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Obama likely to deny Pakistani request to stop drone strikes
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to ask President Obama to end U.S. drone strikes against suspected terrorists in Pakistan and mediate a long-standing dispute with India when the two leaders meet at the White House on Wednesday.
But Mr. Obama is unlikely to agree to either demand, according to U.S. officials and analysts.
In a speech seen as a prelude to his meeting with Mr. Obama, Mr. Sharif on Tuesday urged the Obama administration to stop drone strikes inside Pakistan, while making the case that the South Asian nation is “neither a source of nor the epicenter of terrorism.”
The unmanned aerial strikes have become a “major irritant” in the U.S.-Pakistani relationship, Mr. Sharif said at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington.
“I would therefore stress the need for an end to drone attacks,” he said.
The Obama administration is likely to continue the drone strikes because they hit terrorist targets in Pakistan that pose threats to U.S. forces in neighboring Afghanistan, said Robert Hathaway, director of the Asia program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
“This is a terribly important and emotional issue for millions of Pakistanis. By the same token, I think it is unrealistic to think that Obama is going to have any real give on this subject so long as the insurgents continue to find a sanctuary in Pakistan and then slip across the border to kill Americans and NATO forces,” Mr. Hathaway said.
Cameron Munter, a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, said any discussion between Mr. Sharif and U.S. officials on drones will be framed in the larger context of U.S.-Pakistani counterterrorism cooperation.
“Talking about drones and the difficulties that drones have posed as an issue is only the prelude to talking about counterterrorism and the way in which both countries decide they are going to work together, or not, to try to deal with it,” Mr. Munter said in a Council on Foreign Relations press briefing.
“We still believe that the pace, scope, and character of India and Pakistan’s dialogue on Kashmir is for those two countries to determine,” said Laura Lucas Magnuson, a spokeswoman at the National Security Council.
Meanwhile, Mr. Sharif’s campaign against drone strikes was bolstered by a blistering Amnesty International report Tuesday that concluded that the U.S. had carried out unlawful killings, some of which could amount to war crimes, using drones in Pakistan.
The report examines all 45 known drone strikes in Pakistan’s northwestern North Waziristan province from January 2012 to August.
Amnesty International documented the October 2012 death of a 68-year-old woman, Mamana Bibi, in an apparent Hellfire missile strike as she picked vegetables in her family’s farm surrounded by her grandchildren.
Mamana Bibi’s son, Rafiq ur-Rehman, and two of her grandchildren who were injured in the drone strike are scheduled to testify at a congressional hearing Tuesday.
“Secrecy surrounding the drones program gives the U.S. administration a license to kill beyond the reach of the courts or basic standards of international law,” said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty International’s Pakistan researcher.
“We take extraordinary care to make sure that our counterterrorism actions are in accordance with all applicable domestic and international law and that they are consistent with U.S. values and U.S. policy,” Mr. Carney said.
The Amnesty International report also examines a more deadly incident in July 2012 in which 18 laborers were killed in multiple strikes as they sat down to dinner in a village close to the border with Afghanistan.
“There are genuine threats to the USA and its allies in the region, and drone strikes may be lawful in some circumstances. But it is hard to believe that a group of laborers, or an elderly woman surrounded by her grandchildren, were endangering anyone at all, let alone posing an imminent threat to the United States,” said Mr. Qadri.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Ashish Kumar Sen is a reporter covering foreign policy and international developments for The Washington Times.
Prior to joining The Times, Mr. Sen worked for publications in Asia and the Middle East. His work has appeared in a number of publications and online news sites including the British Broadcasting Corp., Asia Times Online and Outlook magazine.
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