The Central Intelligence Agency has urged the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency's fleet of armed drones, in a bid to extend the spy organisation's decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force, American officials have said.
The proposal by CIA Director David H Petraeus, if approved, could add as many as 10 drones for the CIA to an inventory that has ranged between 30 and 35 over the past few years, officials say.
The sanctions will also bolster the agency's ability to sustain its campaigns of lethal strikes in Pakistan and Yemen and enable it, if directed, to shift aircraft to emerging Al Qaeda [ Images ] threats in North Africa or other trouble spots.
"With what happened in Libya, we are realising that these places are going to heat up. I think we are actually looking forward a little bit," the Washington Post quoted an official as saying, referring to the September 11 attack on a United States diplomatic outpost in Benghazi.
The CIA's request for more drones indicates that Petraeus has become convinced that there are limits to those sharing arrangements and that the agency needs full control over a larger number of aircraft.
The US military's fleet dwarfs that of the CIA. A Pentagon [ Images ] report issued this year counted 246 Predators, Reapers and Global Hawks in the Air Force inventory alone, with hundreds of other remotely piloted aircraft distributed among the army, the navy and the marines, the paper said.
The CIA's proposal would have to be evaluated by a group led by President Barack Obama's [ Images ] counterterrorism adviser John O Brennan, officials said.
Officials from the White House, the CIA and the Pentagon declined to comment on the proposal.