Obama Discusses American Drones With Pakistani Prime Minister

Nawaz Sharif visits the president to talk about key issues including Pakistan's economy, terrorism.
3:00 | 10/23/13

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Transcript for Obama Discusses American Drones With Pakistani Prime Minister
This is a special room. I'm Dan -- -- in New York with its ABC news digital special report President Obama met with a vital ally since day. Pakistan's prime minister now -- -- now the topic. At the top of the agenda drone strikes. The Obama administration has favored drone strikes in northwest Pakistan against al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Pakistani leaders have allowed those strikes happen -- American sentiment in Pakistan has suffered as a result. The two cordial at the top of their meeting today but certainly there -- a lot to understand about that relationship. So for more on the Pakistan relations let's now listen -- On whole range of issues that. Our common interest income concern to us. We had an excellent conversation. -- a wide range of issues and at the outs that I emphasized that the United States considers pockets to be a very important. Strategic part. We believe that if focused on us secure and peaceful and prosperous. That's not only good for pockets. It's good for the region. And it's good for the world. And we want to do everything that we can two help the prime minister as he moves forward on a bold agenda to achieve. That vision. We spent a lot of time talking about the economy I -- that the prime minister is very deeply concerned about. Making sure that the -- energy sector inside pockets this functioning efficiently. And that industry and jobs and greater opportunity exists for all the people -- -- in all regions of boxes and we discussed how. The United States could potentially be helpful. On energy projects. On infrastructure projects. I applauded the prime minister for some of the reform -- -- are taken not all of the breezy. But. They promised to foot by her sons' finances and economy on -- more stable footing. And the prime minister emphasized how trade. Can be a powerful engine for growth as well and we're going to be exploring ways that we can continue to deepen trade between. Our two countries. We talked about security. And concerns that both of us have about senseless violence terrorism. And extremism. And we agreed that we need to continue to find constructive ways to -- together ways that respect. Office on sovereign -- That. Respect. The concerns of both countries. And I'm optimistic that we can continue to make important strides. In moving forward because both -- sighted people in the American people have suffered terribly from terrorism in the past. Pakistani. Civilians have been killed this from -- terrorist attacks than anybody and so I know prime minister is very much committed to. Trying to reduce these incidents of terrorism inside of Pakistan's borders and the degree to which. These activities may be exported. To other countries. It's a challenge it's not easy. And we. Committed to working together and making sure there's rather than this being a source of tension between our two countries that it could be a source of strength. For us working together in a constructive and respectful way. -- an opportunity to discuss Afghanistan. Obviously -- I was deeply interested in Howell. Afghanistan transitions as the United States and other coalition forces. And their combat role next year. And Afghanistan is fully responsible for its old its own security. And I pledged to. Fully brief the prime minister and his government as we make progress. Did -- not only. Afghan elections but also. A long term strategy for stability in the region and the prime minister and I both agreed that it is in. American Pakistan's interests -- Afghanistan to be. Stable and secure. Its sovereignty. Respected. The prime minister has had. Very good meetings with President Karzai and I know that -- -- -- very much appreciated. Many good gestures that right from mr. -- has made and I'm confident that. Working together. We can achieve a goal that is good for Afghanistan but also helps to. Protect. Baucus. Over the long term. And -- -- -- discussing the and the prime minister had -- to meet with. Indian prime minister -- in New York. I think he is. Taking. A very wise path -- exploring how. Decades of tension between India and Pakistan can be used because as he points out billions of dollars have been spent. On. An arms race. In response to these tensions those resources could be much more profitably invested in education. Social welfare programs. On both sides of of the border between India Pakistan. And would be good for. The entire subcontinent and good for the world. And so I very much appreciate it all of the work that prime minister. -- tree has already done. He has great challenges ahead of but he is somebody who I think understands where Pakistan needs to go. And we want to be fully supportive. Continued success and continued. Democracy. Inside of boxes. And I shared with him that I had the opportunity. Back and 1981000. Very young men to visit Pakistan because -- -- two pakistanis were mixed. And college. And who whose mothers taught me how to. Quote. Dollar -- -- And other very good Pakistani food and it was wonderful trip for me and created -- great appreciation and great love for. The Pakistani people. I -- that. Pakistani Americans here in the United States are enormous contributors to. Growth and development of the United States and so we have -- strong people to people connection. And my hope is is that -- despite. What inevitably will be some tensions between our two countries. And