Obama on drone attacks: America does not take strikes to punish individuals

President Barack Obama prepares to take the stage as he is introduced at the National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C., May 23, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza); Courtesy of: http://1.usa.gov/16ZJhmp

Published May 23, 2013, UPDATE May 29, 2013, June 2, 2013

Those affected the most of the drone – attacks in Pakistan shared their opinion on Sunday, June 2, 2013 squabbling no use of force can bring the peace in the federally administered territory areas and spoke at the press conference in Peshavar Press club telling, people suffer of a pro-American policy of the former governments in Pakistan.

“Elders from the Utmanzai and Ahmadzai tribes of North Waziristan Agency (NWA) have demanded the immediate cessation of US drones attacks and a peaceful solution to the conflict in the tribal areas by negotiating with the Taliban”, reports The Express Tribune from Peshawar in the article Conflict resolution: Tribal elders link cessation of drone strikes to peace in the country”, reports Peshawar corespondent of The Express Tribune.

“Force is not the solution; we must adopt nonviolent means to establish everlasting peace in the region,” postulated an Ahmadzai elder, Malik Shalam Khan”, according to Tribune’s article, underlying the necessity forthcoming new government to work toward ending the USA drone attacks campaign in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

Reuters agency reported May 29, 2013 on seven people killed in Pakistan’s North Waziristan by USA drone attack, first after the May 11 elections in Pakistan on which drone attacks take the major stakes in the pre-election period. As online edition of Huffington Post publishes in the article U.S. Drone strike kills 7 in Pakistan, official sources confirmed.

“Pakistani security officials and Pashtun tribesmen in the northwestern region said the drone fired two missiles that struck a mud-built house at Chashma village, 3 km (2 miles) east of Miranshah, the region’s administrative town”, reports Reuters writer Jibran Ahmad of Peshawar.

Use of drone-strikes in the counter-terrorism strategy raise the questions on international law in their use and the broader consequences over the civilian population in the places drone strikes target militant groups that pose the threat not only to the USA society, but also to the civilian population in the areas affected by the drone attacks.

The number of drone attacks and their efficiency is a major issue in the international debate over such a policy of dealing with issues related to radical groups and dismantling terrorism networks.

“Since 2004, over 350 drones strikes has been in Pakistan’s Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) mostly in North Waziristan, South Waziristan and Kurram agencies. These have killed significant number of Al-Queda leaders and senior militant commanders of both Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, but also scores of innocent civilians, in-part because of so-called “signature” strikes that targeted groups of man based on behavior patterns associated with terrorist activity and not known identities”, reports International Crisis Group in their latest report of May21, Drones: Muths and reality in Pakistan in which they give recommendations to Pakistan federal authorities and the USA government.

International Crisis Groups, NGO organization based in Washington DC and Brussels appeals to the Obama administration to “determinate any practice, such as the reported signature strikes, that does not apply comply to international humanitarian and human rights law, asking introducement of transparency to the drone program, greater congressional, judicial oversight and transfer of the program from CIA to Defense Department.

Aside recommendations, ICG underlines their place that use of the drones is not a long-term solution to the common threat coming out of the areas that are not under control of Pakistan federal authorities.

“Drones are not a long-term solution to the problem they are being deployed to solved-destruction of local, regional and wider transnational jihadis who operate out of Pakistan tribal belt”, reports ICG, underlying law level of honesty between the U.S and Pakistan “undermines efforts to assess its legality or its full impact on FATA’s population” in the absence of the official agreement between Washington and Islamabad.

“The U.S. refuses to officially acknowledge the program; Pakistan portrays it as a violation of national sovereignty, but ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and, at times, active cooperation”, reveals ICG reports on the drone program and effect of it.

White House administration offered their explanation on the use of drone-strikes during the remarks of the USA President Barack Obama on May 23,2013 in the broader context of counter-terrorism policy. The USA President Barak Obama remarks on counter-terrorism policy delivered on May23 at National Defense University at FortMacNair in Washington,D.C. touched the drones attack issue and their justification in the counter-terrorism fight.

“There is wide gap between U.S. assessment of such casualties and non-governmental reports. Nevertheless, it is hard fact that US strikes have resulted in civilian casualties, a risk that exist in all wars”, said president Obama.

According to the USA president Obama drone strike actions are legal, saying “we were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces”.

President Obama said that “America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists – our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them”.

He assured, the USA Government takes the action on drone-strikes in consultations with partners.

“America cannot take strikes wherever we choose – our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals – we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured – the highest standard we can set”, explained President Obama.

In the remarks at National Defense University, president Obama repeated that:”not only did Congress authorize the use of force, it is brief on every strike that America takes”.

Further, Obama said he look “forward to engaging Congress and the American people in efforts to refine, and ultimately repeal, the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF’s) mandate. And I will not sign laws designed to expand this mandate further.

According to the American president the efforts of fighting terrorist organizations and networks should continue.

“But this war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands”, underlined Obama in his speech at National Defense University in Washington D.C.

