Pakistan drone base
official close to the debate.
A key advocate is Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who first made the decision to go ahead with the site shortly after taking office in 2006. He also took part in a series of unsuccessful talks with the Russians that sought to dispel Moscow’s opposition. Russia insists that the missile defense in Europe is aimed at it, not Iran, and has offered an alternative site in southern Russia. CIA and Pentagon officials are upset by the public confirmation last week by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, that U.S. unmanned aerial-vehicle (UAV) attacks against Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists are being launched from a U.S. base in Pakistan.
Mrs. Feinstein revealed during a Feb. 12 hearing of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence with retired Adm. Dennis C. Blair, director of national intelligence, that a U.S. base in Pakistan is being used to launch UAV strikes on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The comments were made in the context of Pakistani leaders’ frequent public comments criticizing the U.S. drone attacks.
“The comments were puzzling, to say the least,” a senior U.S. counterterrorism official told Inside the Ring.
Mrs. Feinstein asked Adm. Blair about Pakistani government criticism in meetings with regional special envoy Richard C. Holbrooke, referring to U.S. Predator drone attacks in Pakistan’s federally administered tribal areas. “And yet as I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said.
Several Pakistani press accounts of her remarks criticized the Islamabad government for several days. In addition, Iran’s official news service, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), used the comments for a propaganda broadside against Pakistan’s government, stating that the Islamabad government is “responsible for killing its own people” by allowing the Predator strikes.
Phil LaVelle, a spokesman for Mrs. Feinstein, said that regarding public discussion of the UAV base, Mrs. Feinstein “was referring to a front-page story in The [Washington] Post on March 27, .” The report quoted U.S. officials as saying that Predator strikes were being stepped up and were carried out from bases near Islamabad and Jacobabad in Pakistan.
Bill Gertz covers national security affairs. He can be reached at 202/636-3274, or at insidether[email protected]ingtontimes.com.