In an effort to make nice with Islamabad, the CIA paused drone missile strikes against low-level militants in Pakistan nearly six weeks ago, current and former officials tell the Los Angeles Times. The suspension affects so-called signature strikes: attacks on those who were observed, via drone or another form of intelligence, to likely be supporting the Taliban or insurgent groups like the Haqqani network in adjacent Afghanistan. The suspension hasn't downed all drones—Predator and Reaper drones are still surveilling the country, and will be used to attack an al-Qaeda leader if one is identified.
In 2008, President Bush gave the CIA permission to use drone strike on militants whose identities weren't known, but whose actions implied they were involved with terrorists; the CIA under Obama now has the OK to strike anyone in Pakistan's tribal areas who could be a threat. Some US government officials say such broad attacks are counterproductive, arguing that low-ranking militants can be easily replaced, and that such attacks fuel distrust. Others would like to see the CIA refocus on espionage, while possibly handing paramilitary operations in Pakistan to the Pentagon's Joint Special Operations Command, which flies drones in Yemen and Somalia. The website Long War Journal, which tallies drone missile attacks via Pakistani media, says the CIA launched 64 such attacks this year, the most recent of which occurred on on Nov. 16. Click to read the entire article. (Read more drones stories.)