October 10, 2013 | Quote
Drone Strikes Plummet as US Seeks More Human Intelligence
The number of drone strikes approved by the Obama administration on suspected terrorists has fallen dramatically this year, as the war with al Qaeda increasingly shifts to Africa and U.S. intelligence craves more captures and interrogations of high-value targets.
U.S. officials told The Washington Times on Wednesday that the reasons for a shift in tactics are many — including that al Qaeda’s senior ranks were thinned out so much in 2011 and 2012 by an intense flurry of drone strikes, and that the terrorist network has adapted to try to evade some of Washington’s use of the strikes or to make them less politically palatable.
But the sources acknowledged that a growing desire to close a recent gap in actionable human intelligence on al Qaeda’s evolving operations also has renewed the administration’s interest in more clandestine commando raids like the one that netted a high-value terrorist suspect in Libya last weekend.
Others said heavy reliance on drones has only added to America’s potentially dangerous deficit of human intelligence on al Qaeda. “If you’re not capturing guys to get that intel, then, yeah, you’re going to be missing a part of the picture — if not a large part of the picture,” said Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow focusing on al Qaeda and North Africa at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
“You can rely extensively on electronic intelligence, but you still need that [human intelligence]to put the full picture together,” said Mr. Joscelyn, who added that recent years have fostered a “fetish within some parts of the intelligence community for drone attacks because they’ve succeeded in taking out some very high-level targets.
“There are other parts of the American military and intelligence community that understand that drones are not going to win this war,” he said. “Drones are a necessary tactic, but they are not a strategy.”