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Drone strikes: are Operational Concerns Guiding Strategy?

Oct 4

Time Not Specified

SDPI Seminar Hall, 38, Embassy Road, G-6/3, Islamabad

SDPI Round Table

Note: You
may also watch live streaming of the event at

Concept Note:

The United States
government has not only ramped up the use of armed drones against groups and
individuals, it is carrying out drone strikes in states with which the US is not at war – Pakistan
and Yemen.
At least in the case of Pakistan,
the US
is using drone strikes unilaterally and without permission from the Government
of Pakistan. The US
has, however, made clear that it will continue to do so regardless of the
illegality of such strikes. The Central Intelligence Agency, according to
reports in the US
media, wants authority to expand its drone strike campaign even when it does
not know the identities of those who could be killed. Insiders say such
strikes, referred to as “signature strikes”, hit targets based only
on intelligence which the CIA thinks indicates patterns of “suspicious

It is now a recorded fact that “signature
strikes” increase the risk of killing innocent civilians, as well as the
risk of killing people who have no dispute with the United States. As the US newspaper The Washington Post noted in a
story, “signature” drone strikes have been part of the CIA’s
programme in Pakistan
for several years. These strikes are very controversial in Pakistan and the GoP is under tremendous
pressure to get the US to
stop its drone strike campaign in Pakistan. The Pakistani opposition
to the drones is also now plugged into the larger global narrative on the US’ use of

Recently, however, while speaking at a US think tank in New York,
Pakistan’s foreign minister,
Hina Rabbani Khar, is reported to have said that Pakistan
does not object to the US
objective to target terrorists through drones but it cannot accept the illegal
way in which the US
has gone about such strikes on Pakistani territory. 

Given the US strategy to use covert ops teams and drones
around the globe to target groups and individuals; realising that the
opposition to the US use of drones is also gathering momentum; and accepting
that technological advances will further complicate the application of the
current legal regimes and practices to warfare, SDPI’s Peace and Conflict
Studies programme is hosting a roundtable to look at the use and usefulness of
drone strikes at the politico-strategic and operational levels…


Chair: Mr Ejaz Haider, Senior Advisor, Policy Outreach, (SDPI)