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#DronePapers: US New Global Assassination Program Steadily Expanding

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Leaked documents, shedding light on Washington's overseas covert "war on terrorism," indicate how the Pentagon and CIA officials have ramped up drone strikes on Yemen and Somalia under the Obama presidency, according to US investigative reporter and war correspondent Jeremy Scahill.

According to US investigative reporter and war correspondent Jeremy Scahill, after the Pentagon officials and war planners had "tested" their new drone assassination machine in Iraq and Afghanistan they successfully persuaded American President Obama to expand US covert operations aimed against al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

"In September 2009, then-Centcom Commander Gen. David Petraeus issued a Joint Unconventional Warfare Task Force Execute Order that would lay the groundwork for military forces to conduct expanded clandestine actions in Yemen and other countries. It allowed for US special operations forces to enter friendly and unfriendly countries 'to build networks that could 'penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy' al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to 'prepare the environment' for future attacks by American or local military forces," Scahill elaborated in his article for The Intercept.

A CH-53E Super Stallion lands in the desert of Djibouti. - Sputnik International
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In December 2009, the Obama administration authorized its first airstrike against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and al Shabaab in Yemen that killed more than 40 people, mostly women and children, the investigative journalist pointed out.

Under Obama the number of drone strikes targeting the territory of Yemen has increased dramatically. "As of August 2015, more than 490 people had been killed in drone strikes in Yemen alone," Scahill emphasized.

According to secret documents provided to The Intercept, the cornerstone of Obama's new military operations in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula was a special operations task force known as TF 48-4, the investigative journalist said.

Its primary command center was located at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti. Geostrategists regard Djibouti as a key to both Africa and the Middle East: it is situated between Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, and the Gulf of Aden. TF 48-4 also possessed sites in Nairobi and Sanaa, a small base in Kenya and a drone base in Arba Minch, Ethiopia.

Under this presidency, drones have become Washington's preferred weapons: "It is the politically advantageous thing to do — low cost, no US casualties, gives the appearance of toughness," Obama's former director of national intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair noted as cited by Scahill.

"TF 48-4, according to the documents, did in fact have an impressive cache of firepower in Djibouti to kill or capture people approved for the kill list by the president," the investigative journalist remarked.

Pakistani women rally against the US drone strikes in tribal areas. - Sputnik International
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Quoting the leaked documents, Scahill explained that in 2012 the Camp Lemonnier base's arsenal included more than a dozen armed drones, additional surveillance aircraft, as well as eight manned F-15E warplanes, carrying 5,000-pound laser-guided bombs.

As the status of the US covert war on terror in Yemen began to rise, the Pentagon and the CIA have found themselves amid a turf war, fighting over who should run the drone campaign in the region.

Another secret document, obtained by the US media outlet, is a study written by the US Defense Department entity — the Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Task Force — and entitled "ISR Support to Small Footprint CT Operations — Somalia/Yemen."

"The tone of the ISR study at times gives the impression that special operations forces were effectively prisoners of resource shortages and a legal bureaucracy that interfered with the military's ability to kill or capture terrorists with the frequency, efficiency, and urgency demanded by policymakers," Scahill observed, adding that it becomes obvious that the military is getting much of what the ISR study demanded.

Citing Western media reports, the investigative journalist called attention to the fact that the Pentagon is purportedly planning to further expand the number of US drone flights over the next four years. Furthermore, military commanders would be given access to more intelligence and greater firepower. The number of drone flights would allegedly increase by 50 percent by 2019, including both surveillance and lethal airstrikes, Scahill noted.    

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