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October 22nd, 2009
04:26 PM ET

The Drone War

Program Note: Tune in tonight for more from Peter Bergen . AC360° at 11 p.m. ET.

Remote-controlled drones, such as the Predator, are proving increasingly popular with the U.S. military.

Remote-controlled drones, such as the Predator, are proving increasingly popular with the U.S. military.

Peter Bergen | BIO
CNN National Security Analyst

The Al Qaeda videotape shows a small white dog tied up inside a glass cage. A milky gas slowly filters in. An Arab man with an Egyptian accent says: "Start counting the time." Nervous, the dog starts barking and then moaning. After flailing about for some minutes, it succumbs to the poisonous gas and stops moving.

This experiment almost certainly occurred at the Derunta training camp near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, conducted by an Egyptian with the nom de jihad of "Abu Khabab." In the late 1990s, under the direction of Al Qaeda's number two, Ayman Al Zawahiri, Abu Khabab set up the terrorist group's WMD research program, which was given the innocuous codename "Yogurt." Abu Khabab taught hundreds of militants how to deploy poisonous chemicals, such as ricin and cyanide gas. The Egyptian WMD expert also explored the possible uses of radioactive materials, writing in a 2001 memo to his superiors, "As you instructed us you will find attached a summary of the discharges from a traditional nuclear reactor, among which are radioactive elements that could be used for military operations." In the memo, Abu Khabab asked if it were possible to get more information about the matter "from our Pakistani friends who have great experience in this sphere." This was likely a reference to the retired Pakistani senior nuclear scientists who were meeting then with Osama bin Laden.

In the pandemonium following the fall of the Taliban in the winter of 2001, Abu Khabab disappeared into the badlands on the Afghan-Pakistani border. The United States put a $5 million bounty on his head and, in January 2006, attempted to kill him and Zawahiri while they were believed to be in the Pakistani hamlet of Damadola, targeting them with a missile launched by a drone aircraft.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Afghanistan • Pakistan • Peter Bergen
soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    Pakistan authorities have already told the U.S. to stop the drone attacks and we haven't. Because of our drone attacks the Pakistan authorities claim they have stepped up their military efforts against Al Qaeda. Makes one wonder whose side Pakistan is on but we continue to fund them because of Bush's agreement with them.

    October 22, 2009 at 6:01 pm |
  2. Kim

    Vice President Joe Biden mentioned these drones used in strategy viewing Afghan and special targeting concerning. Any news on the request on behalf of General McChrystal for decision ?

    October 22, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  3. alex lyrics

    make a hundred thousand of these, and send them instead of troops to war.

    October 22, 2009 at 12:16 pm |