President Obama’s remarks are watched closely by the civil rights associations. Reaction to the remarks comes from the American Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Anthony D. Romero, who said  “the speech signals an end to signature strikes, recognizes the need for congressional oversight, and restricts the use of drones to threats against the American people, the developments on targeted killings are promising”.

“Yet the president still claims broad authority to carry out target killings far from any battlefield, and there is still insufficient transparency. We continue to disagree fundamentally with the idea that due process requirements can be satisfied without any form of judicial oversight by regular federal courts”, explains in his remarks to Obama speech ACLU executive director.

During his speech, president Obama pointed out this week he approved declassification on the action of use of drone strikes in the case of American citizen Anwar Awlaki and “the deaths of three other Americans in drone strikes, to facilitate transparency and debate on this issue and to dismiss some of the more outlandish claims that have been made”.

“For the record, I do not believe it would be constitutional for the government to target and kill any U.S. citizen — with a drone, or with a shotgun — without due process, nor should any President deploy armed drones over U.S. soil”, stated president Barak Obama.

Reporting of Washington D.C., online edition of  The Guardian published an article Obama details drone policy in speech outlining counter-terrorism doctrine. In the article, Guardian Washington Bureau chief, Dan Roberts who covers  US politics writes that American president hopes bigger oversight to bring his controversial program of killings out of the legal shadows.

“But the White House defended its decision to launch hundreds of such strikes in recent years, insisting they were more discriminating than other military options such as aerial bombing and had helped prevent terrorist attacks”, reports Roberts in The Guardian article.

Other media, especially those at the USA looked at the national security speech of the president of various angles and consult different sources who comment on envisaged counter-terrorism policy of Obama’s administration. In the article Should President Obama end the war on terror?, Jake Miller of CBSNews relates the speech with various experts and Senate representatives.

“The most important advance in the speech was the acknowledgement that the war will end at a foreseeable point in the future,” former assistant secretary of state for public affairs Philip J. Crowley told CBSNews.com. “This will require an unwinding of policies, authorities and tactics that have accumulated over the past dozen years.”, reports CBSNews and ask:

“So where do we go from here? If the existing tools in the war on terror are increasingly difficult to situate within the 2001 authorization of military force, as Crowley and others argued, can Congress be expected to revise – or repeal outright – that authorization to accommodate evolving realities?”

According to the article, “Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., offered at least a glimmer of an opening to the president in a statement released before the speech, arguing that that the 2001 AUMF is “increasingly unrelated to current terrorist threats,” and welcoming discussions with the administration and bipartisan members of congress on “how best to pursue necessary updates to the authorization for use of military force.”

For Crowley AUMF need revision, although if the nation is still at war, “American people need to be assured that what we continue to do in various places around the world is consistent with both domestic and international law.”

“The immediate response from members of Congress” on revising the AUMF “is not surprising but disappointing,” Crowley said to CBCNews.

Praise to the speech, reports BBC News comes came from Ben Emerson the lawyer working on the UN investigation on the drone attacks use he started in January and focus on 25 attacks in Pakistan, the Pakistan Territories, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia that”are challenge to international law”.

“It sets out more clearly and more authoritatively than ever before the administration’s legal justifications for targeted killing, and the constraints that it operates under,” said Emerson for BBC article UN rapporteur Emmerson hails historic  Obama drone vow.

People of Pakistan who are most concerned on drone raids and how they influence their daily life change over the time the opinion of the success of those attacks not only in remote territories of Pakistan, but also in the cities like Karachi and Quetta in Pakistan.

As  Rafia Zakaria, PHD candidate in political philosophy and a columnist for pakistani Dawn.com emphasizes that “those once ambivalent about drone attacks and their efficiency have made up their mind paying in disrupted lives the cost of a conflict whose parameters and targets are all decided elsewhere and without their input.

“The death tolls from attacks and retaliations and counter attacks have gone from hundreds to thousands.The war has spread from the far flung areas that were easy to forget into Pakistani cities – into Karachi and Quetta, into the lives of doctors, shopkeepers and construction workers alike. The death tolls from attacks and retaliations and counter attacks have gone from hundreds to thousands”, writes Rafia Zakaria in the article A note from Obama: A no from Pakistan.

Drone-attacks issue challenges governments not only in the USA or in Pakistan. The use of drones is controversial in Germany, according the english online edition of Pakistani The Express Tribune with International Herald Tribune, that publishes Reuters article Germany not aware of US drone strikes conducted from its bases.

“The Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper, one of several news outlets to carry the reports, said the US military had directed drone attacks against suspected Islamist guerrillas in Somalia and other African countries from its Africom command in Stuttgart and air force base in Ramstein”, reports Tribune.

The paper quoted German legal expert Thilo Marauhn saying that Germany’s constitution forbade it from having any role in the killing of suspected terrorism suspects outside the theatre of war”, reports The Express Tribune publishing the statement from the German ministry of foreign affairs spokesman.

“Martin Schaefer, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry, declined to offer an outright condemnation of drones, suggesting their use could be justified in certain circumstances”, says in Reuters article, published by The Express Tribune on May, 31, 2013.

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