Ironically, the first drone attack on an al-Qaida figure in 2002 took out the head of the branch in Yemen — the same branch that authored the document found in Mali, according to Riedel. Drones began to be used in Iraq in 2006 and in Pakistan in 2007, but it wasn't until 2009 that they became a hallmark of the war on terror, he said.
"Since we do not want to put boots on the ground in places like Mali, they are certain to be the way of the future," he said. "They are already the future."
Associated Press writers Baba Ahmed in Timbuktu, Mali, Robert Burns in Washington and Dalatou Mamane in Niamey, Niger contributed to this report.
The document can be seen in Arabic and English at http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/_international/_pdfs/al-qaida-papers-drones.pdf.
Rukmini Callimachi can be reached at www.twitter.com/rcallimachi
Baba Ahmed can be reached at www.twitter.com/babahmed1
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