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Drones V. Taliban

LAT's Julian Barnes, in Kabul, with an important story:

U.S. military leaders have concluded that their war effort in Afghanistan has been too focused on hunting Al Qaeda, and have begun to shift Predator drone aircraft to the fight against the Taliban and other militants in order to prevent the country from slipping deeper into anarchy.

The move, described by government and Defense Department officials, represents a major change in the military's use of one of its most precious intelligence assets. It also illustrates the hard choices that must be made because the drones are in short supply.

Senior government officials say that defeating Al Qaeda remains the overriding U.S. objective. However, they have determined that the best way to do that is by strengthening and stabilizing Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, rather than endlessly looking for important Al Qaeda figures.

But our drone fleet is smaller than we want it to be, and to meet the increased need, Barnes says, the military is poaching some Predators from Iraq, to the displeasure of the generals there. A reminder that those conflicts remain something of a zero-sum resource game for the U.S.  

--Michael Crowley