Obama expected to address drone justification, achievements

May 22, 2013 at 11:35 AM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, May 22 (UPI) -- President Obama is expected to discuss Thursday at the National Defense University his justification for drone strikes and what they achieved, observers said.

Obama also may discuss the decline in the use of unmanned aircraft strikes, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Current and former officials told the Times the reason the number of drone strikes has fallen include a smaller list of key al-Qaida targets and factors such as bad weather or diplomatic matters.

However, others said the falloff may be the result of a change in the long-term costs and benefits.

Reports of civilians killed by drones have undermined claims of precise targeting, the officials said.

The strikes also have become a part of al-Qaida propaganda, with convicted terrorists saying the reports provided motivation for their crimes, the Times said.

Senior security officials in both the Obama administration and that of predecessor George W. Bush have expressed concern long-term strategic costs of the strikes may outweigh short-term gains, the Times said.

Michael V. Hayden, who as CIA director in 2008 oversaw the first escalation of strikes in Pakistan, said the strikes have been "tremendously effective ... [but] circumstances change. We're in a much safer place than we were before, and maybe it's time to recalibrate."

Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and Brookings Institution scholar, told the Times while there were a host reasons for the declining number of strikes in Pakistan, "a growing awareness of the cost of drone strikes in U.S.-Pakistan relations is probably at the top of the list."

"They are deadly to any hope of reversing the downward slide in ties with the fastest growing nuclear weapons state in the world," Riedel said.

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