A useful summary on the legal context for drone warfare. Although officially denied, US drone strikes in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, fall under the legal purview of Article 51 of the UN Charter and the post-9/11 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF).
The United States adopted targeted killing as an essential tactic to pursue those responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency have employed the controversial practice with more frequency in recent years, both as part of ongoing combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as in counterterrorism efforts in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Since assuming office in 2009, Barack Obama’s administration has escalated targeted killings, primarily through an increase in unmanned drone strikes on al-Qaedaand Taliban leadership, but also through an expansion of U.S. Special Operations kill/capture missions. The successful killing of Osama bin Laden in a U.S. Navy SEAL raid in May 2011 and the September 2011 drone strike on Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born Yemeni cleric and AQAPpropagandist, are prime examples of this trend. The White House points to these outcomes as victories, but critics continue to condemn the lethal tactic on moral, legal, and political grounds. Despite the opposition, most experts expect the United States to boost targeted killings in the coming years as military technology improves and the public appetite for large-scale, conventional armed intervention erodes.
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