The administration says it will still carry out strikes against senior al-Qaeda targets if they pose a direct, imminent threat to Americans. Meanwhile, drone strikes have continued in Yemen, where a missile attack on a wedding convoy killed at least 11 people in December.
On January 23, 2009, President Barack Obama authorized his first drone strike. The attack, launched against a compound in northwestern Pakistan, killed between 7 and 15 people—but missed the Taliban hideout the Central Intelligence Agency thought it was targeting. Over the next five years, the CIA carried out more than 390 known drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. (The agency carried out 51 drone strikes between 2004 and 2009, during the Bush administration.)
Obama made a brief reference to the drone campaign in last week's State of the Union address, assuring Congress that "I've imposed prudent limits on the use of drones." This wasn't the first time the president had acknowledged the need for a clear drone policy. Last May, Obama remarked at the National Defense University, "This new technology raises profound questions—about who is targeted, and why." Yet the answers the administration has provided to these profound questions and the prudent limits it has put in place remain vague.