Obama defends drone strikes in Pakistan

President Obama on Monday defended the use of drone strikes to kill al Qaeda terrorists in countries such as Pakistan.

Asked in a Google+ "virtual interview" about civilian casualties from drone strikes, the president said that they have not caused a large number of civilian casualties because they are precise.

“We are very careful in terms of how it’s been applied,” Obama said. “It’s important for everybody to understand this thing is kept on a very tight leash.”


Obama said the drones can target terrorists in areas where the military would not necessarily be able to go. The drones go after people “who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans,” he said.

The president also confirmed that the drone attacks are being waged in Pakistan. 

“Obviously a lot of these strikes have been in the FATA,” Obama said, referring to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Newspapers overseas reported Obama's comments as the president "confirming" and "admitting" that the U.S. is flying drones in Pakistan. 

Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman, Abdul Basit, called the drone strikes “unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable,” according to GEO Pakistan.

Relations between Pakistan and the United States have deteriorated in recent months, particularly after the U.S. raid in Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden, which Pakistan said was a violation of its sovereignty. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Sunday that he believes someone in the Pakistani government knew that bin Laden was there.

Relations between the countries were strained further in November when NATO forces killed 24 Pakistani troops along the border. Pakistan responded by shutting off supply routes temporarily into Afghanistan.