U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan could be coming to an end "very soon," according to Secretary of State John Kerry.
Following talks with the Pakistani government on Thursday, Kerry told a Pakistani television station that President Barack Obama has a "very real timeline" for ending the strikes, CNN reported
Without providing a specific timeline, Kerry, via a transcript provided by the State Department, said, "We hope it's going to be very, very soon," adding, "I believe that we're on a good track. I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it."
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When the U.S. drone strike will end depends on "a number of factors" that according to Kerry, are presently being worked out between the U.S. and Pakistani governments.
Following Kerry’s remarks, the State Department released a statement that clarified its position, saying the goal of the U.S. government was to reach a place where drones were no longer needed due to the elimination of threats from within Pakistan, CNN reported.
"Now, we're all realistic about the fact that there is a threat that remains and that we have to keep up ... the fight in this and other places around the world," Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman told CNN. "So this was in no way indicating a change in policy. It's really been reinforcing things I think we've said for months on this."
Drone strikes in Pakistan were more prevalent at the start of the Obama presidency, but have since declined due to al Qaeda’s believed to be waning influence in the country, CNN reported.
Due to civilian casualties caused by the drone strikes, particularly in the nation’s tribal regions that border Afghanistan, where the strikes are most frequent, many Pakistanis have been vocal and violent in their criticisms of U.S. foreign policy in the region.
Consequently, the strikes have contributed to what some analysts would argue is an erosion of relations or at the very least a strain between the two nations, which since the 9-11 attacks, have aided one another in the war on terror.
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In May, Obama, who continued and expanded the drone operation which he inherited from his predecessor, defended the use of drone strikes in the region as a necessary evil.
"To say a military tactic is legal, or even effective, is not to say it is wise or moral in every instance," Obama said in a speech at the National Defense University in Washington, CNN reports. "For the same progress that gives us the technology to strike half a world away also demands the discipline to constrain that power -- or risk abusing it."
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