So, too, is the strategy of fighting small, smartly and covertly, avoiding land invasions such as those in Iraq and Afghanistan that caused Muslim outrage and helped draw fresh recruits, says Rand's Jones.
Many U.S. officials cite the Yemen model as the way ahead: a small network of U.S. intelligence and military forces working with local forces to selectively target militants.
"The key challenge will be balancing aggressive counterterrorism operations with the risk of exacerbating the anti-Western global agenda" of al-Qaida and its affiliates, says Robert Cardillo, a senior official in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In other words, adds Jones, "it is a war in which the side that kills the most civilians loses."
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