Obama's counterterrorism policy, by the numbers

According to the New York Times, President Barack Obama will use his big counterterrorism speech on Thursday to sharply curtail the administration's targeted killings. Going forward, the strict criteria used for approving strikes on American citizens abroad will govern drone strikes on all suspected militants.

The new policy represents a serious shift for a president who has come to rely on drone strikes in remote areas far from traditional battlefields to take out the alleged leaders of al Qaeda and its affiliates. But how does the new policy fit into Obama's broader counterterror strategy? As you listen to Obama's address today, consider the following figures from Obama's time in office:

375: Drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan

241 - 592: Civilians killed in Pakistan as a result of drone strikes

57: Al Qaeda and Taliban commanders killed in airstrikes in Pakistan

1: Al Qaeda chief killed

1,861*: Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan

80,000: Syrians killed in the country's civil war 

166: Detainees currently being held at the U.S.-run prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba

103: Gitmo detainees on hunger strike

86: Gitmo detainees cleared for transfer

6: Individuals prosecuted for disclosing classified national security information to reporters -- double the number under all previous U.S. presidents combined  

5: Jihadist terror attacks -- either carried out or foiled -- on American soil (the Boston Marathon bombing, the Times Square bomb plot, the underwear bomber, the Ft. Hood shooting, and the cargo bomb plot)

48**: Terrorist attacks in the United States

16: People killed in jihadist terror attacks on American soil (three in Boston and 13 at Ft. Hood)

1: Ambassadors killed in the line of duty

1: Wars ended

* Includes the month of January 2009, when President George W. Bush was still in office 

** Includes preliminary data through 2012 as defined by the Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House via Getty Images


Syrian opposition leader proposes peace deal

With more than 80,000 people dead and millions more driven from their homes, can Syria's opposition and President Bashar al-Assad's regime really negotiate a political settlement?

At least one opposition leader is willing to give it a try. Former Syrian National Coalition President Moaz al-Khatib presented a 16-point initiative today that would pave the way for a political transition in Syria. It calls for Assad to hand over power to either his vice president or prime minister, and to leave the country with 500 people of his choosing. The Syrian government would then remain in place for 100 days to restructure the security services, after which a transitional authority would replace it. Those fighters who engaged in "legal military action" during the conflict would be granted a pardon -- but Assad and his 500 departing supporters would be provided with no legal protection.

That would be a great deal for the opposition. And given the circumstances, they just aren't going to get it: Assad's forces are on the offensive in several key areas, most notably the western city of Qusayr. Western governments are finally coming to grips with the fact that the regime is more stable than previously believed; German's foreign intelligence agency now believes that the Syrian military can retake large swathes of the country by the end of the year. Khatib's initiative reads like terms of surrender -- Assad isn't going to sign it at a moment when he's winning.

Nevertheless, Khatib's plan is an important indicator of where the Syrian opposition stands on the possibility of a peace deal. He likely released the proposal now because of internal opposition politics, rather than the state of the conflict more broadly: The Syrian National Council launched the beginning of its two-day general assembly in Istanbul today, where it will select a new president. Khatib abruptly resigned the presidency two months ago -- only to immediately try to un-resign, a maneuver thwarted by his rivals in the coalition. Khatib may hope that, by floating his initiative now, he can convince the new opposition leadership to endorse it in the run-up to potential talks with the regime, which will be mediated by the United States and Russia.

The initiative also shows where the opposition disagrees -- and where there is broad consensus -- regarding a negotiated settlement with the regime. Following Khatib's departure, the Syrian National Coalition has been largely dismissive of peace talks, saying that Assad's departure must come first, while Free Syrian Army commander Salim Idris has repeatedly said that the rebels must receive a greater infusion of weaponry before peace talks can begin. But while there is friction between Khatib and other elements of the opposition on opening talks with the regime, they agree on an important point: At the end of the process, Assad must go.

Needless to say, that's not something that Assad is yet willing to contemplate. And until he does, even if peace talks get off the ground, it's doubtful that they will go very far.

DANI POZO/AFP/Getty Images