Control of the controversial unmanned U.S. drone program may not be moving from the CIA to the Pentagon, after all.
During a speech at the National Defense University in May, President Barack Obama called for more transparency on the use of drones for targeted killings, while at the same time, information leaked that the drone program would shift from the CIA to the Department of Defense. But a report published in Foreign Policy magazine, citing anonymous U.S. officials, says the transfer of drone operations has stalled, and that operational differences between the CIA and the Pentagon make it unlikely that the shift will happen in the near future. There are complex legal issues that govern the CIA and DOD operations, and discussions of whether shifting the program would change its legal status have further slowed down the move, according to Foreign Policy.
But another unnamed official said nothing has changed.
“This is the policy, and we’re moving toward that policy, but it will take some time,” the official said. “The notion that there has been some sort of policy reversal is just not accurate. I think from the moment the policy was announced it was clear it was not something that would occur overnight or immediately.”
While the use of drones is down from its peak in 2010, when there were an estimated 122 attacks in Pakistan alone, drone strikes are still a crucial component of Obama’s counter-terrorism policies. Last week, a drone strike killed the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, just days after Pakistan’s prime minister met with Obama and publicly urged a halt to drone strikes in his country.