Washington: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has implicitly defended Washington`s use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists, just days after a missile attack killed al Qaeda`s second-in-command in Pakistan.
The killing of Abu Yahya al-Libi has fuelled an increasingly fierce debate about the legality and morality of the drones, which have become one of the chief US weapons against al Qaeda, reports the Daily Times.
The drone strikes have also angered the Pakistani government, leading to unrelenting tension between Washington and Islamabad.
"We will always maintain our right to use force against groups such as al Qaeda that have attacked us and still threaten us with imminent attack. In doing so, we will comply with the applicable law, including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life," Hillary was quoted, as saying.
Strikes have focused on the North Waziristan, near the Afghan border, where Libi was killed. US officials also say members of the Haqqani network are based there.
Pakistan`s Foreign Ministry called the attacks illegal but analysts say successful drone strikes, especially those that kill senior terrorists, would not be possible without help from Pakistani intelligence agencies.
Hillary also said torture and abuse were never acceptable in combating terrorism - although she made no mention of the US use of interrogation techniques such as water-boarding and its lengthy detention of suspected terrorists without charge at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"Some believe that when it comes to counterterrorism, the end always justifies the means. That torture, abuse, the suspension of civil liberties, no measure is too extreme in the name of keeping our citizens safe," Hillary said.
She said, "When nations violate human rights and undermine the rule of law, even in the pursuit of terrorists, it feeds radicalisation, gives propaganda tools to the extremists and ultimately undermines our efforts. The US has not always had a perfect record. And we can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief that these tactics are ever permissible."