Obama admits US drone strikes into Pakistan

By AFP
Published: January 31, 2012

US President Barack Obama admits to US drone strikes in Pakistan territory. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Monday admitted that US drone aircraft have struck Taliban and al Qaeda targets within Pakistan -operations that until now had not been officially acknowledged.

When asked about the use of drones by his administration in a chat with web users on Google+ and YouTube, Obama said “a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA” – Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

“For the most part, they’ve been very precise precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we’re very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” Obama said.

“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.”

Explaining that many strikes were carried out “on al Qaeda operatives in places where the capacities of that military in that country may not be able to get them,” Obama confirmed that Pakistan’s lawless tribal zone was a target.

“So, obviously, a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA, and going after al Qaeda suspects who are up in very tough terrain along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan,” he said.

“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.”

US officials say Pakistan’s tribal belt provides sanctuary to Taliban fighting for 10 years in Afghanistan, al Qaeda groups plotting attacks on the West, Pakistani Taliban who routinely bomb Pakistan and other foreign fighters.

64 US missile strikes were reported in Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal belt last year, down from 101 reported in 2010, according to AFP tallies.

According to the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, drone strikes in Pakistan over the past eight years have killed at least 1,715 people, and as many as 2,680 people.

The United States had until now refused to discuss the strikes publicly, but the program has dramatically increased as the Obama administration looks to withdraw all foreign combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

In October, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta acknowledged the CIA’s drone program, but did not specifically indicate they were used in Pakistan.

When asked by AFP if Obama’s remarks signaled a change in US policy about the drone program, a White House spokesman refused to comment.

The Pakistani government is understood to agree to the program despite popular opposition at home. Drones have reportedly killed dozens of al Qaeda and Taliban operatives and hundreds of low-ranking fighters since 2004.

But the missile strikes fuel widespread anti-American resentment, which is running especially high in Pakistan since US air strikes inadvertently killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

A US-NATO investigation blamed the deaths on a litany of errors and botched communications on both sides. But Pakistan rejected the findings, insisting the strikes had been deliberate.

Obama said drones had “not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” and that it was “important for everybody to understand that this thing is kept on a very tight leash.”

Islamabad is now reviewing its entire alliance with the United States and has kept its Afghan border closed to NATO supply convoys for two months.

It ordered US personnel to leave Shamsi air base in western Pakistan, widely believed to have been a hub for the CIA drone program, and is thought likely to only reopen the Afghan border by exacting taxes on convoys.

The State Department said Monday it had used small, unarmed surveillance drones to protect US diplomats in so-called “critical threat environments” overseas.

The news emerged after The New York Times reported that Iraqi officials have expressed outrage at US use of a small fleet of drones to help protect the embassy, consulates and American personnel in Iraq.

“The State Department has always used a wide variety of security tools and techniques and procedures to ensure the safety of our personnel and our facilities,” spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“We do have an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program used by the State Department,” she said, adding the UAVs are “tiny” and “not capable of being armed” but designed to provide pictures of US government facilities.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Tim Hover
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:09AM

    oh so he does know that it is his country carrying out drone strikes coz he was pretending to be an ally of Pakistani nation.

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  • NaK
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:27AM

    After some time they will admit, Abatabad operation was joint venture and Salala Check Post was our mistake.

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  • Tim Hover
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:37AM

    Oh so he does know that CIA is conducting drone strikes, coz he was pretending that he is the ally of pakistani nation in WOT.

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  • vasan
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:50AM

    Would he also care to say whether these strikes were with the approval of Pak establishment or not?

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  • Jan 31, 2012 - 1:28PM

    Defense Secretary himself said that Al Qaeda is no more strong in Afghan-Pak tribal areas, its operational wing has been shifted to African countries, (though even i also doubt about it) so then whom they r killing here????

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  • Frankly...
    Jan 31, 2012 - 2:06PM

    Pakistan, if there is such sovereign country on the planet earth, should take this guy to The International Court of Justice, The Hague. Definitely it is an illegal act!

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  • Acorn Guts
    Jan 31, 2012 - 2:09PM

    It was the US? Oh and I thought it was the Deceptrons all along! Thanks for clearing that up Obama .. much clearer.

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  • Thoughtful
    Jan 31, 2012 - 5:18PM

    It is straightforward why the US would find drones useful. India would too. The question is why Pakistan permits the bombing of its own territory and that too by a foreign country.

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  • Love Pak
    Jan 31, 2012 - 5:34PM

    Well done Mr. Obama keep it up and finish all those enemies of humanity. A large silent section of Pak society is very much pleased when we read the news in our daily papers that many terrorists like Ilias Kashmiri are being killed. We take these news as athentic as in all newspapers the source is Pak inteligence agency. We believe what our agencies report.

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  • Jan 31, 2012 - 6:15PM

    @Love Pak:
    A large silent section of Pak society is very much pleased when we read the news in our daily papers that many terrorists like Ilias Kashmiri are being killed. We take these news as athentic as in all newspapers the source is Pak inteligence agency. We believe what our agencies report.

    Are u kidding, i never saw a single rally or sit-ins in the favor of Drone operations, which majority are u talking about??? Imagine if ur family was residing in Wazirstan and ur family sleeps in the noise of hovering drones and fearing if they would bomb ur house, You must be living in abroad don’t you????

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  • Ali
    Jan 31, 2012 - 7:44PM

    He told the truth. He is true to his people. Instead of cursing him, our curse should be directed to our leaders who lie to us. I will encourage everyoe to watch this Google+ conference call and get an idea of how good a Preident he is for his people.

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  • Ali
    Jan 31, 2012 - 9:04PM

    What no one seems to be compenting on is it was agreed with our government ! PPP have given the green light for obama to drone attack Pakistan. Only Pakistanis can get themselves in a mess war on terror started by America, against USSR who grouped the orginal Al Qaeda boys gave the arms and now they are attacking and beating America and Afghan many moons later so what do they do bomb from above kill our own army soliders in the processes and PPP still say Please sir do you want some more ?

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  • Harry Stone
    Feb 1, 2012 - 1:37AM

    @Frankly…:

    Then why not send the PAK military to arrest the POTUS……you don’t have to call to tell me how that is going to work out for you………already know

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