In a State Department press briefing that took place yesterday, spokesman Mark Toner refused to admit that the drone strike that killed Taliban emir Mullah Mansour actually took place in Pakistan. Toner originally suggested that he had no idea where the strike took place. Instead, he said that he doesn’t “have any more clarity of where the actual strike took place,” and maintained that it was “in that border region. I just can’t say on which side of the border it was.”
The full text of the exchange between Toner and the reporter is reproduced below. Kudos to the reporter who doggedly followed up the answers and exposed just how silly Toner’s statement was by asking if State Department knew where the strike occurred.
“So you don’t know where you targeted him? You just guessed? I mean, how could you fire something out of the sky and blow something up and kill people and not know what country it’s in? Come on,” the reporter asked.
“You check these things before you fire, usually, right?,” the reporter responded to Toner’s obvious attempt to deflect the question.
Of course the US military and State Department know the exact geographical location of the strike. Toner also knows this as well (it is why he changes his tune and later states “what we’re willing to share is that it was in — the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region”).
Fifteen years after 9/11, the US government refuses to tackle the Pakistan problem head on, and insists on dancing around the issue of Taliban sanctuaries, training camps, and madrassa inside Pakistan (with Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate support), despite the fact that thousands of US and NATO soldiers have been killed by the very same Taliban in Afghanistan. So what we get is absurd attempts by State Department to obfuscate the Pakistan problem.
The exchange from Mark Toner’s press briefing:
QUESTION: One more. You said that – when he mentioned Pakistan’s complaints about violation of sovereignty, you said it happened in the Af-Pak border region.
MR TONER: Yeah.
QUESTION: Are you denying that it happened on Pakistani territory?
MR TONER: I don’t have any more clarity of where the actual strike took place. What I can say was in that border region. I just can’t say on which side of the border it was.
QUESTION: So you don’t know if – so are you doubting the claim from Pakistan that it was in their territory?
MR TONER: I’m not going to speak – I mean, the Pakistani Government is able to speak on behalf of itself. I’m not going to doubt its claim. I’m just saying the information that we have right – are able to share.
QUESTION: But this was a – this is a —
QUESTION: So you don’t know where you targeted him? You just guessed? I mean, how could you fire something out of the sky and blow something up and kill people and not know what country it’s in? Come on.
MR TONER: I understand what – your question, Brad. All I’m saying is what we’re able – I said what we’re willing to share is that it was in —
QUESTION: You check these things before you fire, usually, right?
MR TONER: — the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. We certainly do.
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