Drone strikes in Pakistan, elsewhere need to continue
KABUL (PAN: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Friday the United States will have to continue with a broad drone war in Pakistan and elsewhere against Al Qaeda militants to prevent another terror attack on America.
In an interview with a foreign news agency, Panetta said drone strikes needed to be continued more than a decade since the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Amid widespread criticism from human rights groups and some US allies, Panetta, who is days away from retiring as Pentagon chief, said the US campaign had been effective in the assassination of Al Qaeda figures in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia with unmanned, robotic aircrafts.
Asked if the CIA “targeted killings” should be curtailed in coming years, Panetta told AFP he thought it depended on the nature of the threat. "We are in a war. We’re in a war on terrorism and we’ve been in that war since 9/11."
He said the whole purpose of drone operations were aimed at those who killed 3,000 innocent people in New York as well as 200 people at the Pentagon.
“I think we had a responsibility to use whatever technology we could to be able to go after those who not only conducted that attack but were planning to continue to attack this country,” he said.
“It’s been an important part of our operations against Al-Qaeda, not just in Pakistan, but also in Yemen, in Somalia and I think it ought to continue to be a tool we ought to use where necessary,” he said.
The CIA drone bombing raids, by Predator and Reaper aircraft armed with Hellfire missiles, have caused an unknown number of civilian casualties and prompted accusations that Washington is carrying out extrajudicial killings in the shadows with no genuine oversight by courts or lawmakers.
Some critics have called for giving the US military authority over the drone air strikes, which would require openly reporting every operation.