Following comments made by Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday, in which he said U.S. drone operations in Pakistan will end "very, very soon," the State Department immediately backtracked saying there is no time-line for such a plan.
Speaking at a press briefing following Kerry's comments made during a trip to Pakistan, Marie Harf—State Department Deputy Spokesperson—responded to questions over Kerry's comments by saying "there is no exact timeline to provide," and "Obviously, a lot of this is driven by the situation on the ground."
Pushing the issue further, one reporter posed: "Well, he [Kerry] says he hopes it’ll be very, very soon. Is there any reason to think that it will be very, very soon? Are you talking about ending it very, very soon?"
Harf responded without clarifying any foreseeable end point, insinuating that the drone program will continue until the U.S. believes it has defeated al-Qaida in the region:
...the Secretary was making the point that we have made, as we’ve talked about, significant progress against core al-Qaida in this region, and that we will continue to do so – that they are a shadow of what they once were, and I think he was reinforcing that point. But again, no timeline to provide right now.
To that point the reporter referred to an argument made by many critics of the U.S. drone program and its use around the world—that as more drone strikes are used, more and more lives are taken, and a growing number of people become angry towards the U.S., thus strengthening the cause as well as the numbers of those fighting against U.S. forces.
The reporter stated:
And what makes you think that this threat can conceivably be eliminated very, very soon? One of the counterarguments to the use of drones is that, particularly in those occasions where they kill people who are not believed to pose a lethal threat to the United – an imminent lethal threat to the United States, is that they simply embitter more people toward the United States. So what makes you think that at some point – perhaps very, very soon – this threat will have been eliminated?
The back and forth continued for several minutes (min. 19:16). However, Harf never conceded to posing any foreseeable timeline for a draw-down in the region and never addressed the reporter's suggestions that the longer we continue drone strikes in the region, the less likely it will be for us to leave.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism recently reported that the CIA killed more people in Pakistan per drone strike in July 2013 than at any other point since July 2012.
TBIJ also recently revealed new evidence that the U.S. may be committing war crimes by using drone strikes to target medical rescue operations directly following initial attacks: a tactic known as "double tapping."