As U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the United States continues to carry out targeted killings against suspected terrorist leaders in several theaters—including through the use of armed drones—and to enhance the ability of partner nations to carry out lethal operations.
But U.S. drone strikes can kill innocent civilians along with their intended targets, generating backlash abroad and concerns domestically. According to reporting last week by the Washington Post, one such strike moved Congress to insert language into the $1.1 trillion spending bill that blocks Obama administration attempts to transfer the U.S. drone program from the CIA to the Pentagon. Currently, both the CIA and the Department of Defense operate their own drone programs under different legal authorities, with the CIA drone program governed by covert operations statutes.
In December, a strike carried out by the military hit a convoy in Yemen, which Yemeni tribal leaders told news organizations was part of a wedding party. In addition to several al-Qaida targets, approximately half a dozen civilians were killed, and the incident raised concerns over the targeting capabilities of the military.