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.
<strong>Q: What is the Haqqani network?</strong><br> A: The Haqqani network is considered one of the most dangerous militant groups fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan, partly because of its record of carrying out high-profile attacks in the capital, Kabul. The group is based across the border in Pakistan's North Waziristan tribal area but also has significant strength in eastern Afghanistan, the original home of the network's founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani. He made a name for himself in the 1980s when he fought the Soviets in Afghanistan, with extensive support from U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies. He fled to Pakistan following the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. Haqqani is now believed to be in his 60s or older and has handed day-to-day operations of the group over to his son, Sirajuddin.<br> <em>Caption: A file photo of Jalaluddin Haqqani, founder of the militant group the Haqqani network, on Aug. 22, 1998. (AP Photo/Mohammed Riaz, File)</em>
<strong>Q: What impact will the U.S. designation of the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization have on the group?</strong><br> A: The designation requires U.S. financial institutions to freeze assets owned by the network and outlaws Americans from providing the group funds or material support. It can also prevent members of the group from traveling to the U.S. Analysts doubt the designation will have much of an impact on the group given the informal nature of its financing network and the lack of ties with the U.S. Many of the Haqqani network's senior leaders have already been blacklisted individually, and that has seemingly had little effect.<br> <em>Caption: Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, listens to Afghan Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak speak during joint a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, June 7, 2012. (AP Photo/Ahmad Jamshid)</em>
<strong>Q: What impact will the U.S. designation have on its relationship with Pakistan or the peace process in Afghanistan?</strong><br> A: The designation could further strain already troubled ties between the U.S. and Pakistan. It could also complicate U.S. efforts to strike a peace deal in Afghanistan because of the close ties between the Taliban and the Haqqani network. Pakistan has long criticized the U.S. for trying to fight and talk with militants at the same time, and the designation could feed into that narrative.<br> <em>Caption: A Pakistani protester holds a burning US flag as they shout slogans during a protest in Multan on October 31, 2011 (S.S. MIRZA/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
<strong>Q: How many fighters make up the Haqqani network and how much violence are they responsible for in Afghanistan?</strong><br> A: The network is believed to be composed of several hundred core members and thousands of fighters with varying degrees of affiliation and loyalty, according to the Combating Terrorism Center in West Point, N.Y. A U.S. defense official estimated the group's size at 2,000 to 4,000 militants. U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the Haqqani network is responsible for less than 20 percent of all U.S. and NATO casualties in Afghanistan. <br> <em>Caption: Pakistanis surround the body of an Afghan national who was allegedly killed by the al-Qaida-linked Haqqani network for spying in Pakistan's tribal area of Waziristan in Miran Shah, Pakistan, on Dec. 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Hasnbanulla Khan)</em>
<strong>Q: How many fighters make up the Haqqani network and how much violence are they responsible for in Afghanistan?</strong><br> A: The network is believed to be composed of several hundred core members and thousands of fighters with varying degrees of affiliation and loyalty, according to the Combating Terrorism Center in West Point, N.Y. A U.S. defense official estimated the group's size at 2,000 to 4,000 militants. U.S. officials have told The Associated Press that the Haqqani network is responsible for less than 20 percent of all U.S. and NATO casualties in Afghanistan. <br> <em>Caption: Afghani and U.S. soldiers patrol Afghan villages asking about Taliban and Haqqani network activity in the area in the Paktika Province, Afghanistan on October 31, 2011. U.S. soldiers were trying to determine if insurgents passed through the villages and how they were treating the people. They entered the men of the villages into their biometric database, taking finger-prints and retinal scans(Photo by Joshua Partlow/The Washington Post via Getty Images)</em>
<strong>Q: What is the Haqqani network's relationship with the Taliban and al-Qaida?</strong><br> A: The Haqqani network has pledged allegiance to Taliban leader Mullah Omar, but the group largely operates independently. The elder Haqqani developed close ties to slain al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden during the Soviet war in Afghanistan when both of them spent months together on the front lines, according to the Washington-based New American Foundation. The network's ties to al-Qaida and other foreign militant groups have remained strong, one of the reasons why it has become such a potent force in Afghanistan. <br><em>Caption: A militant suspected of being a member of Al-Qaeda sits at a checkpoint in Azan in the southern Yemeni province of Shabwa on March 31, 2012. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)</em>
<strong>Q: Does the Haqqani network pose a threat to the U.S. homeland?</strong><br> A: The U.S. intelligence community believes the Haqqani network is focused on attacking local enemies, with no aspirations to attack the United States, said a U.S. defense official. But the group's ties with al-Qaida and other transnational militant groups are a concern to the U.S. <br><em>Caption: A 2007 wanted poster showing Siraj Haqqani, leader of the Haqqani group faction. (AP Photo/Bagram Air Base)</em>
<strong>Q: What is the Haqqani network's relationship with Pakistan?</strong><br> A: Ties between Pakistan's intelligence agency and the elder Haqqani stretch back to the Soviet war in Afghanistan. U.S. officials have accused Pakistan of continuing to support the group, but Islamabad has denied the allegation. The U.S. has demanded Pakistan target the Haqqani network in North Waziristan, but it has refused. Many analysts believe Pakistan is reluctant to target a group that could be a potential ally in Afghanistan after foreign forces withdraw. <br> <em>Caption: Afghan prisoners of war being lined up in Khost, Afghanistan on Wednesday, April 20, 1991. (AP Photo/Saeed Bangash)</em>