On Friday, the White House authorized the Central Intelligence Agency to expand unmanned aerial drones in Pakistan to hunt and kill suspected terrorists within the Taliban and al-Qaeda, according to the New York Times
Even though the drone program started under former President George W. Bush, the use of drones on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan has been increasing since President Obama took office. AFP
notes that since summer of 2008, hundreds of civilian casualties
were killed in the aerial attacks, which prompted the Pakistani government
to call upon the US military to suspend the drone attacks.
However, the United Press International
reports a senior US official correcting the initial reports of 625 killed over the last two years to actually 400, “We believe the number of civilian casualties is just over 20, and those were people who were either at the side of major terrorists or were at facilities used by terrorists.”
As part of US military policy, the armed forces never releases the death tally numbers from drone attacks.
Also on Friday, the White House discussed with Pakistan about the use of US drones in the Baluchistan province, a key tribal region bordering the Afghanistan-Iran area, which is reported to be harboring Afghan Taliban leaders.
Islamabad is generally opposed to the US violating the nation’s sovereignty.
One anonymous US official told the New York Times
, “The president endorsed an intensification of the campaign against Al Qaeda and its violent allies, including even more operations targeting terrorism safe havens. More people, more places, more operations.”
The President also had to convey a message that pleased both Americans and Pakistan officials. He promised the Pakistan leadership that that his country wouldn’t leave the region like 20 years ago but then in his speech on Tuesday, he pledged to the American people that combat troops in Afghanistan would begin a withdrawal phase starting July 2011.