Exchange with Guardian journalist about US drone strikes

Below is an email exchange I had with the Guardian’s Declan Walsh ( regarding Pakistani public opinion and the continuing US drone strikes.



Email to Declan Walsh on 28 December 2009:


Dear Declan


I was interested to read your recent article in the Guardian ‘US forces mounted secret Pakistan raids in hunt for al-Qaida’ (


There was a lot of valuable information in your report, but I was baffled by your assertion that Pakistani “public opinion has grudgingly tolerated CIA-led drone strikes in the tribal areas” of Pakistan.


I am aware of three recent public opinion polls conducted in Pakistan on this issue.


          “Nearly three-fourths of poll respondents said they oppose U.S. military action against al Qaeda and the Taliban inside Pakistan” according to a September 2007 Terror Free Tomorrow/D3 Systems poll (


          An August 2009 Al-Jazeera/Gallup Pakistan poll found 67% of respondents “oppose drone attacks by the United States against Taliban and al-Qaeda targets in Pakistan” (


          An October 2009 International Republican Institute poll found 73% of respondents oppose the “U.S. making military incursions in the tribal areas” and 76% do not think the “United States should partner with Pakistan in conducting drone attacks against extremists.” (


With the above results in mind could you tell me what percentage of the Pakistani population would have to be opposed to the US drone attacks for you to report them as such?


Kind regards


Ian Sinclair



Reply from Declan Walsh on 28 December 2009:


Dear Ian
I said the Pakistani public has tolerated – not supported – drone attacks, which is demonstrably true. I’m not sure the same would be true of american ‘boots on the ground’, which was the point of the comparison. We’ve previously reported public opinion on drone strikes.



Reply to Declan Walsh on 29 December 2009:


Dear Declan
Thanks for your reply.
You say it is "demonstrably true" that the "Pakistani public has tolerated" the US drone attacks. 
This seems to be a very strange way of interpreting the three polls that show around 70 percent of Pakistanis oppose the US drone attacks. What would the Pakistani public have to do to actually oppose the attacks, and be reported as opposing the attacks, in your eyes?
I note that it was widely reported in early 2003 the majority of the British public opposed the invasion of Iraq (see  Would you also describe the British public of "tolerating" the invasion?
Kind regards

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