SINGAPORE – Canada defended the use of military drone attacks Sunday, saying technological advances have reduced the likelihood of civilian casualties.
Unmanned systems have proved their effectiveness in the decade-long U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and also in NATO strikes in Libya last year, Canadian Defense Minister Peter Gordon MacKay said.
“The use of drones has been referenced a number of times, and it all depends on the accuracy of the system,” MacKay told an Asian security summit. “These eyes-on systems that can literally read a license plate from outer space have increased our ability to decrease civilian casualties.”
“We want to reduce if not eliminate collateral damage,” he said at the IISS Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore.
U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan are a key tactic in the campaign against al-Qaida and its Taliban supporters. An American drone strike in the northwest frontier tribal areas of Pakistan killed 10 suspected militants Sunday, officials said. It was the sixth such strike in the country in less than two weeks.
The covert CIA-run program is a cause of tension between the U.S. and Pakistan. Most of the Pakistani public resents the strikes, which are considered an affront to the nation’s sovereignty.
Despite Pakistan’s demands for a halt in the drone attacks, the U.S. has fired scores of missiles into northwest Pakistan since 2008, targeting al-Qaida and Taliban operatives there.
“You do have to put a great deal of faith in your commanders in the field,” MacKay said. “We depend heavily on the discretion being exercised in the field.”
Canada has participated in the military operations in Afghanistan and Libya.
MacKay also urged countries to share intelligence and technology to battle cyber attacks that shut down energy, communications and transport infrastructures.
“The consequences of cyber attacks haven’t really washed over us as to just how devastating they could be,” MacKay said. “It’s a monster in our midst.”