Best Defense

Thomas E. Ricks' daily take on national security.

Admiral Mullen: Drone strikes in Pakistan are “very effective”

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apparently rejects the argument made by my CNAS colleagues Andrew Exum and David Kilcullen that Predator drone strikes in Pakistan are strategically counterproductive and should be drastically curtailed. If all you want to do is kill al Qaeda, they’re great. But if your larger strategic ...

585720_090519_dronec2.jpg
585720_090519_dronec2.jpg

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apparently rejects the argument made by my CNAS colleagues Andrew Exum and David Kilcullen that Predator drone strikes in Pakistan are strategically counterproductive and should be drastically curtailed. If all you want to do is kill al Qaeda, they're great. But if your larger strategic goal is to try to help Pakistan from collapsing into the arms of Islamic extremists, maybe not such a good idea.

This is what Mullen had to say Monday about the strikes when asked at a Brookings Institution session:

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apparently rejects the argument made by my CNAS colleagues Andrew Exum and David Kilcullen that Predator drone strikes in Pakistan are strategically counterproductive and should be drastically curtailed. If all you want to do is kill al Qaeda, they’re great. But if your larger strategic goal is to try to help Pakistan from collapsing into the arms of Islamic extremists, maybe not such a good idea.

This is what Mullen had to say Monday about the strikes when asked at a Brookings Institution session:

As far as drone attacks themselves are concerned, the — we have — I have found them to be, and the commanders in the field have found them to be, very effective. I think they speak to not only effectiveness in these — in these kinds of campaigns, but also they speak to our future with respect to where we should go in the unmanned world. But they have to be done in a way that moves the strategy forward and doesn’t back us up.”

But as I understood it, the point Ex and the Crocodile (the Hootie and the Blowfish of the COIN world) were making was that the strikes DON’T move the strategy forward. So Mullen seems caught in an contradiction. He contains multitudes.

Old Steve Coll, who knows his Af-Pak from his elbow, discusses all this in his blog. But then he gets into a whole bunch of “narrative” stuff. 

David McNew/Getty Images

Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military from 1991 to 2008 for the Wall Street Journal and then the Washington Post. He can be reached at ricksblogcomment@gmail.com. Twitter: @tomricks1

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