News / Asia

Obama Remark on Drone Strikes in Pakistan Stirs Controversy

TEXT SIZE - +

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

Abuja Blast Impacts Lives, Livelihoods

Officials say they are looking at ways to help bombing victims and boosting security More

Cambodia Technology Adviser Criticizes Cybercrime Draft Law

Phu Leewood says current criminal code can be used to prosecute offenders and that there is no need for a separate law More

Photogallery A Year Later, Boston Remembers Deadly Marathon Bombings

City pauses to honor victims and salute emergency workers who came to their assistance in frantic moments after blasts 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.
Google Buys Drone Companyi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X
George Putic
April 15, 2014
In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ray Bonneville Sings the Blues and More on New CD

Singer/songwriter Ray Bonneville has released a new CD called “Easy Gone” with music that reflects his musical and personal journey from French-speaking Canada to his current home in Austin,Texas. The eclectic artist’s fan base extends from Texas to various parts of North America and Europe. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin.
Video

Video Millions Labor in Pakistan's Informal Economy

The World Bank says that in Pakistan, roughly 70 percent work in the so-called informal sector, a part of the economy that is unregulated and untaxed. VOA's Sharon Behn reports from Islamabad on how the informal sector impact's the Pakistani economy.
Video

Video Passover Celebrates Liberation from Bondage

Jewish people around the world are celebrating Passover, a commemoration of their liberation from slavery in Egypt more than 3,300 years ago. According to scripture, God helped the Jews, led by Moses, escape bondage in Egypt and cross the Red Sea into the desert. Zlatica Hoke reports that the story of the Jewish Exodus resonates with other people trying to escape slave-like conditions.
Video

Video Police Pursue Hate Crime Charges Against Kansas Shooting Suspect

Prosecutors are sifting through the evidence in the wake of Sunday’s shootings in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri that left three people dead. A suspect in the shootings taken into custody is a white supremacist. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, he was well-known to law enforcement agencies and human rights groups alike.
Video

Video In Eastern Ukraine, Pro-unity Activists Emerge from Shadows

Amid the pro-Russian uprisings in eastern Ukraine, there is a large body of activists who support Ukrainian unity and reject Russian intervention. Their activities have remained largely underground, but they are preparing to take on their pro-Moscow opponents, as Henry Ridgwell reports from the eastern city of Donetsk.
Video

Video Basket Maker’s Skills Have World Reach

A prestigious craft show in the U.S. capital offers one-of-a-kind creations by more than 120 artists working in a variety of media. As VOA’s Julie Taboh reports from Washington, one artist lucky enough to be selected says sharing her skills with women overseas is just as significant.
Video

Video UN Report Urges Speedier Action to Avoid Climate Disaster

A new United Nations report says the world must switch from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources to control the effects of climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the report (Sunday) following a meeting of scientists and government representatives in Berlin. The comprehensive review follows two recent IPCC reports that detail the certainty of climate change, its impacts and in this most recent report what to do about it. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble has the details.
AppleAndroid