U.S. officials: Obama’s new “restrained” drone policy doesn’t apply to Pakistan when there are U.S. troops next door

posted at 4:01 pm on May 30, 2013 by Allahpundit

A sensible exception, but making a big announcement about limiting drone strikes and then carving out an exception for Pakistan is like going on a strict diet but making an exception for any food that’s “really tasty.” Most drone strikes happen in the tribal areas; if it’s business as usual there until U.S. troops are out of Afghanistan, why even announce the new policy now? Save it for the big Afghan withdrawal declaration next year, assuming that ever happens.

If, like me, you were unclear yesterday on how the “new” policy would authorize the droning of Pakistani Taliban number two Wali ur-Rehman, here’s your answer: There is no new policy when it comes to people who would attack American soldiers.

But in the days since the president’s speech, American officials have asserted behind the scenes that the new standards would not apply to the C.I.A. drone program in Pakistan as long as American troops remained next door in Afghanistan — a reference to Mr. Obama’s exception for an “Afghan war theater.” For months to come, any drone strikes in Pakistan — the country that has been hit by the vast majority of them, with more than 350 such attacks by some estimates — will be exempt from the new rules.

American officials refused to publicly confirm the drone strike or the death of the Pakistani Taliban’s deputy leader, Wali ur-Rehman, even as Pakistani government and militant figures reported that he had been killed. Thus, the promise of new transparency, too, seemed to be put off.

Per Long War Journal, the Taliban itself confirmed Rehman’s death today and said that it would suspend all peace talks with the Pakistani government as a result. Like I said yesterday, Rehman arguably qualified for the “kill list” even under Obama’s new, slightly more restrictive standards; he was, for instance, accused of complicity in the suicide-bomb attack that killed multiple CIA officers in Afghanistan in 2009. Was he a “continuing” and “imminent” threat to Americans? Yes — to the Americans stationed across the border. Here’s what O said about this in his speech last week:

In the Afghan war theater, we must — and will — continue to support our troops until the transition is complete at the end of 2014. And that means we will continue to take strikes against high value al Qaeda targets, but also against forces that are massing to support attacks on coalition forces. But by the end of 2014, we will no longer have the same need for force protection, and the progress we’ve made against core al Qaeda will reduce the need for unmanned strikes.

Beyond the Afghan theater, we only target al Qaeda and its associated forces. And even then, the use of drones is heavily constrained. America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists; our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose; our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty.

He chose the term “Afghan war theater” rather than “Afghanistan” for precisely this reason, presumably, so that he could keep bombing Taliban gangland in Pakistan while not calling attention to that not-so-minor loophole in his big speech. (Another not-so-minor loophole not emphasized in the speech itself: “Signature strikes,” in which the feds fire at people because their movements are suspicious without knowing for sure who they are, will also continue for the time being.) One obvious question raised by the “American theater of war” exception is whether it’ll be invoked to justify targeting Syrian jihadis — which the CIA is already contemplating — if/when the U.S. eventually deploys air assets to that swamp too. Does the presence of U.S. servicemen anywhere automatically put drones in play in that location as a protective mechanism? Or is O instead eyeing the bit from his speech about targeting “al Qaeda and its associated forces” as the big loophole going forward? Depending upon how you define “associated,” that could rope in a lot of groups globally, certainly Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria and select militias in Libya. It’s ironic that Obama got patted on the back last week by doves for suggesting that it’s time to repeal the 2001 AUMF for being too broad when he’s left himself an exception that broad for drone use.

One lingering question about the strike on Rehman: Why him and why now? By all accounts, including the NYT’s story quoted above, Rehman was more “diplomatic” than most Taliban bigwigs. If the White House is interested in peace talks between the Taliban and the Pakistani government, it’s bizarre to target Rehman; as noted, the Taliban is already vowing to drop diplomacy and keep fighting in the aftermath. Granted, we owed Rehman for what he did to the CIA base in 2009, but the White House is perfectly willing to let bygones be bygones with people who attack American troops if it helps to pacify trouble spots. We did it under Bush with Sunni insurgents via the Awakening six years ago and we’ve been trying to do it with the Taliban for the past few years under O. There must have been some strategic reason to hit Rehman, but it’s not clear to me, at least, what it was.


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Comments

Obama drones, always.

Schadenfreude on May 30, 2013 at 4:02 PM

If the war on terror is “over” why is there a DHS and TSA?

Explain why a capo like Napolitano are needed in the land?

Schadenfreude on May 30, 2013 at 4:03 PM

if it’s business as usual there until U.S. troops are out of Afghanistan, why even announce the new policy now?

to keep the trolls happy ??

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM

if it’s business as usual there until U.S. troops are out of Afghanistan, why even announce the new policy now?

to keep the trolls happy ??

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM

Flexing muscles. Trying to look like a tough guy.

VegasRick on May 30, 2013 at 4:07 PM

Barky: “This statement is operative until it isn’t.”

I guess that used to called “lying” but I’m old school about those kind of things….

Bruno Strozek on May 30, 2013 at 4:09 PM

…that was yesterday…and soooooooooooo long ago!

KOOLAID2 on May 30, 2013 at 4:15 PM

Trying to look like a tough guy macho macho man…….
VegasRick on May 30, 2013 at 4:07 PM

antipc on May 30, 2013 at 4:15 PM

There must have been some strategic reason to hit Rehman, but it’s not clear to me, at least, what it was.

