Pakistan Not Soothed by Obama's "Reformed" Drone Program

Pakistani men protest against drone strikes (Photo: SS Mirza/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan Not Soothed by Obama's "Reformed" Drone Program

'For the people of Pakistan' Obama's reforms will not be good enough until 'there is a cessation of drone attacks'

Pakistan officials criticized President Obama's speech on Thursday for not announcing an immediate moratorium on all drone strikes in the country, insisting that any drone attack on Pakistan's soil is illegal and constitutes an assault on Pakistan's sovereignty.

"The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that the drone strikes are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law," Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, while conceding that Obama's speech contained mention of some positive reforms.

In the speech, given at the National Defense University in Washington, Obama said some reforms to the drone program were needed, claiming the U.S. would not perform an assassination if a target can be "reasonably" captured; that strikes can only be used against targets that poses an "imminent" threat; and that drone strikes will increasingly be initiated by the the U.S. military rather than the CIA (even though the CIA will continue to operate drones in Pakistan).

However, Obama continued to defend the use of drones overall, framing their use as a necessary evil in the "global war on terror."

To many human rights groups, however, Obama's proclamations did not go nearly far enough in the right direction. As their comments indicate, the speech certainly did not put officials in Pakistan at ease.

According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Pakistan has experienced hundreds of CIA drone attacks inside its borders that have killed up to 3,587 people since 2004, with up to 884 of them civilians.

"Obama has finally responded to the popular sentiment in this country, which is fiercely against the drones, and I think that shows a certain sensitivity," said Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the defense committee in Pakistan's Senate. "But for the people of Pakistan that is not good enough unless there is a cessation of drone attacks."


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