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May 7, 2013

UK soil not to be used for drone strikes on Pakistan

National

May 7, 2013

LONDON: Britain’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said that it will not use its soil for the launch of drone strikes inside Pakistani territory but Britain’s biggest anti-war group has said that the MoD’s claim cannot be accepted as it operates without any accountability and Pakistan may now be targeted from Britain.
A Ministry Of Defence official told The News in an exclusive interaction that Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Waddington base in Lincolnshire is being used as the location for the control of the UK’s armed remotely-piloted Reaper aircraft (commonly known as drones) “in support of operations in Afghanistan” only and have nothing to do with Pakistan.
The MoD began carrying out missile-carrying Reaper aircraft missions from the newly built headquarters earlier a week ago but previously, the RAF had been piloting the unmanned aircraft in attacks against Afghanistan from the Creech air force base in Nevada.
“UK Reapers are the only armed remotely-piloted vehicle the UK operates. UK Reaper aircraft operate only in Afghanistan, primarily in a surveillance and reconnaissance role in support of British and Isaf troops and our allies in the Afghan security forces. The capability provided by these aircraft is undoubtedly helping to save the lives of our forces, our allies and those of countless Afghan civilians,” the official told The News.
He added: “They are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft. Reaper aircraft cannot release weapons unless commanded to do so by the pilot. In all military operations, everything possible is done to avoid civilian casualties and this is no less the case with these operations.”
The official said that Pakistan was an ally and the UK and Pakistan were engaged in a common war against terrorism, therefore there is no

question of any use of the UK soil for the launch of armed drones aimed at Pakistan.
Chris Nineham, Vice Chair of Britain’s largest pro-peace Stop the War Coalition, told The News that it’s hard to have confidence in the claims about Pakistan by the MoD. He said that Britain’s foreign policy is tightly linked to Washington and depends on the US. He said that America was involved in the “surrogate occupation” of some area of Pakistan where it was using drones. “America has used hundreds of strikes inside Pakistan with help from partners like Britain. The MoD will now facilitate these strikes from here now without any accountability. The MoD can say what they like but the fact is that we will be foolish to have too much confidence in what they say. They must end the policy of killing innocent people as its radicalising Pakistanis and people of other nations who are being killed on daily basis like insects.”
The British government has admitted that on top of hundreds of missions using the UK’s own drones in Afghanistan, the RAF has carried out more than 2,000 missions using ‘borrowed’ US armed drones. The RAF separately had its own Reaper drone fleet in Afghanistan.
Last week hundreds of campaigners staged a march and led a rally to the Waddington base protesting at the opening of the UK’s first military base for remote armed drone operations. Pakistani origin Conservative MP Rehman Chishti has warned that armed drone operations in Afghanistan by the RAF and the United States Air Force have become so interchangeable that Britain “may no longer be able to determine accountability and responsibility if civilians are killed”.


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