Almost as if Dubya was still president
The CIA has opened the year with a flurry of drone strikes in Pakistan, pounding Taliban targets along the country’s tribal belt at a time when the Obama administration is preparing to disclose its plans for pulling most U.S. forces out of neighboring Afghanistan.
A strike Thursday in North Waziristan was the seventh in 10 days, marking a major escalation in the pace of attacks. Drone attacks had slipped in frequency to fewer than one per week last year.
Current and former U.S. intelligence officials attributed the increased tempo to a sense of urgency surrounding expectations that President Obama will soon order a drawdown that could leave Afghanistan with fewer than 6,000 U.S. troops after 2014. The strikes are seen as a way to weaken adversaries of the Afghan government before the withdrawal and serve notice that the United States will still be able to launch attacks.
The rapid series of CIA strikes “may be a signal to groups that include not just al-Qaeda that the U.S. will still present a threat” after most American forces have gone, said Seth Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the Rand Corp. “With the drawdown in U.S. forces, the drone may be, over time, the most important weapon against militant groups.”