1. Archive


New York Times

WASHINGTON - In the skies above Yemen, the Pentagon's armed drones have stopped flying, a result of the ban on U.S. military drone strikes imposed by the government there after a number of botched operations in recent years killed Yemeni civilians. But the CIA's drone war in Yemen continues.

In Pakistan, the CIA remains in charge of drone operations, and may continue to be long after U.S. troops have left Afghanistan.

And in Jordan, it is the CIA rather than the Pentagon that is running a program to arm and train Syrian rebels - a concession to the Jordanian government, which will not allow an overt military presence in the country.

Just over a year ago John Brennan, the CIA's newly nominated director, said at his confirmation hearing that it was time to refocus an agency that had become largely a paramilitary organization after the Sept. 11 attacks toward more traditional roles carrying out espionage, intelligence collection and analysis. And in a speech last May in which he sought to redefine U.S. policy toward terrorism, President Barack Obama expanded on that theme, announcing new procedures for drone operations, which White House officials said would gradually become the responsibility of the Pentagon.

But change has come slowly to the CIA.

"Some might want to get the CIA out of the killing business, but that's not happening any time soon," said Michael Sheehan, who until last year was the senior Pentagon official in charge of special operations and now holds a distinguished chair at West Point's Combating Terrorism Center.

A number of factors - including bureaucratic turf fights, congressional pressure and the demands of foreign governments - have contributed to this delay.

Influential lawmakers from both parties have fought to protect the CIA's role in the drone wars and prevent the proposed shift of the bulk of drone operations to the Pentagon.

A White House spokeswoman said there had been "no change in policy" since Obama's speech last May announcing changes to targeted killing policy.

"The plan is to transition to these standards and procedures over time, in a careful, coordinated and deliberate manner," said Caitlin Hayden, the spokeswoman. "I'm not going to speculate on how long the transition will take, but we're going to ensure that it's done right and not rushed."

Even if the CIA eventually does give up the work of firing missiles and dropping bombs in far-flung regions of the earth, Brennan insists that its counterterrorism mission will endure.

"Despite rampant rumors that the CIA is getting out of the counterterrorism business, nothing could be further from the truth," the CIA director said during a speech last month at the Council on Foreign Relations.