Obama ups Pakistan drone strikes in assassination campaign
News reports said a volley of missile strikes from US drones killed 16 alleged militants in Pakistan on Tuesday. The use of drones to assassinate Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan has soared under President Barack Obama.
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Two of the men vying to replace him at the head of the country's Taliban movement have also been incorrectly reported as dead in the past.Skip to next paragraph
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Strikes controversial among Pakistanis and in strategic circles
The drone strikes have been controversial in Pakistan, where many average citizens view them as an extra-legal violation of national sovereignty by the US, which may be a key provider of military and economic aid to Islamabad but is still viewed with suspicion by millions of the nation's citizens.
Pakistan has generally been officially quiet about its support for the strikes, but US officials say they generally have approval for their operations and have received targeting information from the Pakistani military, which pressed major offensives against the Taliban in South Waziristan and the Swat Valley last year. The country's military has been less active in North Waziristan, where the bulk of US aerial attacks have taken place, and the country says it's not planning major anti-Taliban offensives for 2010. Tuesday's strikes were in North Waziristan.
The drone strikes have been controversial in strategic circles as well. David Kilcullen, one of the most influential advisers in US counterinsurgency strategy in the past few years, said he opposed drone strikes inside Pakistan last year: "Unilateral strikes against targets inside Pakistan, whatever other purpose they might serve, have an unarguably and entirely negative effect on Pakistani stability," he wrote in the Small Wars Journal.
But they have emerged as a favorite tactic of the Obama administration, and the US may soon outsource such attacks to Pakistan itself. Pakistani officials have been pressing the US for drones of their own, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said recently that's a request the administration is considering fulfilling.