from Politics, Power, and Preventive Action and Center for Preventive Action

You Might Have Missed: Drone Exports, Somalia, and JFK’s “Ordinary Mortals”

February 20, 2015

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Department of Defense Press Briefing by Rear Adm. Kirby in the Pentagon Briefing Room, U.S. Department of Defense, February 18, 2015.

Rear Adm. Kirby: These are actually proscriptions in place that we will follow and we will expect anybody that receives these systems to follow…It’s in our best interest to be able to have this kind of control, supervision, and scrutiny over the potential delivery of these systems because it’s a ubiquitous, now, capability. Not every nation has the same sophistication at it as we do, but this is a technology that’s not going away. So, it suits our interests, and I think it should suit the American people’s interests to know that we’re going to be involved, from soup to nuts, on how these systems are eventually transferred.

(3PA: Kirby’s comments were in reference to a policy released by the State Department this week, which is the topic of my new column on ForeignPolicy.com.)


Askold Krushelnycky, “ Ukrainian Forces Recover Downed Russian Drone,” The Intercept, February 17, 2015.

A Russian drone was shot down over the weekend during heavy fighting against separatist forces near the government-held port city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian forces.The drone was quickly identified as a Russian-designed and manufactured drone designated E08 by its manufacturer, the Enics company, whose logo and name appear in Cyrillic on its fuselage…

Members of Ukraine’s 37th Mechanized Battalion, who brought down the drone, saw it crash into the Azov Sea, fringing the conflict zone.

(3PA: In a recent Brookings Institution report on policies to preserve Ukrainian independence and prevent Rusian aggression, the authors noted that Ukrainian military officers claimed they have “no capabilities to jam or down Russian UAVs.” Of course, they do; drones are easy to shoot down.)


Aisha Ahmad, “The Security Bazaar, Business Interests and Islamist Power in Civil War Somalia,” International Security, 39(3), Winter 2014/15, pp. 89-117.

Since the collapse of its government in 1991, Somalia has suffered more than two decades of civil war along clan lines. For fiffteen years, these fierce tribal divisions were the main fault line of conflict. In 2006, however, a new Islamist movement emerged in the capital city of Mogadishu and quickly ousted the heavily entrenched clan warlords. Within the short span of six months, these newcomers accomplished what more than a dozen internationally sponsored peace processes could not: they centralized political control over the majority of the Somali countryside…(p. 90)

The estimation results indicate that the price of security was significant in driving the Somali business community’s support for the Islamists over the warlords, and that both clan and Islamic identity may be overstated…(p. 105)

This research suggests, however, that both ethnic and Islamic identity politics may actually be overstated in the existing literature, and that more work needs to focus on the pragmatic cost calculations of the business elite. By modeling civil war as a market for the provision of security, this article offers a practical, economic explanation for why Islamists may prove more competitive than groups defined by narrower identities. I argue that because certain Islamist groups have the ability to sell security to prospective buyers across ethnic or tribal divisions, they are able to charge the business elite lower rates than protection rackets that rely on a more limited ethnic or tribal base. By courting the valuable support of the business class, Islamists are thus able to monopolize the market for providing security. (pp. 114-115)


Robert L. Grenier, 88 Days to Kandahar: A CIA Diary (New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, 2015) pp. 413-414.

In the midst of these maneuvers, for years the United States could not induce Pakistan to invade and occupy the militant safehaven in North Waziristan, which provided a base for groups whose primary targets were in Afghanistan. The Pakistanis lived in fear that to do so might drive those groups to join forces with others primarily focused on Pakistan, with potentially disastrous consequences to themselves. They had their own challenges, and were not about to take risks to defend foreigners, who—the Pakistanis reasoned—could take care of themselves. Over time, the efforts of Pakistan’s ISI [intelligence agency] to maintain links and to try to manipulate all these groups in defense of its own interests looked progressively to U.S. observers more and more like active Pakistani collusion with those who were killing Americans.

In response, the employment of armed drones in the Pakistani Tribal Areas, which had once largely been limited to pinpoint strikes against foreign militants with operational ties to al-Qa’ida, was expanded, if press accounts and those of organizations dedicated to the subject are to be believed, to include attacks against groups of armed men apparently engaged in cross-border insurgency. Out of frustration with Pakistan’s unwillingness or inability to police its own territory, what once had been primarily a counterterrorism tool became a broad-based counterinsurgency tool. As the number of cross-border attacks increased, so did the number of drone strikes. The fact that such “signature strikes” were aimed at local, as opposed to foreign militants, and had a much greater propensity to generate collateral casualties among non-combatants, had the effect of greatly increasingly public outrage in Pakistan, and encouraging yet more militancy.

(3PA: I first pointed this out six years ago, and am glad to see a senior CIA official responsible for overseeing these strikes acknowledge this now.)


Arthur Schlesinger, A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House (New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin Harcour, 2002) p. 258.

“If someone comes in to tell me this or that about the minimum wage bill,” [President] Kennedy said to me later, “I have no hesitation in overruling them. But you always assume that the military and intelligence people have some secret skill not available to ordinary mortals.”

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