Drone strikes against members of al-Qaida in Yemen and Somalia have been widely reported. But for the first time, the White House has publicly acknowledged these operations.
The administration said the U.S. had taken "direct action" in both countries in a six-month report on U.S. combat operations required by the War Powers Resolution.
"The report does not elaborate, but 'direct action' is a military term of art that refers to a range of lethal attacks, which in the case of Yemen and Somalia include attacks by armed drones. The report does not mention drones, which are remote-controlled, pilotless aircraft equipped with surveillance cameras and sometimes armed with missiles.
"The report applies only to U.S. military operations, including those by special operations forces — not those conducted by the CIA.
"'In all cases we are focused on those al-Qaida members and affiliates who pose a direct threat to the United States and to our national interests,' Pentagon press secretary George Little said after the report's release. 'This report contains information about these operations owing to their growing significance in our overall counterterrorism effort.'"
"The United States is committed to thwarting the efforts of al-Qaida and its associated forces to carry out future acts of international terrorism, and we have continued to work with our CT partners to disrupt and degrade the capabilities of al-Qaida and its associated forces," the White House report reads. "As necessary, in response to the terrorist threat, I will direct additional measures against al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, and associated forces to protect U.S. citizens and interests."