The South Asia Channel

US seeks to move drone program from CIA to Pentagon

US seeks to move drone program from CIA to Pentagon

Event Notice: Book launch for Kim Ghattas’ The Secretary: A Journey with Hillary Clinton from Beirut to the Heart of American Power, TODAY, March 22, 2013, 12:15-1:45PM (NAF).

Big move?

U.S. officials said this week that the White House is working to move its lethal drone program from the CIA to the Department of Defense, which would make the targeted killing campaign dependent on the consent of host countries and subject to international laws of war (WSJ, NYT, DailyBeast). But it remains unclear to what extent the move will bring greater transparency and accountability to the program, as the current proposal leaves Pakistan, where the vast majority of U.S. drone strikes have taken place, under the jurisdiction of the CIA. And the program could be transferred to the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, a sector of the military that is just as (if not more) secretive than the CIA.

Four suspected militants were killed in a U.S. drone strike near the town of Datta Khel in North Waziristan on Thursday night (BBC, NYT, Dawn, AFP, AP). Local officials noted that it is rare for people to move around the restive area so late at night.

The death toll has risen from 13 to 17 in a car bombing that took place on Thursday at the Jalozai refugee camp in Nowshera, about 20 miles southwest of Peshawar, the main town in Pakistan’s northwest (ET, NYT, Dawn, AJE, LAT). The refugee camp is one of three that has been set up for families displaced by fighting between the Pakistan Army and local militant groups. The bombing occurred as people lined up at the camp’s food distribution center.

On Friday, a bomb strapped to a motorcycle was detonated near a crowded intersection in Balochistan’s Jaffarabad District, killing eight people and wounding over 30 others (Dawn, ET/AFP). And three people were injured Friday when militants in Khyber Agency attacked a convoy of trucks carrying supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan through Pakistan’s tribal areas (ET).

Unfriendly fire

An Afghan Local Policeman killed five of his colleagues in an insider attack on Thursday morning a remote area of the northwestern province of Badghis, which borders Turkmenistan (AP). And on Friday, a NATO service member was killed in eastern Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device (IED).

In a letter to President Barack Obama on Wednesday, U.S. Senators Rand Paul (R-KY), Jeff Merkley, (D-OR), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) expressed support for the current troop withdrawal schedule in Afghanistan, and urged the president to "keep only as many troops necessary to pursue a limited counter-terrorism mission and assist in training the Afghan Nation Security Forces" after the NATO combat mission ends in December 2014 (HuffPost).

Business as usual

Pakistani officials are still struggling to come to an agreement on a caretaker prime minister, with one deadline gone and another set to expire today on a parliamentary committee tasked with the job (ET). If no candidate is decided today, the job will go to the Election Commission of Pakistan, which will hopefully have more success than the Prime Minister, leader of the opposition, and eight Members of Parliament who have already failed.

— Jennifer Rowland