US drone attack
File Picture - US Drone Attacks to Come Under UN Scanner? Reuters

A US drone attack targeting a Taliban militant compound in Pakistan killed nine people Saturday, Pakistani authorities have alleged.

Two missiles hit a region in the Shawal mountain region of North Waziristan killing members of the Pakistan Taliban and completely destroying the compound that was being used as a militant training center, said Pakistan's senior security officials, who wished to remain anonymous, according to a report by the CNN.

North Waziristan along the Afghan border is known to be a militant base and has been a target of several drone strikes since 2005.

US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker had earlier said that the security pact signed recently by US President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, which defines America's future role in Afghanistan, doesn't rule out the possibility of drone strikes against insurgent targets in Pakistan even after the withdrawal of US troops in 2014.

The Strategic Partnership Agreement stating that the US will not use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks against other states, however, says that Washington and Kabul have the right to self-defense in case of threats from any country.

There is nothing in this agreement that precludes the right of self-defense for either party and if there are attacks from the territory of any state aimed at us we have the inherent right of self defense and will employ it, Crocker said while responding to a question about controversial drone strikes on Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan, the Agence France Presse reported.

Despite Pakistan complaining that such aerial attacks violate its sovereignty, US officials have largely opted to not discuss the CIA's drone program in Pakistan, while privately saying that the covert attacks are legal and have proved to be an effective tactic against the militants.

White House Counterterrorism Adviser John Brennan, in his speech Monday, on the US policy on targeted killings said: In this armed conflict, individuals who are part of al Qaeda or its associated forces are legitimate military targets. We have the authority to target them with lethal force just as we targeted enemy leaders in past conflicts, such as German and Japanese commanders during World War II.

Brennan's claim that US have the authority to target enemies, likening the current situation to that during the World War II, however, was met with criticism for misinterpreting international laws.

In a non-international armed conflict like this, the only enemies targetable are those directly participating in hostilities against the United States, or performing a continuous combat function with armed groups targeting the U.S, wrote Daphne Eviatar, an expert in law, national security and human rights, in Politico.

Not every member of Al Qaeda or associated forces meets that criteria. A cook, dishwasher or doctor aiding Al Qaeda fighters may well be a member of Al Qaeda - yet not be lawfully targetable. Brennan, speaking on behalf of the Obama administration, ignored that fact, she wrote.

The frequency of the drone strikes rose after Obama took office in 2008, but saw a sharp drop since a November NATO strike that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border, causing fallout in the diplomatic relations between Washington and Islamabad.