Debates concerning the use of drones in Pakistan, and other countries, by the CIA are not new. Recently US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an AFP interview, was forced to defend the policy and practice; “The whole purpose of our operations were aimed at those who attacked this country and killed 3,000 innocent people in New York as well as 200 people here at the Pentagon.”
However, does this entitle the US to breach Pakistan’s sovereignty and send drones to carry out “targeted killings” of Al-Qaeda leaders that often result in civilian causalities?
A Stanford/NYU report titled “Living Under Drones” has offered a serious critique of the efficacy of drones and their effect on US/Pakistan relations. The report concludes that “US policy makers and the American public cannot continue to ignore evidence of the civilian harm and counter-productive impacts of US targeted killings and drone strikes in Pakistan.”
Between 2004 to 2013, there have been a total of 362 US drone strikes in Pakistan, resulting in approximately 2,629-3,461 deaths in Pakistan alone. Between 475-891 were civilian deaths, and 176 were children. These drone strikes fuel anti-US sentiment in Pakistan, hindering any development towards peaceful relations.
However, Panetta recently championed the use of drones by the CIA in Pakistan. Panetta stated that the US needs to “continue to engage Pakistan, overcoming our respective- and often deep- differences to make all of South Asia peaceful and prosperous.”
But regardless of what the proponents of drones argue are the supposed benefits of killing Al-Qaeda leaders, there is one fact that cannot be denied. Innocent human beings are dying due to the use of these weapons. This loss of human life will not lead to productive or lasting US/Pakistan relations.