Barack Obama's counterterrorism speech on Thursday has drawn mixed
reviews here in the United States (here at FP, Rosa
Brooks gave the address an A-, while Emile
Simpson found it to be a "conceptual car crash") -- and reactions have been
similar in the countries that may be most affected by the president's proposals.
In the Pakistani press, the takeaway from the speech was the Obama administration's position on drone strikes, which have targeted militants in the tribal areas along the
Afghanistan-Pakistan border. With a touch of optimism, Pakistani
listed the revised criteria for drone strikes described in the speech and new "presidential policy guidance" as a major shift in U.S.
policy. The reports also took special note of Obama's acknowledgement of the "thousands
of Pakistani soldiers [who] have lost their lives fighting extremists."
For some in Pakistan, though, including the government's
Foreign Ministry, the speech was too little, too late. The ministry issued a
that, while officials agreed with Obama's comment that "force alone cannot make
us safe," the Pakistani government "has consistently maintained that the drone strikes
are counter-productive, entail loss of innocent civilian lives, have human
rights and humanitarian implications and violate the principles of national
sovereignty, territorial integrity and international law." In an op-ed
in Dawn, Pakistani author Rafia
Zakaria wrote that the speech would have been better two years ago. In the
time since the May 2011 Osama bin Laden raid, she pointed out, terrorism in Pakistan has
metastasized as groups like the Pakistani Taliban have been emboldened by airstrikes:
The United States delegitimised the Pakistani state by
continuing its onslaught of drone strikes year after year. Unheeded by both
Parliamentary resolutions that denied any tacit agreement on drones and the
statements of UN Rapporteurs calling them illegal; the Predators continued to
fly, releasing Hellfire missiles over Pakistani territory and treating
Pakistani borders as arbitrary impediments to American strategy.... The
Tehreek-e-Taliban made the same point as the Americans, that the Pakistani
state was not able to protect its own people, that their invasive capacity to
kill was greater than the government's capacity to protect and that the writ of
the state simply did not apply.
Meanwhile, in Yemen, despite the prevalence of U.S. drone
strikes in the country, the reaction has focused on Obama's comments about the
Guantánamo Bay detention center, where Yemeni nationals make up the majority of
remaining detainees. The most-read article on the Yemen Post website on Friday, titled "Gitmo
detainees could be heading home to Yemen soon," led with:
Following weeks of an intense political debate between
Yemeni and American officials regarding the fate of Yemen 56 cleared terror
detainees in Guantanamo Bay prison, America's infamous terror penitentiary, US
President Barack Obama said he is ready to resume the transfers of prisoners,
hence ended his self-imposed moratorium. In a speech on Thursday at the National Defense University
President Obama made clear he wished to reduce Guantanamo "detainee
population" ahead of the potential closure of the facility altogether.
The article also noted the looming political fight in Washington, stating,
"While the news will come as a relief to many Yemeni officials and the families
of detainees, not all American officials agree with their president's decision."
The Yemeni government issued a press release and the Yemen Post article quotes officials from the country's Human Rights
Ministry confirming U.S.-Yemeni cooperation on a new rehabilitation program in
Yemen for repatriated detainees.
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images