U.S. to Curb Pakistan Drone Program

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from The Wall Street Journal,

CIA To Target Short List of High-Level Terrorists.

The Obama administration will narrow its controversial drone program in Pakistan to target a short list of high-level terrorists, and aim to end it during the prime minister’s current term, senior U.S. officials have told their Pakistani counterparts.

The downsizing of the covert Central Intelligence Agency program reflects Pakistani objections to the strikes and logistical constraints on the spy agency at the end of this year, when U.S. troops are scheduled to pull out of neighboring Afghanistan, according to administration, intelligence and military officials.

The changes fall short of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s demands for an immediate freeze in drone strikes. Pakistani officials in Islamabad and Washington weren’t immediately available to comment.

Officials say the revision is meant to move the CIA away from what some critics call a “Whac-A-Mole” approach and put the U.S. on a path to end the program, though not as quickly as drone critics and the Pakistani government would like.

The CIA has long added new targets to a longer “kill list” on a rolling basis as old targets are hit.

Now, U.S. officials say, the “kill list” is not self-replenishing, a change long sought by Islamabad. “By taking one off, we’re not automatically putting one on,” a senior U.S. official said. As a result, the number of targets on the list are decreasing as the CIA’s drones focus on a more limited number of high-level targets that “will enable us to conclude the program,” the official said.

The CIA declined to comment on the changes.

President Barack Obama has said that the need for strikes would diminish as the U.S. comes off a war footing, but he hasn’t provided details about the changes.

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