By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security Analyst, and Jennifer Rowland, Special to CNN
President Barack Obama has nominated his top counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, to be the next director of the CIA.
If there is an emerging Obama doctrine to deal with the threat from al Qaeda and its allies, it is clearly a rejection of the use of conventional military forces and a growing reliance instead on the use of drones and U.S. Special Operations Forces - and Brennan has been central to Obama's policy.
One of Brennan's most significant legacies in the four years he has been the president's principal adviser on terrorism is the American drone campaign against al Qaeda and its allies in countries such as Pakistan and Yemen - one that has shifted focus significantly in the past year or so.
The steadily increasing rate of drone strikes in Yemen over the past two years shows that the CIA's drone war - rather than declining – is shifting from one part of the world to another.
Brennan has been the key architect of this policy. The Arabic-speaking Brennan, who was once CIA station chief in Saudi Arabia, in a sense became the "case officer" for the Yemen "account," traveling to Yemen seven times since al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula sent the so-called underwear bomber to try and bring down Northwest Flight 235 over Detroit on Christmas Day 2009.FULL STORY
By Peter Bergen, CNN National Security analyst, and Jennifer Rowland, Special to CNN
A decade ago, the United States had a virtual monopoly on drones.
Not anymore. According to data compiled by the New America Foundation, more than 70 countries now own some type of drone, though just a small number of those nations possess armed drone aircraft.
The explosion in drone technology promises to change the way nations conduct war and threatens to begin a new arms race as governments scramble to counterbalance their adversaries.
Late last month, China announced that it would use surveillance drones to monitor a group of uninhabited islands in the South China Sea that are controlled by Japan but claimed by China and Taiwan.
Right-wing extremist individuals over the past decade in the United States were as likely to use violence as a means to express their political or social beliefs as those motivated by Osama bin Laden's ideology, writes CNN's national security analyst Peter Bergen and his colleague at New America Foundation, Jennifer Rowland.
In the analysis on CNN's Opinion page, Bergen and Rowland say that in the last decade, right-wing and left-wing extremist groups and individuals have been far more likely to acquire toxins and to assemble the makings of radiological weapons than al Qaeda sympathizers.
According to data collected by Bergen and his colleages at the New America Foundation, the estimated civilian death rate in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan has declined dramatically since 2008, when it was at its peak of almost 50%. Today, for the first time, the estimated civilian death rate is at or close to zero.
The data is generated by averaging the high and low casualty estimates of militant and civilian deaths published in a wide range of media outlets.
The drop in the number of civilian casualties since 2008 came as a result of several developments, one of which was a directive issued from the White House just days after President Obama took office, to tighten up the way the CIA selected targets and carried out strikes. Bergen also writes that CIA's use of smaller, more accurate munitions and improved drone capabilities have helped.
Pakistani officials now rarely base their criticism of U.S. drone strikes on the incidence of civilian casualties and instead point, quite reasonably, to another objection: the U.S. violation of Pakistan's national sovereignty, Bergen notes. The Obama administration maintains that international law does not prohibit the use of lethal force against an active enemy "when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat."
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the first in a series of opinion articles about national security by participants in the upcoming Aspen Security Forum. Security Clearance is a media sponsor of the event which is taking place from July 25-28 in Aspen, Colorado.
To end World War II, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin demanded an unconditional surrender from the Nazis. But there will be no such surrender from al Qaeda. The group is not a state that is capable of entering into such an agreement, even if it wanted to do so, which seems highly unlikely.
So we are left with a choice: We can continue fighting al Qaeda indefinitely and remain in a permanent state of quasi-war, as has already been the case for more than a decade now.
Or we can declare victory against the group and move on to focus on the essential challenges now facing America, notably the country's sputtering economy, but also containing a rising China, managing the rogue regime in North Korea, continuing to delay Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons, and - to the extent feasible - helping to direct the maturation of the Arab Spring. FULL POST
With all the accusations and demands for investigations over national security leaks, CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen considers how much did the leaks really hurt U.S.
After all, Bergen notes on CNN's Opinion section, when it comes to revelations about how U.S. and Israel planted the Stuxnet virus, the Iranians know that their problems with the centrifuges at Natanz are caused by cyberattacks and have publicly said so for the past two years.
Another story that has critics of the Obama administration steamed is that it has allowed to become public that the president personally approves "kill lists" for CIA drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen. Perhaps these concerns are also overblown, Bergen writes: FULL POST
CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen breaks down the numbers behind the ramped up covert war in Yemen and says that it is a strategy that the Obama administration could very well increase in use beyond what has already been done.
Bergen notes in his article on CNN's Opinion page that the changes comes because al Qaeda's Yemen-based affiliate, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), has over the past three years attempted a number of terrorist attacks against the United States, launching it from relative obscurity to the top of the U.S. government's list of national security threats.
The Obama administration has launched an estimated 28 drone strikes and 13 air strikes in Yemen, according to data compiled by the New America Foundation from reliable news reports. By contrast, the administration of George W. Bush only launched one drone attack in Yemen.
Obama has ramped up even more, Bergen notes, with the depature of Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh who stepped down in February. Since then, the American drone strikes and airstrikes have increased. In just three months, the United States launched an estimated 20 strikes. By comparison, there were just 18 attacks in the previous two years.
Editor's note: Peter Bergen is CNN's national security analyst and the author of "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for Bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad," from which this essay is adapted.
By Peter Bergen
There is no better way for historians to assess Osama bin Laden's thinking and the real state of al Qaeda as it was understood by its leaders in the years after 9/11 than the "treasure trove" of more than 6,000 documents that were recovered by the U.S. Navy SEALs who raided bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a year ago.
In those documents we hear bin Laden speak in his own voice, unaware, of course, that one day his most private musings would end up in the hands of the CIA.
The documents paint a portrait of a man who was simultaneously an inveterate micromanager but was also someone almost delusional in his belief that his organization could still force a change in American foreign policies in the Muslim world if only he could get another big attack organized inside the United States - something some of his subordinates were quite skeptical about given al Qaeda's diminished capabilities.
The past year has seen the number of CIA drone strikes in Pakistan plummet, according to statistics collected by New America Foundation's Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland. (Bergen is also a CNN national security analyst). In the first three months of 2012, there were 11, compared with 21 in the first three months of 2011 and a record 28 in the first quarter of 2010.
Bergen and Rowland write that the drone campaign in Pakistan had been slowing even before the deadly border incident that killed 24 Pakistani troops and put a freeze on a significant portion U.S. relations. There were 70 drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions in 2011, down from 118 in 2010, which saw the peak number of strikes since the program began. FULL POST
Osama bin Laden's elimination created a leadership void for al Qaeda, setting up a possible power struggle involving the organization's various factions, CNN sources and analysts say.
After the May 2 attack by U.S. special operations forces that killed bin Laden in his Pakistan compound, a "caretaker" leader was chosen by several al Qaeda leaders in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area rather than the group's formal shura council, according to an expert on the organization. FULL POST