Obama defends use of drone strikes

  • US President Barack Obama has defended his administration’s use of drones against Al Qaeda and its allies.

    In a major policy speech on Thursday, Obama maintained he was limiting targeted killings, which have come under increasing scrutiny both at home and abroad.

    "Dozens of highly skilled al Qaeda commanders, trainers, bomb makers, and operatives have been taken off the battlefield. Plots have been disrupted that would have targeted international aviation, U.S. transit systems, European cities and our troops in Afghanistan. Simply put, these strikes have saved lives. Moreover, America's actions are legal. We were attacked on 9/11. Within a week, Congress overwhelmingly authorized the use of force. Under domestic law, and international law, the United States is at war with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and their associated forces. We are at war with an organization that right now would kill as many Americans as they could if we did not stop them first. So this is a just war - a war waged proportionally, in last resort, and in self-defense," Obama said at the U.S. National Defense University at Fort McNair in Washington, D.C..

    Obama added that the United States would only use drone strikes when a threat is "continuing and imminent”.

    "America does not take strikes when we have the ability to capture individual terrorists - our preference is always to detain, interrogate, and prosecute them. America cannot take strikes wherever we choose - our actions are bound by consultations with partners, and respect for state sovereignty. America does not take strikes to punish individuals - we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat. And before any strike is taken, there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured - the highest standard we can set," Obama said.

    Obama also addressed criticism that there had been too many civilian deaths and injuries as a result of drone strikes.

    Human rights groups have condemned the use of unmanned drones to carry out attacks.

    Under new presidential guidance signed by Obama, the Defense Department will now take charge of launching drones, as opposed to the current practice of the CIA taking the lead.