Pak­istan drone base

The Washington Times Weekly - - National Security -

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, [2008].” 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]­ing­ton­

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