ISLAMABAD -- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came face-to-face Friday with Pakistani anger over U.S. aerial drone attacks in tribal areas along the Afghan border, a strategy that U.S. officials say has succeeded in killing key terrorist leaders.
In a series of public appearances on the final day of a three-day visit marked by blunt talk, Clinton refused to discuss the subject, which involves highly classified CIA operations. She would say only that "there is a war going on," and the Obama administration is committed to helping Pakistan defeat the insurgents and terrorists who threaten the stability of a nuclear-armed nation.
Clinton said she could not comment on "any particular tactic or technology" used in the war against extremist groups in the area.
The use of Predator drone aircraft, armed with guided missiles, is credited by U.S. officials with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist group leaders this year who had used the tribal lands of Pakistan as a haven beyond the reach of U.S. ground forces in Afghanistan.
During an interview broadcast live in Pakistan with several prominent female TV anchors, before a predominantly female audience of several hundred, one member of the audience said the Predator attacks amount to "executions without trial" for those killed.
Another asked Clinton how she would define terrorism.
"Is it the killing of people in drone attacks?" she asked. That woman then asked if Clinton considers drone attacks and bombings like the one that killed more than 100 civilians in the city of Peshawar earlier this week to both be acts of terrorism.
"No, I do not," Clinton replied.
Earlier, in a give-and-take with about a dozen residents of the tribal region, one man alluded obliquely to the drone attacks, saying he had heard that in the United States, aircraft are not allowed to take off after 11 p.m., to avoid irritating the population.
"That is the sort of peace we want for our people," he said through an interpreter.
The same man told Clinton that the Obama administration should rely more on wisdom and less on firepower to achieve its aims in Pakistan.
"Your presence in the region is not good for peace," he said, referring to the U.S. military, "because it gives rise to frustration and irritation among the people of this region." At another point he told Clinton, "Please forgive me, but I would like to say we've been fighting your war."
A similar point was made by Sana Bucha of Geo TV during the live broadcast interview.
"It is not our war," she told Clinton. "It is your war." She drew a burst of applause when she added, "You had one 9/11. We are having daily 9/11s in Pakistan."
Capturing a feeling that Clinton heard expressed numerous times during her visit, one woman in the audience said, "The whole world thinks we are terrorists." The woman said she was from the South Waziristan area where the Pakistani army is engaged in pitched battles with Taliban and affiliated extremist elements -- and where U.S. drones have struck with deadly effect many times.
The Pakistani army said Friday its forces had killed two dozen militants in 24 hours and were closing in on a prominent insurgent stronghold as its offensive in the remote region continued.
Clinton's main message on Friday was that the U.S. wants to be a partner with Pakistan, not just on the military front but also on trade, education, energy and other sectors. She stressed, however, that Pakistan needs to do its part in demonstrating a real commitment to democracy.
Clinton also was asked about her remark on Thursday that she found it hard to believe that Pakistani officials don't know where leaders of terrorist groups are hiding in Pakistan.
On Friday she took a bit of the edge off that comment, saying, "I don't know if anyone knows, but we in the United States would very much like to see the end of the Al Qaeda leadership, and our best information is that they are somewhere in Pakistan."