WASHINGTON: United States lawmakers are rejecting renewed calls by Pakistan for an end to drone strikes in the country.
The Parliamentary Committee on National Security on Tuesday demanded an end to US military strikes conducted by unmanned, remote-controlled drones.
When asked by Voice of America (VOA) if the US should pay heed to Pakistan’s wishes, independent Senator Joe Lieberman bluntly said “no”. “The drone strikes are critically important to America’s national security. So obviously I do not believe that they should stop,” he said.
Drone attacks in Pakistan began under former US President George W Bush and expanded significantly under President Barack Obama.
In a report submitted during a joint session of the parliament, the parliamentary committee had described drone attacks as “counterproductive”, saying that the strikes radicalise local population, create support for terrorists, and ignite anti-American sentiment.
“The drones are needed because of the absence of a more aggressive effort by Pakistan to root out terrorists and radical militants,” insists Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I think the key is that Pakistan should take out all those terrorist leaders from North Waziristan who are fueling and leading attacks against our troops in Afghanistan,” she said. “I think that is an unresolved issue, if Pakistan takes action and shut down bomb factories and go after the [terrorist] leadership – then drones are not necessary.”
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said that he is mindful of Pakistan’s objections. “I do believe sovereignty is, obviously, a big issue for any country. But I would like to see Pakistan embrace the idea that extremism is not welcomed in Pakistan,” he said. “The day Pakistani people, through their government, will tell extremists that they are not welcome in Pakistan, would be a breakthrough.”
He said that drone strikes have been effective and that “it is not in Pakistan interest in the longer run to be seen by the world as a safe haven for terrorists.”
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