US drone war threatens to fan instability

(By Deutsche Welle) The Obama administration has stepped up its drone campaign in Pakistan and Yemen in a bid to cripple al Qaeda once and for all. Analysts are concerned that the loss of civilian life could fan political instability.

The United States has stepped up its controversial drone campaign in Yemen’s south and along the Afghan-Pakistan border over the past month, launching 14 confirmed strikes and killing at least 70 suspected militants, according to a tally by DW based on media reports.

The airstrikes make good on US President Barack Obama’s campaign pledge to wage an expanded war against al Qaeda while winding down America’s politically and economically costly land campaigns in the Middle East and South Asia. Although US troops withdrew from Iraq in December 2011 and are officially set to do so in Afghanistan by 2014, Washington’s remote-controlled drone war has jumped precipitously since Obama entered office in January 2009.

Obama’s top counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan, described the administration’s expanded drone campaign at length for the first time in an April 30th speech before the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars, calling such strikes “ethical,” “legal” and “just.” Brennan argued that the right to self defense under international law and the congressional authorization of force against al-Qaeda and the Taliban served as the legal foundations of the campaign.

“It’s hard to imagine a tool that can better minimize the risk to civilians than remotely piloted aircraft,” Brennan said during his speech. “There is absolutely nothing casual about the extraordinary care we take in making the decision to pursue an al Qaeda terrorist, and the lengths to which we go to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.”

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