Obama (finally) confirms drone strikes in Pakistan

Barack Obama has confirmed for the first time that US drones have been used to target individuals in Pakistan, the Telegraph reports.

In a chat with web users on Google+ and YouTube, Obama discussed for the first time the covert drone program that has dramatically escalated under the Obama administration. Previously the administration refused to discuss the strikes publicly.

Talking down the estimated civilian casualties as a result of the strikes, Obama said: “I want to make sure the people understand actually drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties. For the most part they have been very precise, precision strikes against Al-Qaeda and their affiliates, and we’re very careful in terms of how it’s been applied.”

The New America Foundation think tank in Washington says drone strikes in Pakistan have killed between 1,715 and 2,680 people in the past eight years, while the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates between 2,386 and 3,015 people have been killed including between 391 and 780 civilians and around 175 children killed. It is not known whether Obama is accepting these civilian death counts as not being a “huge number” or whether his own administration has much lower estimated death counts. Either way, human rights campaigners have expressed deep concern over increased use of drone strikes.

Obama has increased drone strikes since he came into presidency. The Telegraph has a video of Obama discussing the drone strikes for the first time.

USA Allowing Afghan Gvt. to Work With Terrorists

U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Image via Wikipedia

The US government, as of 28/09/10, has waived a requirement that prohibited the government of Afghanistan from aiding or cooperating with America’s #1 enemies of the moment, the terrorist organisations known as the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Also under the requirement was the condition that Afghanistan cooperated with US efforts to reduce poppy cultivation and illicit drug trafficking. This requirement, too, has been waived.

The requirement was part of the “Department of State, Foreign Operations, and   Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2010″, and concerned funding for the Afghan government – a sum of money “Not to exceed $2,761,500,000″. In this Act, under the heading of “International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement”, there is [sorry, was] a pre-requisite that $55,000,000 of that figure MAY NOT be obligated for their assistance UNLESS the Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton) certifies that the Government of Afghanistan is “cooperating fully with the United States efforts against the Taliban and Al Qaeda and to reduce poppy cultivation and illicit drug trafficking”, now this is the important part, “Provided, That the Secretary of State may waive the previous proviso IF the Secretary reports to the Committees on Appropriations that to do so is vital to the national security interests of the United States”. (Bold and emphasis on “IF” added by me). So the Afghanistan government may cooperate with the two terrorist organisations, and not bother with reducing poppy cultivation/illicit drug trafficking, only if doing so is vital to the national security interests of the United States. Which apparently it is. Continue reading