Wednesday, October 23, 2013

US justifies drone attacks, says it\'s lawful

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration has virtually said \"no\" to the Pakistani demand of an \"end to the drone strikes\", saying such attacks against terrorist groups are not only precise, but also \"lawful\" and \"effective\".

\"The US counterterrorism operations are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective,\" White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Tuesday.

His remarks came immediately after Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demanded an end to the drone attacks and two eminent rights body released reports alleging that the drone attacks have resulted in large scale civilian casualties and by doing so US has violated international law.

One of the conditions for ending the drone strikes, top administration officials indicated, would be elimination of safe havens; which is unlikely to be achieved in the near future.

\"The United States does not take lethal strikes when we or our partners have the ability to capture individual terrorists. Our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute. We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with US values and US policy,\" Carney said.

State department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters that the answer to the Pakistani demand of ending the drone attacks can be neither yes nor no.

\"It\'s just more complicated than that,\" she said in response to a question. \"I don\'t think it\'s that easy of a question,\" she added.

\"Counterterrorism\'s a shared threat; we\'ll continue talking about it with them going forward,\" she said.

The Obama administration differed with the assessment of the two rights groups - Amnesty International and the Human Rights Group. While the Amnesty found 29 civilians had been killed in the nine Pakistan strikes it investigated, the HRW said 57 civilians were among 82 killed in six Yemen strikes.

\"We are reviewing these reports carefully,\" Carney said. \"There\'s a wide gap between US assessments of such casualties and nongovernmental reports ... We undertake every effort to limit civilian casualties in our counterterrorism operations. There\'s a process that goes into how these operations are chosen, and as part of that process, we take every effort to limit these casualties,\" she said.

Referring to a speech by President Barack Obama in May this year, Carney said he laid out the legal and policy framework for the US counterterrorism strategy.

\"The president directly addressed the issue of civilian casualties in that speech and he made clear that it is a hard fact that US strikes have resulted in civilian casualties — a risk that exists in every war,\" he said.

\"Before we take any counterterrorism strike outside areas of active hostilities, there must be near certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, and that is the highest standard we can set,\" he said.

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