Why do you think there was a strategic reason? This is Obama we’re talking about. What part of his foreign policy says “strategic”?

Curtiss on May 30, 2013 at 4:19 PM

I’m surprised the UN hasn’t made a bigger stink over this. He did assassinate a person within a sovereign nation that we were not at war. Isn’t that what they were formed for; peacekeeping?

Am I missing something here?

Tater Salad on May 30, 2013 at 4:20 PM

With Obama the exceptions always swallow the rule.

myiq2xu on May 30, 2013 at 4:20 PM

There must have been some strategic reason to hit Rehman, but it’s not clear to me, at least, what it was.

A. We don’t know if Rahman is killed, we only have Hussein and taaaleeebbon bragging about it , no other confirmation .

B. Even if it’s true that Rahman is killed, then it means that CIA got it’s revenge .

C. There is going to be a new Prime Minister in Pakistan pretty soon, and if, and that is a big if,
the Rahman faction of taliban has animosity with the incoming new paki PM, the US just got used to carry out a hit.

I hope the US Military didn’t get used as some kind of hired mercenaries to carry out a hit on behalf of some islamic politician in a 3rd world country .

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:23 PM

Y’all realize Obama is fVucking insane, right?

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM

Pravda has more credibility than most US media.

Otherwise this thuggery wouldn’t be possible.

Schadenfreude on May 30, 2013 at 4:31 PM

If the war on terror is “over” why is there a DHS and TSA?

Explain why a capo like Napolitano are needed in the land?

Schadenfreude on May 30, 2013 at 4:03 PM

…they cannot let loose the habitual habit formed by all those TSA people …to touch people’s junk in public ?

KOOLAID2 on May 30, 2013 at 4:31 PM

to keep the trolls happy ??

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:04 PM

That’s only because Management won’t let us shoot ‘em.

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:34 PM

Anybody feel like playing ‘Kick the Troll’?

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM

Anybody feel like playing ‘Kick the Troll’?

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:35 PM

I’m in :O

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:37 PM

YoooHoooo…libfree!

We got a game going on. Care to play? YOU will be the center of attention, I promise…!

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:39 PM

One obvious question raised by the “American theater of war” exception is whether it’ll be invoked to justify targeting Syrian jihadis us.

FIFY

Curtiss on May 30, 2013 at 4:40 PM

I’m in :O

burrata on May 30, 2013 at 4:37 PM

~sigh~ Hang in, Friend. The trolls are hard to find at the moment.

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:41 PM

~sigh~ Hang in, Friend. The trolls are hard to find at the moment.

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:41 PM

They’re all busy watching a webinar on why a free press isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Curtiss on May 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

He’s signaling that he won’t use drones HERE unless he really, really, really doesn’t like you. Like if you contribute to the tea party or something unforgivable like that.

Tom Servo on May 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Calling all HA trolls who say they know better than us…

We got a game going on. Care to join us even tho YOU are outsiders?

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:44 PM

They’re all busy watching a webinar on why a free press isn’t necessarily a good thing.

Curtiss on May 30, 2013 at 4:43 PM

Just when you want a cop troll, there isn’t one.

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:46 PM

All of Obama’s policies come with an expiration date of 5 minutes or some sort of exception clause that allows him to do what he says he wouldn’t do.

HumpBot Salvation on May 30, 2013 at 4:50 PM

Next time they have a photo of Barack Obama in the White House at his desk…. look real close to see if he has stamps on the side of his desk like the Red Barron had on the side of his plane.

Drones…. Dems thinks this absolves them of war crimes, so sanitary… so clean. A hit is a hit, own up to it say it like a man… Barack, I got my finger on the trigger and I am taking you down. FOIA request for pictures of Barack in the situation room with his remote control playing “Drone King…. President edition”

UN seems to LOVE themselves Obama…. nary a peep from them about the indiscriminate drone strikes. Now where to be found Code PINK Jodi….hello Jodi? I saw the on line application Barack Obama filled out for the position of United Nations President…. I understand they are considering it you know because of the Nobel Peace prize and two terms as POTUS and all that.

ActinUpinTexas on May 30, 2013 at 4:51 PM

OT- just think about it, headlines on Drudge just today, Russian missiles reach Syria, Assad to attack Israel, China to conduct exercises off Hawaii, what the heck is going on. Odumbo has his head stuck in the sand hoping all of this will go away.

rjoco1 on May 30, 2013 at 4:52 PM

rjoco1 on May 30, 2013 at 4:52 PM

Obama doesn’t care about any of that.

But he loves that homosex marriage! That’ll make ev’ryting all right wit da world!

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:55 PM

A sensible exception, but making a big announcement about limiting drone strikes and then carving out an exception for Pakistan is like going on a strict diet but making an exception for any food that’s “really tasty.”

Heh. AP, you’re awesome.

Splashman on May 30, 2013 at 5:18 PM

Y’all realize Obama is fVucking insane, right?

Liam on May 30, 2013 at 4:30 PM

But…but…he’s got rhythm……..

and he’s so-o-o-o kewl.

So…it’s all OK.

//

Solaratov on May 30, 2013 at 5:58 PM

He has probably lost all control of this. His speech was likely an aspiration that such things should not happen in his name. He doesn’t really know what to do. That’s why he can’t explain it.

virgo on May 31, 2013 at 12:41 AM