Obama nails it on drones
May 23rd, 2013
07:23 PM ET

Obama nails it on drones

By Michael O’Hanlon, Special to CNN

Michael O’Hanlon is senior fellow at Brookings and author of The Wounded Giant: America’s Armed Forces in an Age of Austerity. The views expressed are his own.

President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism speech Thursday did not deliver any radical policy changes or huge revelations, but it was well done nonetheless. It explained his reasoning behind the use of certain techniques of warfare including drone strikes and Guantanamo detentions, even as he also promised to minimize the use of these methods in the future and try to move towards a world in which the 2001 authorization for war against al Qaeda and affiliates would no longer be needed.  It was an intelligent blend of the tone of his more idealistic speeches, such as the Cairo address of June 2009, with his more muscular messages like the December 2009 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

But one section of his speech is worth particular focus – the use of armed unmanned combat vehicles or drones. Even though President Obama did not specify exactly how drone strikes would change in the future, and did not provide a great deal of new information about them, the modest amount of detail he did provide was welcome. That is because U.S. drone strikes are badly misunderstood around the world, a point underscored by a New York Times op-ed today contained the following statements:

“...the C.I.A. has no idea who is actually being killed in most of the strikes. Despite this acknowledgment, the drone program in Pakistan still continues without any Congressional oversight or accountability.”


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Topics: Afghanistan • Barack Obama • CIA • Pakistan • Terrorism
May 8th, 2011
03:11 PM ET

Fareed's Take: Counterterrorism beats nation building

There is a silly debate taking place in Washington about who deserves credit for Osama bin Laden's assassination - President Obama or President Bush.

John F. Kennedy once said that victory has a thousand fathers, so can we admit that lots of people - thousands beyond those two people - deserve credit?

The outcome is the culmination of years of intelligence and action, but this specific operation was obviously conceived, planned and executed by the Obama administration, which deserves genuine respect for handling it well.

But the real lesson that we should be drawing from it is that counterterrorism works. Counterterrorism is our most important and effective strategy in the war on terror. FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • CIA • Fareed's Take • GPS Show • Iraq • Middle East • Military • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • President Obama • Security • Strategy • Taliban • Terrorism • United States
May 8th, 2011
02:43 PM ET

This week on GPS: The death of Osama bin Laden

Nearly 10 years after 9/11, a U.S. Special Forces team killed Osama bin Laden. Notably, bin Laden was found and shot in Pakistan, not in the remote mountains of neighboring Afghanistan. What does this mean for the battle against violent extremism? What about for U.S.-Pakistani relations? GPS breaks it down for you with an all-star show, including two guests who helped spearhead the hunt for bin Laden over the last decade.

Condoleezza Rice, the former Secretary of State and National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush, sits down with Fareed to talk about her administration’s efforts to capture the 9/11 mastermind and just what bin Laden's death means to her personally. FULL POST

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Topics: Afghanistan • CIA • Covert Operations • Egypt • Elections • GPS Episodes • GPS Show • Intelligence • Iran • Islam • Middle East • Military • Osama bin Laden • Pakistan • President Obama • Revolution • Security • Strategy • Taliban • Terrorism • United States
Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel on bin Laden death, Pakistan-U.S. ties and the Afghan war
May 4th, 2011
04:50 PM ET

Former CIA officer Bruce Riedel on bin Laden death, Pakistan-U.S. ties and the Afghan war

To get better perspective on the significance of Osama bin Laden’s death for al Qaeda, Pakistan-U.S. relations and the war in Afghanistan, I talked to Bruce Riedel. Riedel spent nearly 30 years as a CIA officer focusing on terrorism; he served as senior advisor to three U.S. presidents on Middle East and South Asian issues; and he chaired President Obama’s first interagency review of policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Amar C. Bakshi: Can al Qaeda survive the death of Osama bin Laden in any meaningful sense?

Bruce Riedel:  The death of Bin Laden is a very severe blow for al Qaeda. And it comes at a particularly bad time for al Qaeda. The organization has already been under severe pressure from the drone strikes and it has looked out of touch with the revolutions in the Arab world. It’s an open question whether it will be able to adapt to this new environment.

Its strength is that it still is deeply enmeshed in the jihadist culture of Pakistan. The fact that bin Laden was hiding in the heartland of the Pakistani nation and that he’s being eulogized by senior members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and other jihadist groups shows how much al Qaeda is entangled in the Pakistani jihadist establishment. That’s its greatest strength today - it’s not alone but rather part of a syndicate of terrorists. It will continue to pose a threat as long as it has these Pakistani allies. FULL POST

Former CIA director on the Agency's role in the new Middle East
April 18th, 2011
12:50 PM ET

Former CIA director on the Agency's role in the new Middle East

John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director and Acting Director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, says that the CIA has an important role to play in the new Middle East, transforming the repressive national security apparatus of countries like Egypt into more accountable and transparent organizations.

McLaughlin draws on his experience in Eastern Europe during the dissolution of the Soviet Union to explain how "national security states" can become more transparent, pluralistic and democratic.

Amar C. Bakshi: First, does Gadhafi have potent chemical or biological weapons we need to be concerned about in this civil war?

John McLaughlin: I would be very surprised if he had biological weapons, the components of any nuclear material or any serious chemical weapons. He reportedly has some  mustard gas that was not fully destroyed, but I believe it would be hard for him to use effectively because of its age, location, and the absence of delivery systems

Do you worry he might be trying to sponsor some sort of asymmetrical response through supporting terrorism once again?

If he survives this and manages to reorganize a regime in some part of Libya or in all of Libya, I would be seriously concerned. I would expect him to organize a terrorist-based response to what he has experienced from the West during this period.


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Topics: CIA • Diplomacy • Egypt • Global • Libya • Middle East • Military
March 31st, 2011
08:58 AM ET

Thursday Roundup of Libya and the region

By Tim Lister, CNN

Get up to speed on the fast-changing events in Libya as of Thursday morning, ET:


– Libya’s foreign minister flees; are there more to come?
– Rebels try to make a stand at Brega as Gadhafi forces adopt new tactics
– NATO, France say no to arming rebels
– Maltese boat on mercy run to Misurata
– Exile for Gadhafi? Not so easy
– Syria claims to be preparing to scrap emergency law
– In Yemen, Saleh playing a dangerous al Qaeda card


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Topics: CIA • Libya • Middle East • Military • NATO • Yemen