US drone program in Pak, Afghanistan should continue, but with serious "hearts and minds" effort

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Washington, Oct.27 (ANI): Washington, Oct.27 (ANI): As the Obama administration considers relying more heavily on remote-controlled drones to attack militants along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, there are concerns that Washington will risk losing the hearts and minds of civilians along the way.

According to a Fox News report, civilian casualties resulting from the use of unmanned Predator aircraft have a subject of fierce criticism, particularly from local governments and from the media in Pakistan.

"It's a delicate balance, without question," said Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., who sits on the House Armed Services Committee.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, where such strikes are far less common, has argued for a troop-heavy counterinsurgency strategy to build an alliance with the population.Pre-occupied with protection of our own forces, we have operated in a manner that distances us-physically and psychologically - - from the people we seek to protect," he wrote.

"In addition, we run the risk of strategic defeat by pursuing tactical wins that cause civilian casualties or unnecessary collateral damage. The insurgents cannot defeat us militarily; but we can defeat ourselves," he added.avid Kilcullen, one of the architects of Gen. David Petraeus' counterinsurgency strategy in Iraq, was so concerned about popular backlash that he told a House committee in April that the drone program should be ended.

Far from it, the program has been expanded.

The drones, which allow U.S. forces to take out sought-after targets from remote locations thousands of miles away, are considered a priceless tool. new study from the New America Foundation found that with 41 drone strikes under his watch in Pakistan, President Obama has "dramatically increased" the number of drone attacks.

Various estimates show these attacks have taken out more than a dozen top terrorist leaders.

The New America Foundation study showed that since 2006, more than 30 percent of the total number killed-between 750 and 1,000 people-were civilians.

One Pakistani journalist in April put that number at nearly 700.

The New America Foundation report said "militants have used them as an excuse" to hit government targets.

Bruce Hoffman, a Georgetown University professor who specializes in terrorism and insurgency studies, said the Taliban have flexed their propaganda strength by drawing attention to such collateral damage.

He said the drone program should be continued, but only if complemented by a serious "hearts and minds" effort. (ANI)

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