This contradicts Washington’s position that the Pakistani military and intelligence services have at least tacitly supported the strikes, which began in 2004 and have significantly escalated since President Obama took office. At one point earlier in the campaign, the two nations shared intelligence on militant targets, but Pakistani officials vehemently deny that they are still doing so.
The drone campaign “involves the use of force on the territory of another State without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” Emmerson said in a statement released Thursday that only gained wider notice Friday.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the Obama administration had “seen [Emerson’s] press release,” but would not comment on classified information.
“What I would say,” she added, “is that we have a strong ongoing counterterrorism dialogue with Pakistan, and that will continue.”
For years the Obama administration has asserted that its covert, targeted killings with unmanned aircraft hovering over Pakistan and elsewhere are proper under U.S. and international law. Targets are chosen under strict criteria and civilian deaths and injuries are rare, the CIA says.
Emmerson, a British lawyer, said Pakistani officials have confirmed that at least 400 civilians had been killed as a result of drone strikes, and that another 200 individuals killed were “probable noncombatants.”
Estimates of total militant deaths and civilian casualties vary widely. Independent confirmation is difficult in part because the strikes often occur in remote, dangerous tribal areas where Taliban insurgents and al-Qaeda and its allied militants are active.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London has estimated that at least 411 civilians – or as many as 884 – were among some 2,536 to 3,577 people killed in the CIA strikes in Pakistan. But Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D), who chaired the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearings last month that confirmed new CIA Director John O. Brennan, put the number of civilian deaths considerably lower.
‘The figures we have obtained from the executive branch, which we have done our utmost to verify, confirm that the number of civilian casualties that have resulted from such strikes each year has typically been in the single digits,” she said.
Emmerson conducted talks this week with senior civilian Pakistani officials, as well as representatives of tribal areas where the remotely piloted vehicles operate.