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Shoot First Policy Evolves Under Obama

U.S. counterterrorism tactics have shifted towards targeted killings under President Obama, according to the Washington Post.  Though the administration reports no official change in policy, the past year has seen dozens of targeted killings with no significant captures of terrorist leadership. 

Several factors may account for the change.  Many of the targeted kills have taken place in countries where U.S. troops are officially unwelcomed, leaving attacks from Predator drones as the only viable option.  The technology required for correctly identifiying high-value targets has also improved, making aerial attacks more effective.  Additionally, with efforts ongoing to close Guantanamo Bay and Bagram Air Base detention facilities, options for holding terrorist prisoners have dwindled since Obama took office.

The changing kill/capture ratio in the War on Terrorism has sparked criticism from many in the intelligence community, who point to the numerous lost opportunities to gather valuable intelligence.  The administration maintains, however, that all decisions to either kill or capture are based on an analysis of all proposed courses of action, with the safety of U.S. troops at the forefront of that calculus.


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