President Obama recently announced his policy goals for Afghanistan and Pakistan: "to disrupt, dismantle and defeat Al Qaeda ... and to prevent their return to either country in the future." An important tool increasingly used in pursuit of those objectives is the use of unmanned aerial drones such as the Predator.
Under Pakistan's insistence that there be "no boots on the ground" impinging its sovereignty, the Obama administration is in the unenviable position of fighting a counterterrorism campaign from 10,000 feet. With little USpublic debate or congressional oversight, US drones have bombed suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in Pakistan almost 60 times in the last four years - two-thirds of those attacks since last summer.
From a military and political standpoint, drones have their appeal. Not least of which is the lack of US casualties.
But using them in response to a worsening situation has not only failed to achieve President Bush's or President Obama's goals, it has fueled anti-American animosity on the ground in Pakistan. A former key advisor to Gen. David Petraeus, who is head of US Central Command, has gone so far as to call for an end to the use of drones at a time when advancing technological capabilities have many US military and political leaders clamoring for expanding the scope and intensity of Predator strikes throughout Pakistan.