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

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech 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.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs