‘Drone strikes unlawful, unacceptable despite tactical advantages’

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday acknowledged “tactical advantages” to US drone strikes on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, but appeared to shrug off the unexpected confirmation by Washington of attacks on its soil.

The remarks from Pakistan’s foreign ministry came as President Barack Obama confirmed for the first time that drone aircraft had targeted militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

“Notwithstanding tactical advantages of drone strikes, we are of the firm view that these are unlawful, counterproductive and hence unacceptable,” ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told AFP in a text message.

“Our view has always been very clear and position principled,” he added.

US diplomatic cables leaked by WikiLeaks in late 2010 showed that Pakistan’s civilian and military leaders privately supported US drone attacks, despite public condemnation in a country where the US alliance is hugely unpopular.

When asked about drones in a chat with web users on Google+ and YouTube, Obama said “a lot of these strikes have been in the Fata” — Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan deteriorated sharply in 2011, over the covert American raid that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in May and US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.

Islamabad is now reviewing its entire alliance with the United States and has kept its Afghan border closed to Nato supply convoys since Nov 26.

It ordered US personnel to leave Shamsi air base in western Pakistan, widely believed to have been a hub for the CIA drone program, and is thought likely to only reopen the Afghan border by exacting taxes on convoys.

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