A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile sitting on the tarmac of Kandahar military airport on June 13, 2010.
Source: Press TV
US President Barack Obama has acknowledged Washington's unauthorized surveillance drone operations in Iraq where the un-mandated move has sparked outrage among senior Iraqi officials and the public.
"The truth is we're not engaging in a bunch of drone attacks inside Iraq. There's some surveillance to make sure that our embassy compound is protected," said Obama in a chat with web users on Google+ and YouTube on Monday.
The confirmation came after The New York Times disclosed that the US State Department began operating some drones in Iraq last year on a trial basis to help protect the US embassy and that it stepped up their use after the last US troops left the country in December.
The report has infuriated senior Iraqi officials who say Washington must respect the country's sovereignty and consult with the government in Baghdad before carrying out any operations now that “the war is over.”
"I think that there's this perception that we're just sending in a whole bunch of strikes, willy nilly," Obama said, adding, "It is important for everybody to understand that this is kept on a very tight leash."
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland also claimed that her department uses unmanned aerial vehicles to take pictures of US facilities and personnel abroad.
Meanwhile, The Times said that senior Iraqi officials told the newspaper that the US had not consulted with Iraqi government about the drone operations and that despite the official US withdrawal from Iraq, it maintains a strong presence in the country.
The daily added that since getting the approval for using surveillance drone aircraft over Iraq might be hard, given the political tensions between the two countries, the US continues drone operations in the country without a formal approval from Iraq.
It also said that Washington plans to take bids for the management of drone operations in Iraq over the next five years.