Drone attacks - unlawful or indispensable in war on terror? | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 07.06.2012
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Drone attacks - unlawful or indispensable in war on terror?

American President Barack Obama's strategy in the 'war on terror' involves the increased use of unmanned aerial vehicles, also known as drones. Islamabad says such attacks are unlawful.

The deployment of drones in US military operations has increased dramatically under President Barack Obama's administration. Obama has the last word regarding the deadly attacks. "This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans."

The attacks are concentrated in the Pakistani tribal areas, where al Qaeda militants are known to take refuge in the rough terrain. Obama said if the US were to use other means to target the militants there, it would require a much larger military effort.

At least 20 attacks so far

Al Qaida militant Abu Yahia al-Libi

Al Qaeda's number 2, Abu Yahia al-Libi, was killed in a drone strike

This year, there have reportedly been at least 20 drone attacks. In the past two weeks alone, there have been eight attacks in tribal areas over which the Pakistani government basically has no control. Since the beginning of this year, there have been a total of at least 20 drone attacks. Observers believe the full extent of the attacks is practically impossible to assess. The remote-controlled, unmanned high-tech vehicles fire missiles in the mountainous border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Radical Islamists, secret services and the Pakistani military prevent journalists from assessing the situation. Most information regarding the drone attacks is provided by anonymous informants from intelligence circles, from anonymous government representatives and from tribal leaders - an aspect that makes it next to impossible to separate facts from propaganda.

Pakistan demands end to drone attacks

Pakistan's military and political elite are under great public pressure; they have been demanding an end to the drone war. Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said the attacks in Pakistani territory were "illegal and unlawful and have no authorization to be used within the domains of international law." More importantly, she added, the attacks were "counter-productive to the objective of getting this region rid of militancy, terrorism and extremism because if one strike leads to getting you target number one … today, you are creating five more targets or 10 more targets in the militancy that it breeds, in the fodder that it gives to the militants to attract more people to join their ranks."

US President Barack Obama holds a news conference after the 2012 NATO Summit in Chicago

Barack Obama has faces criticism for his strategy in the 'war on terror'

During routine demonstrations against the drone war and the military intervention in neighboring Afghanistan, calls like "death to the USA, death to NATO" are heard frequently. While mass protests are organized by Islamist groups, there are now no longer only Islamists in the crowds. Anti-American sentiment is the dominating current in chronically instable Pakistan.

Vicious circle

Meanwhile, the United States is planning to withdraw its soldiers from the region and instead concentrate on fighting terrorist organizations like al Qaeda using military technology - whether in Pakistan and Afghanistan, or in Yemen and elsewhere. In the US election campaign that is well received. But the bottom line is that no side will win this war. The vicious circle of terrorism remains unbroken.

Author: Sandra Petersmann (New Delhi)/sb
Editor: Arun Chowdhury

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