June 9th, 2010
12:36 PM ET

Opinion: Drone war hitting its targets

Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann
Special to CNN

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/06/09/bergen.drone.war/tzleft.split.bergen.tiedemann.courtesy.jpg caption="Co-authors say data shows drone strikes getting more accurate, killing fewer civilians" width=300 height=169]

Last week the U.N.'s senior official for extrajudicial executions, Philip Alston, argued in a critical report and remarks delivered in Geneva, Switzerland, that the United States should explain the legal rationale for the CIA's campaign of drone strikes in northwest Pakistan, which he characterized as "a vaguely defined license to kill" that has created "a major accountability vacuum."

Alston is also urging the Obama administration to disclose the number of civilians killed in the drone strikes. That is a controversial matter among the Pakistani public, less than a tenth of whom support the strikes, because of their perceived high civilian death rate.

The drones' latest important victim is Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, an Egyptian founding member of al-Qaeda who served as the group's number three and was in charge of overseeing the group's plots, recruitment, fund-raising and internal security.

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