'US rely on drones to carry out targeted killings'

`US rely on drones to carry out targeted killings` Washington: The Obama administration is increasingly relying on deadly drones to carry out targeted killings of suspected terrorists and stealth surveillance of other adversaries across the globe, a media report said on Wednesday.

The administration, in fact, is using a wide variety of these unmanned aerial vehicles to meet its national security interest and successfully strike back at terrorists hiding away from it, The Washington Post reported.

"The number of drone aircraft has exploded in the past three years," the daily said, adding that a recent study by the Congressional Budget Office counted 775 Predators, Reapers and other medium- and long-range drones in the US inventory, with hundreds more in the pipeline.

About 30 of those aircraft have been allocated to the CIA, the paper quoted officials as saying.

It said the CIA has a separate category that doesn't show up in any public accounting, a fleet of stealth drones that were developed and acquired under a highly compartmentalised programme of the agency created after the 9/11 attacks.

The RQ-170 model that recently crashed in Iran exposed the agency's use of stealth drones to spy on that country's nuclear programme, but the planes have also been used in other countries, it said.

"The rapid expansion of the drone programme has blurred long-standing boundaries between the CIA and the military.

Lethal operations are increasingly assembled a la carte, piecing together personnel and equipment in ways that allow the White House to toggle between separate legal authorities that govern the use of lethal force," The Post said.

With a year to go in President Barack Obama's first term, his administration can point to undeniable results: Osama bin Laden is dead, the core al Qaeda network is near defeat, and members of its regional affiliates scan the sky for metallic glints, the paper said.

In fact, the drones are not only restricted to Pakistan; where it was mostly being used before the advent of the Obama Administration. It is now being used widely in places like Africa and in the Middle East.

A recent media report had said that the US is now also planning to sell these successful lethal weapons to its key allies. However, there is some resistance from the Congressmen.