US official involved in discussions of the playbook. The CIA exception is expected to be in effect for “less than two years but more than one”, the former official said, although he noted that any decision to close the carve-out “will undoubtedly be predicated on facts on the ground”.
Obama’s national security team agreed to the CIA compromise late last month during a meeting of the “principals committee”, comprising top national security officials, that was led by adviser John Brennan, now CIA director.
White House officials said the committee will review the document again before it is presented to the president. They stressed that it will not be in force until Obama has signed off on it. The CIA declined comments.
The outcome reflects the administration’s struggle to resolve a fundamental conflict in its counterterrorism approach. Senior officials have expressed unease with the scale and autonomy of the CIA’s lethal mission in Pakistan. But they have been reluctant to alter the rules because of the drone campaign’s “results”.
The effort to create a playbook was initially disclosed last year by The Washington Post. Brennan’s aim in developing it, officials said at the time, was to impose more consistent and rigorous controls on counterterrorism programs that were largely ad-hoc in the aftermath of the Sept 11 attacks.