tv Inside Story Al Jazeera October 28, 2013 11:30am-12:01pm EDT
hours a day. policies kill civilians in ally nations questions of sovereignty and legality get in the way of good relations. drones in pakistan. that's tonight's inside story. >> hello, i'm libby casey in washington. pakistan and united states have a complicated and often strained relationship. the two countries share vital interest . the state of the relationship is
more important than ever. and tonight pakistan's prime minister nawasa sharif is at the white house for his first face-to-face meeting with president obama. one of the issues on the table is the use of drones in pakistan. we'll talk about drone strikes, u.s. national security policy and pakistani american relations. but first this background. >> this young girl has never received an explanation of the drone strike that killed her grandmother who was picking vegetables in a large family field. >> killed in a drone strike that appears to be directed at her. her grandchildren recounted in painful detail the moment when she was blown into pieces in front of their very eyes. >> reporter: this is familiar
i.d. card is all that they have left of the 68-year-old grandmother, the victim of an alleged u.s. drone attack in pakistan. her killing is just one example used at a press conference in washington, d.c. where two high profile human rights organizations teamed up to issue dual reports of victims of u.s. drone strikes specifically in pakistan and yemen. the story is far from an isolated incident. >> u.s. drone assisted strike killed 12 people in a passenger van . the target of that strike was an alleged militant. >> reporter: according to a report dozens if not hundreds of casualties in the region are because of covert strikes of suspected drones targeting militants but killing innocents. these non-governmental organizations teamed up in hopes
of getting an explanation and accountability from the obama administration. in pakistan alone amnesty international reports there have been at least 300 drone missile attacks in less than a decade. the government in pakistan estimate 400 civilians have been killed as a result of drone strikes. in washington this week for a meeting for president obama pakistan's prime minister naw az sharif has under scored the concern. >> i would therefore stress the need for an end to drone attacks. >> reporter: at the heart of it is accountability. critics say the obama administration is not open about how drones are used, where they are used in places like yemen and how targets are chosen. >> the most challenging situation we had to face was the complete and utter secrecy of the u.s. authorities. because of that we cannot be 100% certain, but we are extremely concerned that these
and other killings documented in our report may constitute war crimes . >> it is a hard factor that drone strikes have resulted in civilian casualties. a risk in every war. for the families of those civilians no words or legal construct can justify their loss. >> reporter: president obama tried to clarify his drone warfare policy in a major speech on national security last spring. he acknowledged civilian casualties but said the u.s. does all it can to mitigate them. >> america does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists. our preference is to detain, interrogate and prosecute. america cannot take strikes wherever we choose.
>> sovereignty is another issue as mr. obama sits down with pakistani prime minister sharif at the white house today. there are broader regional security issues at state. [ gunfire ] pakistan is a key ally and needed partner . since the raid inside pakistan that killed osama bin laden in 2011 relations between the u.s. and pakistan have been tense but this first face-to-face meeting between president obama and prime minister sharif is symbolically important, and it's backed up in money, too. the united states just realized aid for security assistance. joining us now to discuss the american-pakistani relationship and u.s. drone policy is david sedni.
from new york fisa patel at the brennan center for justice. and the director of the atlantic council's south asia center. thanks to you all for being here. david, we'll start with you. how realistic is it to say that we want to see more transparency transparency. >> they operate in areas that the united states hasn't the ability to operate in any other way. for them to be effective they need to be secret. >> but they play so poorly in terms of the public relations. we'll hear from the prime minister of pakistan but we're hearing from the citizens of pakistan. we heard from the teenager who met with president obama this month, and one message she had was that drone strikes are harming relationships and creating more terrorists. what is the opinion of pakistan
cities. >> the pakistanis who don't live in the affected area are opposed to drone strikes because that is the message that they've been receiving from their own government and military despite the fact that there were secret understandings that allowed drone strikes to go on with the conniving of the pakistani military. there are groups who don't want the drone strikes--they don't want the drone strikes but don't want the bad guys who are attracting war to the region. much of the opposition comes from the area that is directly affected. >> tell us more about that region. >> well, that region is a buffer zone that has been kept a as a buffer zone. it was created as a buffer zone between british india and pakistan and remains so.
