The foreign minister of Pakistan told a gathering in New York on Thursday evening that the top cause of anti-Americanism in her country is the U.S. tactic of drone attacks.
"The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal," said Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar in an event at the Asia Society, according to the Agence France-Presse. "It is illegal and it is unlawful."
The United States has deployed drones as part of a top-secret, but increasingly exposed, war against suspected terrorists in the mountainous regions of northern Pakistan. Several investigations, including a recent report by a group of law professors at Stanford and New York University, have concluded that the drones have killed thousands of people in the years since 9/11, including hundreds of civilians.
U.S. officials have generally avoided speaking about the program, except to occasionally and abstractly defend its legality -- and to deny that any civilians have been killed.
Asked why opinion polls consistently rank Pakistan among the most anti-American countries in the world, Khar responded with a single word: "Drones."
Khar noted that the Pakistani government approves of their overall strategic purpose -- to target and kill high-level militants -- but the manner in which they have been used by the U.S., she said, has been "illegal" and has turned the local populations against the United States.
“What the drones are trying to achieve, we may not disagree. We do not disagree. If they're going for terrorists, we do not disagree,” Khar said, according to the AFP. "But we have to find ways which are lawful, which are legal."
She added, “The use of unilateral strikes on Pakistani territory is illegal."
A recent Wall Street Journal article revealed that the United States have established a particularly low-fidelity way of establishing Pakistani assent for the drone strikes. Once a month, an official at the CIA sends a fax to the headquarters of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency. The lack of a reply, even once, has been interpreted by Washington as implicit approval.