The Obama administration relies on drones for one simple reason: they work. Drone strikes have devastated al Qaeda at little financial cost, at no risk to U.S. forces, and with fewer civilian casualties than many alternative methods would have caused.
U.S. policymakers tout the death of radical Yemeni cleric Anwar al-Awlaki as a victory for counterterrorism operations, but the episode highlights controversial aspects of the expanding targeted killing policy.
Marisa L. Porges argues, "... continued detention may be the best answer for the 'highest-threat' Yemeni detainees. For the rest, the appropriate approach depends on the individual detainee's background and security threat."
CFR Senior Fellow Steven Cook and Foundation for Defense Democracies Research Fellow Tony Badran discuss the increasing violence and political change sweeping the region with Foreign Affairs Editor Gideon Rose. Cook and Badran have authored articles in the recently released eBook New Arab Revolt, published by CFR and Foreign Affairs.
Targeted killings have become a central component of U.S. counterterrorism operations around the globe. Despite pointed criticism over transparency and accountability issues, analysts say the controversial practice seems likely to expand in the future.
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has emerged as the most dangerous al-Qaeda affiliate, strengthening amid political unrest in Yemen. This Backgrounder examines the group and U.S. counterterrorism operations.
The Christmas bomb attempt on a Detroit-bound plane has raised new concerns about "ungoverned spaces." But CFR's Stewart Patrick argues that the term fails to address the real security concerns presented by nations like Yemen.
A shaky deal to transfer power from Yemen's President Saleh brokered by the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council signals the emergence of the group as an active player in the region, says CFR's Thomas Lippman, even if the deal ultimately fails.
As Yemen lurches into increased instability with no clear successor to President Saleh. Yemen expert Bernard Haykel says the best intermediate political solution would be a national unity council until elections can be held.
Yemen could be edging toward civil war, particularly if the military gets involved in both sides of the conflict, says Yemen expert Gregory Johnsen, but the United States has limited ability to influence the outcome in a country that has been an ally in fighting terrorism.
"Washington does not have a Yemen policy, much less a progressive vision for the country. Instead, American policies in the Peninsula privilege the permanence and prosperity of the GCC monarchies, notably the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Neither the Bush nor the Obama administrations have regarded Yemen as a real place with real politics."
"Should the United States continue targeted killings in Yemen without addressing the consequences of killing civilians and taking responsibility for unlawful deaths, it risks further angering many Yemenis and handing another recruiting card to AQAP."
Today, al-Qa'ida in the Arabian Peninsula's (AQAP) is at a crossroads. Does it revert to what it was prior to 2011, a terrorist organization operating in the shadows? Or does it try to reclaim the territory it lost and once again position itself as a governing authority?
The Council on Foreign Relations' David Rockefeller Studies Program—CFR's "think tank"—is home to more than seventy full-time, adjunct, and visiting scholars and practitioners (called "fellows"). Their expertise covers the world's major regions as well as the critical issues shaping today's global agenda. Download the printable CFR Experts Guide.
The authors argue that it is essential to begin working now to expand and establish rules and norms governing armed drones, thereby creating standards of behavior that other countries will be more likely to follow.
The author examines Pakistan's complex role in U.S. foreign policy and advocates for a two-pronged approach that works to quarantine threats while integrating Pakistan into the broader U.S. agenda in Asia.