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Jacob Shively

Bombs across the border

The United States government actively kills foreign citizens inside Pakistan’s sovereign territory. For years an open secret, President Obama publicly acknowledged the campaign in a January 30 web chat. He said the operations are a “targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists,” and they avoid a “huge number of civilian casualties.” Ultimately, Obama said, “The really bad guys are being killed.”Outside observers are not as certain. Along with over 2,000 presumed al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants, estimates of civilian deaths since 2004 range widely: between 391 and 780 non-combatants, including up to 175 children. For every high-profile strike like the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, dozens of other strikes occur with little outside scrutiny and much public protest from Pakistanis.Is the West undermining its own principles, violating human rights and inviting unnecessary backlash with such violence? Supporters agree with Obama that “halting the pressure now would be a mistake” because, they say, the campaign efficiently eliminates or harasses many militant leaders who would otherwise be coordinating attacks in Afghanistan.Opponents, however, insist that the military campaign violates international laws (and generates more enemies than it kills). Despite some US-Pakistani collaboration on the program, the US effectively conducts its operations at will inside Pakistan—a clear violation of state sovereignty. Plus, questions of human rights and humane treatment abound. To many, US interventions in Pakistan look like violations of the values Americans and their allies are claiming to defend.The debate begins with NATO success in Afghanistan. With support from a friendly Taliban regime in Kabul, al Qaeda had established a permanent presence in Afghanistan, from which it orchestrated the 9/11 terror attacks. By late 2001, US air strikes and Special Forces were leading an anti-Taliban coalition across Afghanistan. Many Taliban and al Qaeda leaders… Read More