ISLAMABAD - A study by two leading U.S. universities is criticizing the U.S. administration’s use of drone strikes against militants in Pakistan as counterproductive. But Washington considers the strikes crucial to its war against terrorists
The report titled “Living Under Drones" is based on nine months of research and more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, experts, and media reports.
Conducted by Stanford/New York University, the study says drone strikes targeting militants in northwest Pakistan kill civilians as well as militants, undermine international rule of law, and may motivate additional militant attacks.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, says some of the criticism on civilian deaths is valid. But he says the report does not offer any viable alternative.
“Drones are used so that armies do not need to be deployed. Simply sitting on one's hands is not going to do the trick,” noted Rubin.
While some analysts say the CIA-led strikes have largely taken place with the tacit approval of the Pakistani military, the attacks have angered many Pakistanis who see them as a violation of their country’s sovereignty.
Speaking at the United Nations this week, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari, also criticized the policy.
“No country, no people has suffered more in this epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan," Zardari said. "Drone strikes and civilian casualties on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds in this epic struggle.”
Citing the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the report says in the past eight years at least 470 civilians have been killed and another 1,200 injured by the attacks. It says the constant presence of drones is also terrorizing the local population.
The study concludes that while the United States must be able to protect itself from terrorist threats, the negative impact of the strikes means Washington should re-evaluate its tactics.
But Rubin says drones are used because there is a real problem with terrorist networks operating in the region.
“If the Pakistanis would control their territory better and prevent themselves from being used as a refuge for these militant factors, then these drone strikes would disappear,” he said.