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

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid