“The efforts overseas are bearing fruit,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a strident critic of Obama’s domestic counter-terrorism policies who said President Obama has at times shown himself even more aggressive than Mr Bush in his use of force overseas. “I give them generally high marks for their efforts to capture and kill terrorists in Pakistan, and they’re pushing the envelope in Yemen.”
CIA drones are responsible for many of the deaths. Drone strikes began increasing in the final months of the Bush administration, thanks in part to expanded use of the Reaper, a newer generation aircraft with better targeting systems and greater, more accurate firepower.
Mr Obama has increased their use even further. A month after Mehsud’s death, drone strikes in Pakistan killed Najmiddin Jalolov, whose Islamic Jihad Union claimed responsibility for bombings in 2004 at US and Israeli embassies in Uzbekistan. Senior Al Qaeda operatives Saleh Al Somali and Abdallah Sa’id were killed in air strikes in December. And Baitullah Mehsud’s successor at the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, died following an attack last month.
Intelligence officials and analysts say the drawdown of troops in an increasingly stable Iraq is part of the reason for the increase in drone strikes. The military once relied on drones for round-the-clock surveillance to flush out terrorists, support troops in battle and help avoid roadside bombs. With fewer of those missions required, the US has moved many of those planes to Afghanistan, roughly doubling the size of the military and CIA fleet that can patrol the lawless border with Pakistan, officials said.
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