Hunting al Qaeda, Taliban: Panetta terms drone campaign 'self defence'

Published: June 7, 2012
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Says strikes will continue, a day after one killed al Qaeda deputy leader Abu Yahya al Libi. PHOTO: AFP

Says strikes will continue, a day after one killed al Qaeda deputy leader Abu Yahya al Libi. PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI: Terming drone attacks on Pakistani soil as ‘self defence’, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta made it clear that the campaign will continue.

“We have made it very clear to Pakistani leaders that we will continue to defend ourselves,” Panetta, who is wrapping up his nine-day tour of Asia, said during an interaction at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in the Indian capital.

His assertion came a day after Pakistan summoned the US envoy in Islamabad and lodged a protest over continued drone strikes, terming them unlawful and a violation of the country’s sovereignty.

“This is about our sovereignty as well… The leadership of those that were involved in planning (the 9/11) attacks located (themselves) in Pakistan,” he said.

“We had a strike yesterday (Tuesday) that hit another (al Qaeda) deputy leader,” he said referring to the death of Abu Yahya al Libi.

Panetta termed the US-Pakistan relationship “complicated… often times frustrating, often times desperate, often times difficult.”

“They have provided some cooperation… They have been engaged in going after those who threaten their country… (But) there are times when, frankly, the cooperation is not there,” he added.

But, at the same time, he called it a ‘necessary relationship.’  The defence secretary said it was “extremely important” for the US to maintain its relationship with Pakistan given its nuclear capability.

“The US cannot just walk away from that relationship,” he said.

Talking about efforts to reopen transit centres and supply routes to Afghanistan from Pakistan, Panetta said “We are negotiating with them to see whether we can arrive at an agreement that will re-open those areas.”

Meanwhile, he welcomed steps taken by Pakistan and India to normalise trade relations and called them a key measure for both nations to resolve their differences. He added that it was important New Delhi continued to make progress in its dealings with Islamabad.

“Pakistan is a complicated relationship for both of our countries, but one that we must work to improve,” he said.

‘Lynchpin’ of US strategy

Panetta called India the “lynchpin” of its strategy in Asia and vowed to expand defence ties between New Delhi and Washington. He said a new US strategy sought to “expand our military partnerships and our presence in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia.”

“For this relationship to truly provide security for this region and for the world, we will need to deepen our defence and security cooperation,” Panetta, who met Indian leaders on Tuesday and Wednesday, said, adding that he believed the relationship “can and should become more strategic, more practical, and more collaborative.”

In his speech, he also called for a more active Indian role in Afghanistan. .

“I urged India’s leaders to continue with additional support to Afghanistan through trade and investment, reconstruction, and help for Afghanistan’s security forces,” he said.

(WITH ADDITIONAL input FROM AFP)

Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (13)

  • Babloo
    Jun 7, 2012 - 9:27AM

    US took too long to understand Pakistan and everone, India, US and Pakistan, all paid a price for the delay.

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  • Mirza
    Jun 7, 2012 - 9:28AM

    Please continue the jihad against the terrorists till their last man is in Pakistan. Our territory should be cleansed so poor civilians can once again live in peace and harmony. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

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  • Hammad
    Jun 7, 2012 - 9:35AM

    So whats wrong if we do proxy wars in our self defense?

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  • Naveed Javed
    Jun 7, 2012 - 9:38AM

    US won’t let India-Pakistan friends!

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  • RizwanTKhan
    Jun 7, 2012 - 10:05AM

    So if we have a threat from someone sitting in USA, we can drone him and justify as self defense? Cool. USA gave a filthy definition of self defense. In that case there would wars all over the world.

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  • Noor
    Jun 7, 2012 - 10:21AM

    Everytime a high profile US person visits India, he’s bound to make some stupid statement regarding Pakistan!!!!!!!!!!

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  • karma
    Jun 7, 2012 - 10:24AM

    As much as US Wants to use India against China, it isn’t in India’s interest to align with either US or China against anyone. It has a vested national interest in charting an independent course.

    If at all, Pakistan serves as a very good lesson of what happens to a country that lets it become a tool in the hands of a super power. India can be friendly with both China and US, unless ofcourse China takes a very hardline approach to India and pushes India to take US help.

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  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Jun 7, 2012 - 10:28AM

    @Hammad:

    whats wrong if we do proxy wars in our
    self defense?

    Nice try. But,the argument of self-defence makes sense if one’s attacked first and not if one keeps attacking and gets defeated each time.

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  • Jun 7, 2012 - 11:21AM

    @ Rizwan T Khan: This is what happens between a relationship of unequal. Those in power do not need to justify their actions. However, the entire western world is now blaming us for giving shelter to OBL and his associates. Drone attacks are targeting threats to the western world at present and to Pakistan in the near future.

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  • Jun 7, 2012 - 12:04PM

    @RizwanTKhan:

    The regions US is attacking is not in under any country’s control. Even the Pakistani Army is too scared to go into them. In that case, US has every right to attack these territories who are apparently under no one’s control.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Jun 8, 2012 - 1:25AM

    During his nine-day tour of Asia Leon Panetta visited two rivals of China – India and Vietnam. While in India he made statements that no doubt would further exacerbate the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. Perhaps it wouldn’t do a secretary of defence any harm to take a crash course in diplomacy.

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  • Jun 8, 2012 - 6:58PM

    “So if we have a threat from someone sitting in USA, we can drone him and justify as self defense?”

    Sorry, no. The U.S. military attacks against terrorists in Pakistan out of self-defense, but the justification for violating Pakistani borders to do so is Pakistan’s non-compliance with binding U.N. Security Council Resolution 1373, which mandates members eliminate terrorists from their territory. The U.S. doesn’t have an issue with UNSCR 1373, hence Pakistan can have no legal justification for attacking a “threat” (political opponent, perhaps?) on U.S. soil.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Jun 9, 2012 - 12:44AM

    Where were you Mr. Panetta on 9/11? Why US failed in self-defense on 9/11?

    Is killing innocent people through drone attacks in Pakistan is called self-defense?

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