Sat, Feb 04, 2012
Discusses UAS Strikes, Civilian Casualty Count
The US has been very reluctant to even acknowledge that it has a
program of drone strikes on foreign soil, let alone offer details.
But in an hour-long "hang-out" on Google+ Monday, President Obama
both acknowledged and defended the practice, which is being
criticized by Amnesty International.
The president said the strikes have targeted "al-Qaeda suspects
who are up in very tough terrain along the border between
Afghanistan and Pakistan. For us to be able to get them in another
way would involve probably a lot more intrusive military action
than the ones we're already engaging in."
Abdul Basit, a spokesman for Pakistan's foreign ministry,
responded to Monday's comments by Obama, saying, "Our position on
drone strikes is clear and based on principles. Drone attacks are
unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable. We cannot
condone violation of our sovereignty."
But the BBC notes that officials in Pakistan privately support
Amnesty International issued a statement on the president's
remarks, insisting on "a detailed explanation of how these strikes
are lawful and what is being done to monitor civilian casualties
and ensure proper accountability...What are the rules of
engagement? While the president's confirmation of the use of drones
in Pakistan is a welcome first step towards transparency, these and
other questions need to be answered."
Civilian casualties have been significant in some cases for
strikes described in terms such as "surgical." One, last March, was
reported by townspeople to have killed 40 civilians, mostly
attendees at a tribal meeting, in North Waziristan.
President Obama said Monday the drone strikes, which are
supervised by the US Central Intelligence Agency, have not "caused
a huge number of civilian casualties" and insisted that "this thing
is kept on a very tight leash."
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