Truth Within the Rubble: Understanding the Expansion of the U.S. Targeted Killing Program
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Between 2001 and 2008 the U.S. launched approximately 50 lethal strikes using unmanned aerial vehicles, (UAVs) in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. In contrast, the Obama administration has launched over 417 strikes since taking office in 2009. Some analysts have stated that the increase is the inevitable result of President Obama's decision to eliminate extrajudicial detention. They argue that the Obama administration painted itself into a corner of "no-quarters" warfare wherein enemy combatants outside of a declared war zone are no longer eligible for capture. However, this view fails to recognize that the expansion of the U.S. targeted killing program was already gaining momentum prior to President Obama's inauguration. The rapid expansion of the U.S. targeted killing program after 2008 has been primarily contingent on three factors: The development and availability of UAVs, the Executive's evolving approach to terror suspects, and the context of each strike decision.