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June 8, 2012

Hillary Clinton backs using drones in Pakistan

World

AFP
June 8, 2012

ISTANBUL: United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Thursday implicitly defended Washington’s use of drone strikes to kill suspected militants, days after an aircraft reportedly killed al-Qaeda’s Libyan-born Abu Yahya al-Libbi in Pakistan.

Addressing the Global Counter-terrorism Forum – a Turk-US chaired group in Istanbul – Clinton affirmed, “We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al-Qaeda that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attacks.”

Drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern region have fuelled an increasingly fierce debate about the legality and morality of drones, which have become one of the chief US weapons against al-Qaeda, but which opponents say stretch the definition of the legitimate use of lethal force.

Defending drones as a key component of America’s anti-terrorism strategy, Clinton continued, “In [our use of force], we will comply with the applicable law including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.” She also added, “The United States can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief that we use our power casually.”

Strikes by the remotely piloted unmanned craft have angered Pakistan’s government and contributed to unrelenting tension between Washington and Islamabad, which says they kill civilians and violate the country’s sovereignty. While Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs terms the attacks illegal, analysts say successful drone strikes – especially those that kill senior militants, would not be possible without help from Pakistani intelligence agencies.

Clinton also told the conference that torture and abuse were never acceptable in combating terrorism, although she made no mention of the United States’ use of interrogation techniques such as water-boarding and its lengthy detention of suspected militants without charge at

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba: “Some believe that when it comes to counter-terrorism, the end always justifies the means — that torture, abuse, the suspension of civil liberties, no measure is too extreme in the name of keeping our citizens safe,” Clinton said in her speech. “This view is short-sighted and wrong. When nations violate human rights and undermine the rule of law, even in the pursuit of terrorists, it feeds radicalisation, gives propaganda tools to extremists and ultimately undermines our efforts.”