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US Lawmakers Reject Pakistani Calls to End Drone Strikes

  • Michael Bowman

A Pakistani villager holds the wreckage of a suspected surveillance drone that crashed in Pakistani border town of Chaman along the Afghanistan border in Pakistan, August 2011. (file photo)

A Pakistani villager holds the wreckage of a suspected surveillance drone that crashed in Pakistani border town of Chaman along the Afghanistan border in Pakistan, August 2011. (file photo)

American lawmakers are rejecting renewed calls by Pakistan for an end to U.S.-sponsored drone strikes in the country.

Tuesday, a Pakistani government commission demanded an end to U.S. military strikes conducted by unmanned, remote-controlled aircraft known as drones. Asked by VOA if the United States should heed Pakistan’s wishes, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman was blunt.

"No. The drone strikes are critically important to America's national security. So obviously I do not believe they should stop,” he said.

Drone attacks are credited with eliminating scores of terrorists and radical militants in Pakistani territory near the border with Afghanistan. The program began under former-President George W. Bush and has been expanded dramatically under President Barack Obama.

In a report read to Pakistan’s parliament, a government commission described drone attacks as counterproductive, alleging the strikes radicalize local populations, create support for terrorists, and fuel anti-American sentiment.

The drones are needed, however, absent a more aggressive effort by Pakistan to root out terrorists and radical militants, according to Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

“I think the key is whether Pakistan will go into North Waziristan and other places and take out those terrorist leaders who are essentially fueling and leading attacks against our troops in Afghanistan," she said. "I think that is the outstanding issue, which determines if Pakistan will take the action and shut down the bomb factories and go after the [terrorist] leadership - then the drone is not necessary.”

Pakistan has long complained that drone attacks are a violation of national sovereignty. Although Pakistan has never given the United States formal permission to carry out aerial strikes, the attacks are believed to be carried out with some degree of cooperation by Pakistani intelligence.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said he is mindful of Pakistan’s objections.

“I do believe sovereignty is, obviously, a big issue for any country. But I would like to see Pakistan embrace the idea that extremism has no welcome home in Pakistan. The day that the Pakistani people, though their government, will tell extremists 'You are not welcome here' is [would be] a breakthrough for the people of Pakistan," said Graham.

Graham said that drone strikes have been effective and that, in his words, “it is not in Pakistan's long-term interest to be seen by the world-at-large as a safe haven for terrorists.”

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