WASHINGTON: While Pakistan formally protested over the latest drone strike in its tribal belt, a top US official defended the controversial tactic, saying that it is fully legal under international law.
“It is hard to imagine a tool that can better minimise the risk to civilians than remotely-piloted aircraft,” President Barack Obama’s counterterrorism chief John Brennan said in a speech briefly interrupted by a Code Pink anti-war protester.
Brennan insisted that the controversial programme was legal, ethical, proportional and saved US lives.
“Broadly speaking, the debate over strikes targeted at individual members of al Qaeda has centered on their legality, their ethics, the wisdom of using them, and the standards by which they are approved,” Brennan said.
“The United States government conducts targeted strikes against specific al Qaeda terrorists, sometimes using remotely-piloted aircraft, often referred to publicly as drones,” Brennan said in a speech to the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.
“I’m here today because President Obama has instructed us to be more open with the American people about these efforts.”
Brennan said the strikes had been certified as complying with US law by US Attorney General Eric Holder, among other top officials.
“The constitution empowers the president to protect the nation from any imminent threat of attack,” Brennan said, adding that Obama’s action was also authorised by measures passed by Congress after the September 11 attacks in 2001.
He also argued that the strikes were ethical, proportional and conformed to US efforts to spare innocent civilians from being caught up in the crossfire.
“There is absolutely nothing casual about the extraordinary care we take in making the decision to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, and the lengths to which we go to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.”
Meanwhile, US Embassy’s political counselor Jonathan Prat was summoned to the Foreign Office on Monday to protest Sunday’s drone strike in North Waziristan Agency.
“US Political Counselor, Jonathan Pratt was summoned at the Foreign office by Director General America over yesterday’s drone attack,” an official statement issued said.
(Additional reporting by our correspondent in Islamabad and AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2012.