Drone strikes to end 'very, very soon': John Kerry

Published: August 1, 2013

US Secretary of State speaking in a joint press conference on Thursday during his visit to Islamabad, August 1, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS.

ISLAMABAD: US Secretary of State John Kerry hinted towards an end of the CIA-operated drone campaign in the tribal areas of Pakistan, as he said in a television interview on Thursday that the signature strikes could end “very soon”.

“I think the programme will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it,” Kerry said in an interview with state-run Pakistan Television.

Pressed on whether a timeline was envisaged, Kerry replied: ”The president has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon.”

It is the first time that a senior US official has indicated that there could be a definitive end to the programme, which the CIA has in the past called an effective counter-terrorism weapon.

The statement was more than welcome in Islamabad, where the country’s top diplomat Sartaj Aziz demanded a complete halt to a series of drone strikes which has recently decreased.

Kerry’s comment, though was immediately downplayed by American aides.

State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said that the number of drone strikes had declined owing to the drawdown of American troops from Afghanistan and because of progress in curtailing the al Qaeda threat.

“Today the secretary referenced the changes that we expect to take place in that programme over the course of time, but there is no exact timeline to provide,” she said in a statement.

The Secretary of State himself strayed from his television remarks when in a joint press conference with Aziz, he tackled complaints about drones by pointing the finger at al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, believed to be based in Pakistan.

“An al Qaeda leader like Al-Zawahiri is violating the sovereignty of this country. And when they attack people in mosques and blow up people in villages and market places they are violating the sovereignty of the country,” he said.

‘Pakistan has to overcome extremist forces’

Kerry’s visit announced the resumption of strategic dialogue between Pakistan and the United States, and he invited the newly elected Sharif to hold talks with US President Barack Obama in the autumn.

It will be the highest level talks between the two sides since January 2011, after which US troops found and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan in May 2011.

In November 2011, US air strikes mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan border, leading Islamabad to shut down NATO ground supply lines for seven months.

Kerry said it was time to put the relationship on a stronger footing. He said Pakistan’s prosperity depends on doing more to eliminate militant havens.

“Pakistan cannot realise its full economic potential until it overcomes extremists,” Kerry told the news conference.

“The choice for Pakistanis is clear: will the forces of violent extremism be allowed to grow more dominant, eventually overpowering the moderate majority?”

Kerry paid tribute to Sharif’s election, which marked the first time that an elected civilian Pakistani government had completed a full term in office and handed over to another at the ballot box.

Sharif described Kerry as a “wonderful friend”.

Kerry also met the outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari and army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

Taliban broke their promise

On the subject of Afghanistan, Kerry said that the “Taliban broke their word in Doha.”

“They had accepted a certain set of requirements and they went back on their word.”

He maintained, however, that Washington and Kabul would reach a long-term security agreement that would allow American troops to remain in the country beyond 2014.

“We’re making progress, we’re working on it. I am personally confident that we will have an agreement,” Kerry said.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai suspended talks on the deal in June, furious that a Taliban liaison office in Qatar appeared to have been opened as an embassy for a government in waiting.

“Let me be clear: the US is drawing down not withdrawing,” Kerry said.

There are concerns that a complete departure of foreign troops in late 2014 could leave Afghan government troops too weak to contain a Taliban insurgency and possibly see the country slide back into civil war.

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Reader Comments (20)

  • Sami
    Aug 1, 2013 - 11:46PM

    But still the same question. When????

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  • Babloo
    Aug 1, 2013 - 11:47PM

    Drone strikes are like smoking.
    They can stop and re-start anytime.

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  • Ali
    Aug 1, 2013 - 11:52PM

    But mind it not before 2020.

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  • Raj - USA
    Aug 1, 2013 - 11:55PM

    The last missile is reserved for Hafiz Saeed.

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  • Aug 1, 2013 - 11:56PM

    GREAT NEWS. Finally.

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  • PakPower
    Aug 1, 2013 - 11:58PM

    Thats just another way to say, “They won’t end, ever”

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  • Khan A
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:06AM

    This is the first carrot offered to new government, watch out for the stick very soon.

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  • Gul Khan
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:12AM

    If drone strikes end, Taliban and PTI will go out of business.

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  • S
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:15AM

    did taliban break their word? really? i thought you failed to communicate properly among the different stakeholders

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  • Solomon2
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:24AM

    The “signature strikes” – those based on patterns set by a series of characteristics – have likely already stopped. The latest strikes, like that in Shawal Valley a few days ago, appear to be extremely well targeted: link

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  • khalsa
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:26AM

    well i saw the report on bbc and cnn both and both said that kerry made it clear that the drones wont end in any time soon.

    i dont know how and why the two different news agency put up two different image of same event

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  • Xnain
    Aug 2, 2013 - 12:28AM

    @Raj – USA:
    But for that Indian couch potatoes would have to bring something definite against him.

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  • saeed
    Aug 2, 2013 - 1:00AM

    Meaning, they will end it according to their town timeline, not at the demand (read request) of Pakistan.

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  • SM
    Aug 2, 2013 - 1:04AM

    The US is withdrawing, not drawing down. They are running from the graveyard of empires like those before them.

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  • Babloo
    Aug 2, 2013 - 1:07AM

    He could have as well said that the issue of drone strikes and Kashmir , will get resolved in same time frame.

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  • lol
    Aug 2, 2013 - 1:25AM

    @Raj – USA:
    keep your infatuation of Pakistan to yourself, enough of kidding around, instead, bring down those people who were responsible for killings in Gujrat, Smajhota express & the Indian agency orchestrated attacks on Mumbai & Indian Parliament & killings in Indian occupied Kashmir :)

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  • Ahmad
    Aug 2, 2013 - 1:40AM

    Kerry Says Drone Strikes in Pakistan Will End, Spokesperson Takes it Right Back
    http://thecable.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2013/08/01/kerrysaysdronestrikesinpakistanwillendspokespersontakesitrightback

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  • Snowball
    Aug 2, 2013 - 2:20AM

    US Secretary of State John Kerry stated today that the drones striking at the Taliban and Al Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan were actually a result of the groups’ regular violations of Pakistani sovereignty. He has now publicized the security pack that exists between Pakistan and the USA which requires the US to come to Pakistan’s aid whenever its sovereignty is violated. According to reliable sources, this announcement has been met with significant displeasure from both Indian and Pakistani military officials due to its capability to jeopardize any future expansions in the defense budgets of the two rivals.

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  • Np
    Aug 2, 2013 - 11:14PM

    He could have said very very very very very soon. Without a timeframe though it means little.

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  • Dr.A.K.Tewari
    Aug 27, 2013 - 5:52PM

    One should understand the diplomatic language of mr Karry .Drowing not withdrawing . Sharif has understood it well and now there will be no demand of ban drone strke on his part instead every thing will be in black and white .

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