Obama admits use of drones in Pakistan
President Barack Obama has reignited the controversy over the CIA’s deployment of drones in Pakistan, admitting their use for the first time and insisting they were “precision strikes” against anti-American targets.
“A lot of these strikes have been in [Pakistan’s tribal areas],” said Mr Obama during an hour-long video interaction on Google’s social network, streamed live on YouTube. “For the most part, they’ve been very precise precision strikes against al-Qa’ida and their affiliates, and we’re very careful in terms of how it’s been applied.”
He added: “This is a targeted focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists, who are trying to go in and harm Americans, hit American facilities, American bases, and so on. 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.”
Washington’s use of drones in Pakistan has long been a source of anger for many Pakistanis. While US officials claim the strikes are an important tool in its arsenal, many in Pakistan say they undermine the country’s sovereignty and often hit innocent civilians. The New America Foundation, a US think-tank, estimates drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years. Last year, the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said it believed that of those killed, as many as 775 were civilians, including 168 children.
Asked if the drone programme had damaged the US’s relationship with Pakistan, Mr Obama said the leadership in Islamabad lacked either the political will or the capacity to take on extremists. “Our relations have gotten more strained because there are a lot of extremists inside that country,” he added.
The position of Pakistan’s armed forces on drone strikes is not entirely simple. While the strikes are routinely condemned in public, it is clear that there has been cooperation with the US on helping to select targets. In the aftermath of a Nato airstrike last November that
killed 28 Pakistani troops, the drone attacks were suspended. Early last month the strikes were restarted, killing four alleged militants in North Waziristan.
A spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, told reporters: “Our position on drone strikes is clear and based on principles. Drone attacks are unlawful, counter-productive and hence unacceptable. We cannot condone the violation of our sovereignty.”
Mirza Shahzad Akbar, an Islamabad human rights campaigner who is trying to pursue the US in the courts, said last night: “What Obama has said is no news to us in Pakistan but what we have found is that the US President is either not telling the truth or is too naive when he talks about civilian deaths in drone strikes. It also clear for us with in to the Pakistani government that either they are complacent, or incompetent to protect their citizens.”
Mr Obama was also asked why the US was trying to extradite a British student, Richard O’Dwyer, accused of breaking American copyright law after setting up the no longer functioning TVShack website. The President said he was not personally involved in the case but insisted the US administration wanted to ensure that intellectual property was protected “in a way that’s consistent with internet freedom”.
- 1 BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
- 2 A bottle of wine a day is not bad for you and abstaining is worse than drinking, scientist claims
- 3 18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
- 4 'I wish my teacher knew...': Young students share their 'heartbreaking' worries in notes
General Election 2015: David Cameron catching up in polls – but he badly needs a clear lead
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on
South Africa xenophobic attacks: Shops looted and violence on streets of Johannesburg as foreigners are forced to hide in police stations
Earthworms rain down from skies over Norway, puzzling scientists
18th century sex toy found in 'toilet of sword fighting school' in Poland
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a white stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
Russian warships in English Channel 'to conduct anti-aircraft and anti-submarine military drills'
£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...
£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...
£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...
£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...