Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States lashed out at the Obama administration’s use of drones to kill terrorists inside Pakistan, calling unmanned aerial attacks “counterproductive.”
“The time for drone strikes is really over,” Ambassador Sherry Rehman said at a meeting Tuesday with journalists hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington.
“Drones are actually seen as a very negative [action] … and give an unfortunate view of U.S. power and how the United States projects its power abroad.
“It is also operationally counterproductive because it creates more potential terrorists on the ground instead of taking them out,” Ms. Rehman said. “If it is taking out a high-value or medium-value target then it is also creating an entire community of future [terrorist] recruits.
“We need to drain the swamp and instead what [the drone strikes have done] is radicalizing people.”
The Obama administration has escalated Predator drone strikes against terrorist targets in Pakistan’s tribal areas. It says the strikes have degraded al Qaeda’s capacity.
Ms. Rehman said these operations violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and international law. She denied that Pakistan’s government only criticizes the strikes in public, while supporting them in private.
“There is no question of any quiet complicity, no question of wink and nod. This is a parliamentary red line,” she said.
U.S. and Afghan officials say Pakistan provides sanctuaries as well as material support to terrorist groups such as the Haqqani Network that operate from tribal regions along its northwest border with Afghanistan.
“We do not perceive it to be an active sanctuary,” Ms. Rehman said. “We are doing what we can to restrict the operational space for terrorists in our tribal areas. It is hard to interdict on that border if the other side remains unmanaged.”
Pakistan and Afghanistan share a tense relationship but made some headway at a summit Monday hosted by British Prime Minister David Cameron on restarting the peace process with the Taliban.
The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996 until 2001 when they were toppled in a U.S.-led invasion for hosting al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
In their talks in Britain, Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to a six-month deadline to work out arrangements to get a peace process moving.
The Taliban ditched the process in March last year, citing U.S. inaction on its demand to release five high-value detainees at the U.S. military detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Pakistan supports an Afghan-led peace process with the Taliban, but it cannot be a guarantor of its outcome, Ms. Rehman said.
“We are putting our shoulder to the wheel, but the Afghans have to lead the process,” she said.