Early in his tenure at the CIA, Petraeus was forced into a triage situation with the agency’s inventory of armed drones. To augment the hunt for Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S.-born cleric linked to al-Qaeda terrorist plots, Petraeus moved several CIA drones from Pakistan to Yemen. After Awlaki was killed in a drone strike, the aircraft were sent back to Pakistan, officials said.
The number of strikes in Pakistan has dropped from 122 two years ago to 40 this year, according to the New America Foundation. But officials said the agency has not cut back on its patrols there, despite the killing of Osama bin Laden and a dwindling number of targets.
The agency continues to search for bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and has carried out dozens of strikes against the Haqqani network, a militant group behind attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The CIA also maintains a separate, smaller fleet of stealth surveillance aircraft. Stealth drones were used to monitor bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Their use in surveillance flights over Iran’s nuclear facilities was exposed when one crashed in that country last year.