Obama's drone speech well-received by Pakistan, Yemen, UN


US President Barack Obama speaks at the National Defense University May 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Obama used the speech to outline and justify his administration's counterterrorism policy, including increased cooperation with Congress on matters of national security, added transparency regarding the use of drones, and a review of current threats facing the United States.


Win McNamee

US President Barack Obama's landmark speech on the United States' drone program Thursday was well-received by Pakistan and Yemen, two of the countries most affected by drone strikes.

The United Nations drone inquiry also reacted positively to the speech, calling it "historic."

However, some still maintain that it is "not good enough."

On Thursday, Obama outlined stricter rules and regulations for drones, which have been used to target suspected militants in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, and other countries. Critics have blamed drone strikes for high numbers of civilian casualties.  

More from GlobalPost: Obama outlines new drone policy, addresses Guantanamo in major counterterrorism speech (VIDEO)

In Pakistan, response to Obama's speech has been wary, GlobalPost correspondent Mariya Karimjee reported from Karachi. Though many Pakistanis welcomed his words, happy with what they saw as an acknowledgement of lives lost, most people argued that it was only a first step.  

"Obama has finally responded to the popular sentiment in this country, which is fiercely against the drones, and I think that shows a certain sensitivity," said Mushahid Hussain, chairman of the defense committee in Pakistan's Senate.

"But for the people of Pakistan that is not good enough unless there is a cessation of drone attacks," he added. 

A senior official from recently elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League party also expressed disappointment that Obama did not mention consulting the new Pakistani government on continuing drones, BBC News reported

Pakistan is one of the countries most affected by US drones: it has been hit by 355 such attacks since 2004, which have killed as many as 3,336 people, including 282 civilians and 2,217 militants, according to US think tank the New America Foundation

The speech came just weeks after a high court in Peshawar said that the use of drone strikes by the United States was illegal and said that Pakistan had the right to shoot them down. 

More from GlobalPost: Pakistan court rules US drone strikes as illegal 'war crimes'

A Yemeni intelligence official also spoke in support of Obama's speech anonymously, saying drone strikes had deterred Al Qaeda from spreading its influence in the country. 

Ben Emmerson, the head lawyer of the UN's investigation into drone attacks worldwide, also praised Obama's stance

"It sets out more clearly and more authoritatively than ever before the administration's legal justifications for targeted killing, and the constraints that it operates under," Emmerson said. 

"The publication of the procedural guidelines for the use of force in counterterrorism operations is a significant step towards increased transparency and accountability," he added. 

Mariya Karimjee contributed to this piece from Karachi, Pakistan.