Tactical Victories, Strategic Defeats

By Kevin Hulbert

Kevin Hulbert is a former senior intelligence officer in the CIA's Directorate of Operations who retired in June 2014.  He is currently the President of XK Group.  Kevin served multiple overseas tours as CIA Chief of Station and Deputy Chief of Station.

Drone strikes have proven effective at eliminating terrorist leaders, yet terrorists continue to threaten American security. In this article written for the 15th anniversary of 9/11, Cipher Brief expert Kevin Hulbert describes how U.S. policymakers appear to be confusing a tactic such as drone strikes with an overall counterterrorism strategy. 

The fifteen years since 9/11 have been busy for the CIA and the Special Operations community who collectively are the pointy end of the spear in what we used to call the Global War on Terrorism, or the GWOT.  And while the Obama administration quickly soured on the GWOT name, more importantly, they did not back away from the important mission.  They kept their foot on the gas in the fight against al Qaeda.  Most (but, not all) programs and policies put in place during the Bush administration were maintained and even expanded under the Obama administration. 

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