Polling Data Contradicts Romney’s Assertion That Pakistanis Are ‘Comfortable’ With Drone Strikes

Reposted by arrangement with Think Progress

GOP presidential primary frontrunner Mitt Romney told the audience at Saturday’s CBS News/National Journal debate that Pakistan is “comfortable” with U.S. drone strikes within their borders. But after years of deadly drone strikes, and as many as 10 civilian deaths for every militant killed, polling data from Pakistan would suggest that Pakistanis are anything but “comfortable” with U.S. drone strikes.

Romney made the assertion in the following exchange with debate moderator Scott Pelley:

ROMNEY: Right now they’re comfortable with our using drones to go after the people who are representing the greatest threat. I would continue to do that.

PELLEY: Are the Pakistanis ‘comfortable’ with us using drones?

ROMNEY: We have agreement with the people we need to have agreement with to be able to use drones to strike at the people that represent a threat.

Watch it:

A Pew poll (PDF) from July, 2010, found that 93 percent of Pakistanis who are familiar with drone strikes think they are a bad idea, and 56 percent of Pakistanis who have heard of drone attacks say they are unnecessary to defend against extremist groups. Ninety percent thought the strikes kill too many innocent people.

Last week, Pratap Chatterjee at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, reported on the death of Tariq Aziz, a 16-year-old Pakistani who attended a “Waziristan Grand Jirga,” an official meeting, to discuss the impact of drone strikes on local communities. Three days later, Aziz and his cousin were killed in a drone strike.

Opposition to drone strikes has become a popular political position in Pakistan. Last month, cricket legend Imran Khan held a rally with more than 100,000 supporters in which the opposition politician spoke out against U.S. drone strikes, telling the crowd:

Our leaders owned this war on terror for the sake of dollars. Let me curse you. You sold out the blood of innocent people.

Indeed, Romney is correct the U.S. has an “agreement with the people we need to have an agreement” in order to conduct drone strikes. But polling and popular politics in Pakistan would indicate that the Pakistani public is far from “comfortable” with the growing civilian death-toll from the CIA’s drone program.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.