The number two Taliban official in Pakistan is dead, the Pakistani Taliban has confirmed, along with six others, likely at the hands of an American drone. This just days after President Obama pledged to scale back his controversial drone program.
Now the White House is playing coy.
The very first question in yesterday’s daily press briefing came from the Associated Press, and tested the limits of Obama’s pledge:
“Last week, the President spoke about greater transparency in its drone program,” the AP reporter asked. “And in that spirit, I want to ask whether you can confirm reports of a drone attack that killed a Pakistani Taliban leader today in Pakistan?”
Carney responded that he was unable to confirm or deny the death of Waliur Rehman.
“If those reports were true or prove to be true, it’s worth noting that his demise would deprive the TTP — Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — of its second in command and chief military strategist,” the White House Press Secretary said.
While Carney did not explain why he was unable to confirm Rehman’s death, he did clarify that more transparency “does not mean that we would be able to discuss the details of every counterterrorism operation.”
In response to the strike, Taliban officials in Pakistan have pledged to hold the newly elected government of Pakistan responsible for the prevalence of U.S. drones in the skies.
“We hold the government of Pakistan responsible for this killing,” a Taliban spokesman told Reuters. “We will teach a lesson to Pakistan and United States for depriving us of our beloved leader.”
Rehman was reportedly open to peace talks with the Pakistani government.
Incoming Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif criticised the American drone program shortly after his election.
“Drones indeed are challenging our sovereignty,” Sharif said. “Of course we have taken this matter up very seriously. I think this is a very serious issue, and our concern must be understood properly.”
75 people have been killed at the hands of American drones in Pakistan so far this year, according to reports.
The MQ-1 Predator went lethal in February 2001, when the first Hellfire missiles were fired during Air Force testing
The Hellfire missile is best for urban combat, because at 100 pounds it's small and minimizes collateral damage
The MQ-1 Predator can fly at speeds up to 135 miles per hour, but usually cruises along at a more leisurely 80 to 103 mph
The Predator program has since taken down suspected terror operatives in Afghanistan, Yemen, and Pakistan
In 2010, the Predator program's busiest year, it executed more than strikes in Pakistan, killing 815 people
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