occasional misunderstandings between our two countries that. Be fundamental. Good will that is shared between Pakistani people. The American people. The -- will be reflected in our government's relationships and that we'll continue to make progress. In the coming years so this from -- well thank you for next conversation. And -- -- So that statement coming out from the White House just a short -- of code and neither the president store the prime minister taking questions from reporters there. But to. Dig a little deeper into the relations between the two countries -- wanna bring -- ABC's papers -- standing by outside the White House and -- Martinez who is at the Pentagon. -- -- I want to go to you first drone strikes really at the top of the agenda today in Pakistan have increased. And had increased anti American sentiment. It's been a staple of the Obama foreign policy. That's absolutely right drone strikes are the main issue here that overshadows. The US relationship with Pakistan this administration is trying to turn a corner when it comes to the relationship with Pakistan but drone strikes essentially keep getting in the way of any progress there. This meeting is coming one day after. Amnesty International released a new report saying that the administration. Is has more casualties more civilian casualties in Pakistan -- -- Acknowledging minutes admitting so that obviously becomes -- issue in these meetings I suspect it was something that they absolutely -- -- -- -- may not be a topic that there openly talking about in front of cameras but this administration continues to stand by its drone program they say they do everything in their power to try and limit those casualties. And that is of course something that they are looking -- and reviewing going forward but. Obviously a huge elephant in the room when it comes to these two -- sitting down and talking face to face. Lukoil Itochu -- -- all about why the a violinist -- favors this tactic but Mary you have alluded to that statement that was made by Amnesty International yesterday we have a bit of what that involved with the some of that. We are calling on President Obama to immediately commit. To ensuring investigations. Of these cases have all other potentially unlawful killings. Does that message -- outside. Of an activist community to a larger population married. I think absolutely does -- this administration came out in direct response to that -- of course that they are they believe that this program has done absolutely nothing to violate international law they are they -- say they are reviewing. This report and and their findings but that they stand firm they stand absolutely within and I think it does have broader ramifications this isn't something that the international community pays close attention to you actually something that is of the utmost importance when it comes to the that the Pakistani administration as well. Louis given that report and also a growing chorus of those that are concerned about the effectiveness of drone strikes how does the administration justify the continued use. Well they say that their preference is actually to capture. Individuals involved in terrorism the -- -- -- inside the Pakistan tribal areas. Is to take out al-Qaeda operatives who may be planning -- -- attacks against the United States or its allies. The thinking being that the army United States you can't go in their launch operations. Like -- -- -- killed Osama bin Laden on a regular basis so you have the drones that are continually flying over the tribal areas targeting these individuals. Now course this is highly controversial inside Pakistan it's a major domestic political point there's strong opposition party Pakistani public. To the drone strikes but the same time you have a lot of verbal criticism on the part of Pakistani politicians. But some of it might just be lip service because their reports been there been reports for years that actually Pakistani senior Pakistani officials. Have allow the United States to conduct these attacks over their territory for the last 56 years. The -- -- -- and that thing you say that the drone program is something that we are learning more and more about and perhaps because the fact that it is becoming. Brought more to life. It could indicate in fact that this strikes have increased but that is not necessarily the case. Section of the case and this year -- there -- the fewest number of drone strikes in -- Pakistan in almost five years. When the Obama administration came in -- in the office the number of strikes increased significantly from the bush years. That was because -- -- this was seen as a highly effective tool in the fight on terror. And that's why you saw all these and strikes almost numbering more than -- 138. In 2010. While this hero -- barely 125. And part of that has to do with -- second so Jones strikes over the past couple of years as well as the fact. That period increased political sensitivities about what's going on inside Pakistan you've heard the Obama administration over the last couple of years actually. Opening up more details it's still a very open secret. -- that the United States especially the CIA's conducting strikes over Pakistan's tribal areas but. There in the administration has opened up -- the last two years acknowledging. That they have this program. But that they are targeting. Only al-Qaeda operatives and you heard that they try to minimize civilian casualties earlier this year in a major speech to you heard the president of the National Defense University say that we will only target the individuals terrorist individuals when they pose an imminent threat the United States. Here it is human -- yesterday basically seeing. That they don't think that's the case that this. Term of imminent threat is being used a little too loosely. There is a military relationship obviously retreated two countries and a financial relationship is well between the two countries in marijuana taught you about that in just a moment but but first -- If Pakistan doesn't want these drone strikes to -- that how -- -- that the US has continued permission to fly into the sovereign territory. Well it's like -- -- -- been an open secret for years that the CIA has been conducting these programs. There is being major opposition. Inside. Pakistan. And it's become a major political issue now -- series actually campaigned on this issue talking about how he would fight back against -- program. Another initiative that he also proposed that helped him out pleased that he said that he was gonna try to negotiate with the Pakistan Taliban. He had major insurgent group there inside Pakistan paid these outreach efforts on his part he -- are -- ease the the political situation. -- the violence situation in the western part of the country. And he felt that that is something that needs to be done. Of course it there's still a war going on across the border in Afghanistan with the US pulling out at the end of next year so it's very difficult to actually try to balance that. So he's trying to balance the fight against counterterrorism with -- openly trying to negotiate. With terrorists insurgents inside his own territory. And again that's the military side of things been married there is a financial there is a -- side of things that is also being final and -- Pakistan as well. Now that that has resumed. From the US is that an indication that there's a sign of growing trust. -- our administration is trying to emphasize areas -- unite the US and Pakistan not divide and that means the economy. This administration trying to focus on those things that they continue to deepen and broaden their relationship. As you mentioned the US has recently announced plans to release its billion dollars in US born -- back to Pakistan that was something that was held up in congress -- the relationship -- back in 2009 we also heard the president. Mention mentioning trade so focusing on areas where they can -- can progress and developed together rather than issues that divide them such as -- strikes. And -- I want to bring you back into this because I want to listen to a statement that the prime minister gave yesterday at the United States Institute of Peace. More recently operative group argues in a national conference. Had declared the that he views of drones is not only -- continued violation. Of what that -- -- integrity. But also a detriment to them. To our resolve and efforts -- eliminating terrorism from our country. So -- it begs the question then how does the administration make the argument -- that -- doing more good than harm in regarding terrorism. Well you've got to read between the lines of what he's saying another thing that he said at that event yesterday why is that the. The drone strikes are quote unquote a major irritant. In a relationship between the two countries so obviously he knows that. This is a big deal back home but at the same time he's got to commit the United States that he's gonna maintain counterterrorism fight which. Against the Pakistani Taliban and the Taliban inside Afghanistan. So it's difficult for him. -- to kind of come out and say this but at the same time. He's got to -- these commitments to the US and the United States knows this is an effective program but they are also sensitive to the realities -- -- faces back his political home field. It's also another thing about. Sherri is that he said you know yesterday. He -- -- again this is strongly against the -- program but that sane human rights report by Amnesty International said that. They had come across evidence that senior Pakistan institutions and which is. Code for leaders I have given the approval for the -- program to exist over their skies. And they said through them that it is tantamount to some potential human rights violations. You spoke a little bit about the relationship that Pakistan and the United States had shared. That this now is the third non consecutive term for now -- street as prime minister there what's -- the past relationship. If for example when when present -- Bill Clinton was in office. While it was. It was a little contentious because that was at the time that yet. Pakistan was developing its nuclear program -- you had duck congress getting in cutting off aid. So it very significant. Problem's been in that relationship and -- series of course getting deposed by Musharraf when he was on a visit to the United States. So there is some rumbling that may -- attacks and military might be involved again. -- later in this similar scenario but I tell you then -- the senior Pakistani military leader is retiring at the end of the month. And the military's actual -- being seen -- taking a step back. In terms of its involvement in domestic political affairs. On the political front a militarily of course -- they're still a big deal. But it's every 'cause very. Difficult history with the United States and and then he of course when -- election earlier this year in the first peaceful political transition. In Pakistan and in its history. Right ABC's imitates the Pentagon and Mary Bruce outside the White House thank you both for joining us we appreciate that. Of course we have a complete recap on abcnews.com. And on Dan Cutler -- New York with the CBC news digital special report.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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