it has never been brought into pakistan proper although constitutional it is part of pakistan. >> is the tool the problem or the actions being taken? would it be different if the u.s. were sending in special forces putting boots on the ground? >> no, it wouldn't. the tool is not the problem. it's when the u.s. are acting to kill people. whether it's a state of war or in a situation that is not a battle field. the united states like any other country has greater room to undertake killing operations when it's in the middle of a battlefield. but outside of a battlefield that discretion is much more limited. think of it as a difference between an armed conflict that is ongoing and the level of discretion that you do give soldiers to kill in that situation versus peacetime for example, a policeman kills a
civilian, there is an inquiry and a lot of process that goes on around it. that's really where the issue lies. >> david sedney how david is it to find information about the casualties and the toll that goes beyond those being targeted? >> it was difficult to impossible to find real facts behind the alleged figures. i have serious doubts about the figures in these reports because of the difficulty in gathering information. because as we just said this is a battlefield. these action versus taken place. it's a battlefield. it's a battlefield where extremists are trying to kill americans, trying to kill afghans, pakistan anies and other people in the world we need to defend ourselves. because the government of pakistan lax sovereignt
lacks sovereignty. >> how difficult is it? >> i think it's very difficult to get information, and they acknowledge the difficulty of getting complete information about the impact of drone strikes on civilians. what they try to do instead is paint a portrait of a few drone strikes where they were able to interview a number of witnesses and cross check sources. i think they give us a pretty accurate picture of the strikes they are covering, but as both reports point out it's really up to the u.s. government to come forward and be more transparent about this program which is something frankly that president obama suggested that he was going to do back in the spring when he made his big counterterrorism speech, but we haven't seen too much progress from the administration on this front. >> let's take a short break. when we come back we'll have
more on drone policy and then turn to the broader american-pakistani relationship. this is "inside story." (vo) al jazeera america we understand that every news story begins and ends with people. >> the efforts are focused on rescuing stranded residents. (vo) we pursue that story beyond the headline, past the spokesperson, to the streets. >> thousands of riot police deployed across the capitol. (vo) we put all of our global resources behind every story. >> it is a scene of utter devastation. (vo) and follow it no matter where it leads, all the way to you. al jazeera america. take a new look at news.
>> welcome back to "inside story." in our discussion of the united states drone policy and the relationship with pakistan. still with us is david sedney, former deputy assistant secretary of defense. and in new york, faiza patel, and shuja nawaz. what is pakistan doing about these tribal regions welcome what control or oversight do they have over there? >> they've been gradua gradually using control. the making people in that part of the country feeling like their' pakistanis 100%. they're treated under a very different set of laws. they're governed by the president through the governor, a neighboring province, and so they are excluded. in fact, in pakistan the area is
referred to as the alien territory , or the foreign territory. so there is a disconnect between the area and pakistan proper, yet it is part of pakistan. i would like to go back to something that david said about it being a battle zone. i if that's the case, thi this is creating a legal issue similar to vietnam and cambodia, which was not part of the war zone, should u.s. forces be used when there should be some policing done. the problem will continue when the pakistanis are not capable nor have they shown the desire to police the area. >> faiza patel, jump int into te legality of this. >> thank you for bringing that
up. i also agree with you. it's not clear to me that the area counts as a war zone. and when go into yemen it's hard to argue that we're talking about a battlefield scenario there. i think there is a disconnect between the u.s. position that it is at war with al-qaeda and it's associated forces everywhere and the traditional notion of the battlefield that is geographically and temporally defined about. it has its own lines lines acting as if this is a war. whereas i think that's legally quite debatable. >> david sedney, you just left the obama administration in may. so what is legality? what are the questions here? and if the u.s. is at war with al-qaeda, what justification does it have to go across the
borders to meet those ends? >> first of all, i'll stress that i'm no longer with the administration but the united states has the right and responsibility for self defense. when others are attacking us the government has the duty to respond to that, and part that have duty is being carried out right now by these attacks. in yemen the legality issue i think is different because there is an explicit statement by the leader of yemen that has supported these attacks. in pakistan the situation is more murky. it's not clear to the people of pakistan or the government of pakistan but the bottom line of the united states is if we don't do these attacks then more americans will die. for those who are attacking us in time square, elsewhere in the world are making their plans, raising their money and training in this area. >> i want you to respond to that, what option does the u.s.
have if the pakistanis are not taking control of themselves and if they aren't able to police their own regions. >> president obama laid out the standards that the united states should follow in his speech earlier this year. he said there were thee things that the u.s. would take into account when conducting a zone strike. first it was absolutely impossible to capture the person because he said the preference the united states is to capture people and detain them. that should rightly be the preference of the united states, especially in a situation where there is a lot of uncertainty on the ground and u.s. intelligence has improved over the years, but whether or not some of the people who are accused of being militants are militants or terrorists or would be terrorists is not at all clear to people. the second issue that president obama himself said there should be an immanent threat to the united states. i think there is a real question as to whether some of the people
who are being killed through these drone strikes actually posed an immanent threat to the united states. >> how concerned should the u.s. be about international law? what kind of precedent does it set if the u.s. are doing these drone strikes. >> i think the u.s. and other countries should be concerned because the price of entry in the drone market, as it were, is not very high. many countries are going to be acquiring drone technologies and these will be increasingly used in cross-border situations. it is very critical that there be a better international understanding an agreement on what constitutes the right of a country to go across the border to protect itself. and what pressure can the international community put on those countries that harbor terrorism militants or provide a training ground for them. this needs to be sorted out. drone technology is widely available, and sooner or later, not just states but non-state actors have access to it.
