Obama admits 'worst-kept secret': US flies drones over Pakistan
For the first time, President Obama publicly acknowledged US drone attacks in Pakistan, which could allow Washington to better explain its strategy to Pakistani critics.
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Some officials believe less secrecy is actually preferred because the US could better explain its decisions. Amid strained US-Pakistan relations in the wake of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden last year, the US has been more deferential to Pakistan over the use of drones, the Wall Street Journal reports.Skip to next paragraph
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Proponents of more disclosure inside the administration and the military argue US secrecy has fueled charges in Pakistan that the drone strikes frequently kill civilians. They say releasing at least some details about the operations will help deflect criticism.
According to officials, changes were made to the drone program last year to give greater weight to diplomatic considerations, including relations with Pakistan, in deciding when to launch strikes.
The New York Times notes that although the use of drones in Pakistan has been covert – unlike in Afghanistan and Iraq – intense public interest and the inability to completely hide the explosions have made US officials willing to discuss the drone program on condition of anonymity. The Obama administration has substantially expanded the drone program, although according to tallies from Agence France-Presse, their use declined last year from 101 in 2010 to 64 in 2011.
On Jan. 28, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani condemned the resumption of US drone strikes earlier this month and expressed concern about the "trust deficit" between the two countries, Pakistan's The Express Tribune reports.
“Drones are counter-productive. We have very ably isolated militants from the local tribes. When there are drone attacks that creates sympathy for them again,” Gilani told reporters in Davos.
“It makes the job of the political leadership and the military very difficult. We have never allowed drone attacks and we have always maintained that they are unacceptable, illegal and counterproductive.”
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