The drone dissension

Amnesty International has intensified the debate on drones by terming the aerial killings equivalent to war crimes.

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Published: Wed 23 Oct 2013, 8:54 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 10:49 AM

Human Rights Watch too, after closely studying several random actions in the tribal areas of Pakistan and elsewhere in the Middle East, concluded that the attacks are in violation of international law. Both these reports have coincided with last week’s detailed findings by the United Nations rapporteur, who called the United States drone policy an act that undermines global security. It went on to say that more than 2,000 civilians had died and the US claim that only fugitive terrorist elements are targeted is erroneous.

The question is: Will these human rights agencies’ dossiers have any impact on the policy-makers in White House and Pentagon? The answer seems to be a simple ‘No’. The reason is that US President Barack Obama and his aides are convinced that drones limit the extent of damage that otherwise could result in massive casualties. The White House insists that the aircraft are “kept on a very tight leash” and without them the US would have to “resort to more intrusive military action”. That is why Defence Secretary Leon Panetta had no qualms in saying that the US will continue to defend itself by sending down those unmanned aircraft.

Notwithstanding the defence, the Obama administration will have to do a lot of soul-searching as Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif brings up the issue of unmanned sorties in Pakistan in his talks with Obama. The premier seems to have a one-point agenda for the talks and that is to request Obama to end the drone attacks. Islamabad’s new policy of engaging the Taleban has hit snags as the latter has a precondition that aerial attacks should stop first. Will Obama let Nawaz Sharif heave a sigh of relief by promising to end these attacks?

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