News / Asia

Obama Remark on Drone Strikes in Pakistan Stirs Controversy

President Obama's acknowledgment, in a global Internet video chat event Monday, that U.S. drone strike target tribal areas in Pakistan brought some tough questions and cautious responses during a White House news briefing on Tuesday.  One human rights group has urged the administration to clarify legal justifications for the use of drones.   

In Monday's video chat on Google, Mr. Obama responded to a question from a young man in Brooklyn, New York, who noted that the president had ordered more drone attacks in his first year in office than his predecessor in the White House, George W. Bush.

The man then asked how the president believes drone attacks, which he said cause "a lot of civilian casualties," help the United States and whether they are worth it.

Mr. Obama at first remarked about a Monday New York Times report about the use of unarmed drones in Iraq to help ensure security for U.S. diplomats. But then he addressed the general issue of drone strikes and what he called a perception that care is not taken in their execution.

"I want to make sure that people understand that actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties," said President Obama. "For the most part, they have been very precise precision strikes against al-Qaida and their affiliates.  And we are very careful in terms of how it has been applied."

But it was the president's response to a follow-up question from another participant in the video chat that has stirred controversy.

Asked whether drone strikes "send a message" that the U.S. is interfering in other countries' affairs, he said "pinpoint" strikes enhance the U.S. ability to respect the sovereignty of countries and limit incursions into their territory. And then he said this:

"Obviously, a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA [Federally Administered Tribal Areas] in going after al-Qaida suspects who are up in very tough terrain in the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan," said Obama. "For us to be able to get them in another way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military action than the one we are already engaging in."

That was a public acknowledgment of something that had never been confirmed by U.S. officials - the use of drones against militant forces in Pakistan's tribal areas.  

Pakistan has publicly condemned drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty, although they are believed to be carried out with the help of Pakistani intelligence.

After Mr. Obama's remarks, Pakistan called the attacks unlawful, counterproductive and unacceptable, and a spokesman challenged the president's description of advantages they provide.

On Tuesday, Press Secretary Jay Carney carefully avoided comment about secret operations, emphasizing Mr. Obama's assertion that counter-terrorism efforts are targeted, surgical and precise to minimize "unintended casualties and damage."

Carney responded this way when asked if Mr. Obama had purposefully spoken about a covert program.

"He is the commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, he is the president of the United States, I would point you to his comments," said Carney. "I am not going to discuss broadly or specifically supposed covert programs, I would just point you to what he said."

Debate continues about how many people, including civilians, have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan.  One organization, the Washington-based New America Foundation, says between 1,700 and 2,700 people have died in the past eight years.

On Tuesday, Amnesty International urged the administration to "disclose details of the legal and factual basis for the lethal use of drones in Pakistan" and clarify "the rules of engagement."

This past December, another human rights organization issued a similar call.  In a letter to President Obama, Human Rights Watch urged greater "public accountability" for CIA drone strikes, and it urged the administration to "clarify its legal rationale for targeted killings."

You May Like

Israelis Quietly Expand Enclave in Palestinian District of Jerusalem

Estimated 500 settlers, armed or protected by paramilitary police, live in Silwan among 50,000 Palestinians More

Video US, Iran Face Similar Challenges in Syrian Fight Against IS

Both Washington, Tehran back fighters battling Islamic State militants in Iraq -- but in Syria they support opposing sides in country’s civil war More

China Boosts Efforts to Help Afghan, Regional Stability

Observers say China’s increased regional involvement are due to concerns that Afghan instability and the presence of anti-China militants in Pakistani border areas could fuel Xinjiang troubles More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid