Assassination drones seem to have become the weapon of choice of the Obama administration, which has increased sharply the number of drone strikes in several countries — including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Press TV has interviewed former Pentagon official Michael Maloof from Washington to discuss the issue. The following is a rough transcript of the interview:
Press TV: Mr. Maloof, first of all, some say that it seems that this drone issue is becoming more like a strategy to implement some kind of future idea or plan.
Now as a former Pentagon official, how do you see it? Because it’s gone into countries that one can hardly imagine.
Maloof: Well, it’s a secret program. It’s designed to be a covert program as you pointed out.
And I think that it reflects the fact that the United States is pulling back from the Middle East generally and is also pulling back somewhat from the war on terror so they resort into these drones and they’re keeping it purposely secret.
And that in turn is masking the number of civilian casualties that are occurring and which are actually on the rise.
The fact that the Imam Alwaki was killed by a drone attack in Yemen speaks volumes of the extent to which drones are being used whether they’re launched from Ethiopia or anywhere else. Civilians are being killed by these [drones] and the numbers are quite startling.
Press TV: Besides the civilian death toll caused by these airstrikes you spoke of the fact that this plan was secret; I mean be it secret or non secret, overt or covert; it has to follow an objective, a goal; what is that goal do you think?
Maloof: Well the goal is… particularly in Pakistan, because we cannot go into the country with boots on the ground, as such the idea that is to reach out and try to hit targets at a distance and if we were to put troops into Pakistan it would create tremendous problems and difficulties.
And from the US standpoint that’s where the terrorists that are attacking in Afghanistan are using as refuge.
And of course the United States believes that with the complicity of the Pakistani government, particularly their Inter -Service Intelligence (ISI) director that is actually protecting these terrorists- like the Al-Qaida network and the Afghan Taliban which go back and forth in the tribal areas to attack the US in Afghanistan, so consequently in order to hit these sanctuaries they’re going to be used in the drones.
Now there has been some discussion that this is being done with the complicit view of the Pakistani government with the idea that they will complain publicly if these attacks occur- and that is to give them some sense of independence.
There has been some understandings between the United States and Pakistani government to not admit that the Pakistani government somewhat complicit in these attacks and then that gives the government of Pakistan plausible denial when these attacks occur and then they can get out and publicly condemn these attacks, which they are doing.
Press TV: Now in order to carry out these drone strikes- I mean the US needs to fund them. Now in the long run what effect would such spending have on the US?
Until when can it afford for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and now this so called drone war- besides they’re costing America’s reputation?
Maloof: Well, relatively speaking the drone war is probably cheaper than committing tens of thousands of troops over an extended period of time given the logistical supply lines that they’re having to pay for.
So this is actually a cheaper way- I mean the technology is such that they can guide these drones from half way around the world, they have to take off from a nearby location but they can be guided from well within the United States if need be.
Chances are they’re probably guided from somewhere in Europe or in bases that are close to the Middle East but they have the capability of being guided to target.
But the problem is being able to identify positively what those targets are half a world away and that seems to be a growing issue.
Press TV:: Alright we’ll leave you there for the time being. That was Michael Maloof, former Pentagon official joining us live from Washington. Many thanks.