>> i want to come back to one thing. david, you were shaking your head known as you heard faiza talking about some of the civilian killings. if there is proof that even one person is killed, one casualty that wasn't intentional, does that come to bear? should that come to bear on u.s. decisions. >> as president obama said we have to work very hard to have civilian casualties be as small as possible, and we work very hard i'm sure to make sure there are no civilian casualties. this is a war. this is a battlefield. there are occasion ally civilian casuals. the problem is they're much higher-- >> they put a face and name on one person. >> if they put a face and name on one person, but the people who are being attacked, they are killing tens of people, scores of people, thousands of people. this is a battle that's going on right now. little girls are having their
feet blown off in pakistan. >> we'll talk more about what this means for the u.s.-pakistani relationship when we come back after this short break. stay with us. >> while you were asleep, news was happening. >> here are the stories we're following. >> find out what happened and what to expect. >> international outrage. >> a day of political posturing. >> every morning from 6 to 10am al jazeera america brings you more us and global news than any other american news channel. >> tell us exactly what is behind this story. >> from more sources around the world. >> the situation has intensified here at the boarder. >> start every morning, every day, 6am to 10 eastern with al jazeera america.
>> welcome back to inside story. we're talking about the complex and often strained relationship between the united states and pakistan. still with us is david sedney, the former deputy secretary of defense. and face face and shuja nawaz of the atlantic council. mr. nuwaz, we're watching president obama meet with pakistani prime minister sharif. he is very opposed to the drone strikes, verbally out loud against them. what happens behind closed doors when these men meet versus what happens in public. >> i think reality sets in. i think it's really aimed at domestic audiences in pakistan. there has not been a substantive discussion of drones as far as i know by this government. there has been no u.s. ambassador in the united states
from pakistan since the government took over. but prime minister sharif came in to this meeting as a very powerful civilian leader of pakistan, someone with a substantial civilian majority. he has yet to establish his control over the military, but his instincts are right. his instincts are also right in trying to build relationships to the east with india and to the west with afghanistan. he's bringing some very powerful tools to the conversation. i don't expect that they will have discussed any major breakthroughs. this is really putting the relationship on a positive trajectory. >> faiza patel, one of the tools that president obama brings to the table is money. we see $1.6 billion in aid bound for pakistan. what is that used for, and why is that significant? >> well, a lot of that aid is going to go to the military. that's obviously hugely significant because they are a
powerful player in the pakistani landscape. and i mean, there is always an issue here. does aid buy cooperation? i'm not sure that it always does, but it always makes the relationship a lot friendlier and it makes other countries more willing to listen to the united states. it doesn't mean that the pakistan will put their own strategic interest aside because of this aid, but it helps. >> david sedney, how does that come to play in the relationship? >> it's vital. as the united states is drawing down our combat forces in afghanistan, it's important for the future of pakistan what happens in afghanistan. as afghanistan looks to pakistan to help counter those violent extremists who attack pakistan from the pakistani border areas as we were talking earlier. prime minister sharif has made a number of positive steps as shuja nawaz was just saying, and
i'm sure that our leaders will be talking more about those steps as the united states and pakistan can cooperate more effectively as hour presence is reduced in afghanistan. >> talk us through what sort of trianglealation that gives them. what power or what opportunity does that give him to move around or not work with the taliban? >> it's quite simple. if he's willing to sit down and talk with them, not negotiate so much as talk to them, he gets a chance to listen to their views. they have to accept the writ of the pakistani state. without that the conversation is a non-starter. but if they push back or break any tentative agreements that have been agreed to between the authorities and the terrorists inside pakistan, it gives them the option of using force. but force is really not the ultimate solution.
in the end he has to integrate this border region in with pakistan economically. and once he does that he opens the border for pakistan for better trade and india for better trade. >> faiza patel, to bring it back to drones, how does that come into these conversations in terms of a bargaining chip or a political play? >> you know, i think shuja said it well, which is the pakistani government says one thing and probably does another because it has, in fact, tolerated these drone strikes at least some parts of the government has tolerated the drone strikes in pakistani territory over the last several years. but i think the prime minister is also working with very negative public perception in pakistan because of these drone strikes. certainly his public statements are aimed at making sure that
the pakistani public understands his position on the drone strikes. now how far he pushes that with president obama as part of the grander strategy is something that i think remains to be seen. i think a lot of people recognize that, you know, drone strikes are not a long-term solution to the issue at hand, and you do eventually have to find a way to integrate different factions into the government, and that certainly once the u.s. draws down in 2014 we're going to see an even greater of those strikes. >> thank you so much for joining us. that's it from the team in washington, d.c. and from me, libby casey, thanks for watching. good night.