Friday, February 13, 2009



Feinstein comment on U.S. drones likely to embarrass Pakistan

The Predator planes that launch missile strikes against militants are based in Pakistan, the senator says.

That suggests a much deeperrelationship with the U.S. than Islamabad would like to admit.

By Greg Miller
February 13, 2009
Reporting from Washington — A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flownfrom an air base in that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counter-terrorismcollaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official hadpublicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes againstIslamic extremist targets along Pakistan's northwestern border.
"As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base," she said.
The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counter-terrorism mattersthan has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad, the capital,and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.
The CIA declined to comment, but former U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of theinformation, confirmed that Feinstein's account was accurate.

"Even though the US does not rate highly Zardari's leadership qualities, it prefers him to Nawaz because of his willingness to maintainMusharraf's policy of co-operation with the US in its so-called war against terrorism in Afghanistan and his perceived amenability to pressureby the US because of its role in persuading Musharraf, when he was the President, to issue the NRO ( National Reconciliation Ordinance).The US is also hopeful that, unlike Nawaz, Zardari will avoid any humiliation of Musharraf and will let him continue to live in Pakistan withoutfearing any harassment by the Government. Well-informed PPP sources say that the entire scenario has been proceeding according to atacit understanding reached with US officials during the visit of Yousef Raza Gilani, the Prime Minister, and Rehman Malik, his Advisor onInternal Security, to Washington DC, in the last week of July, 2008. According to these sources, this understanding provided for: launching ofa special land-cum-air operation by the Pakistan military against Al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in the Bajaur Agency, permission to beaccorded by the Gilani Government for continuing unmanned Predator strikes by the US intelligence agencies on terrorist hide-outs in theFederally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and US pressure on Musharraf to resign thus paving the way for the election of Zardari. Theobject of the entire exercise was to keep Nawaz out of power, marginalise him and keep up the present level of US-Pakistan co-operationagainst terrorism. ...... After 9/11, the US tried to project Musharraf as its frontline ally in the war against terrorism. He did co-operate, but notwhole-heartedly. It is now hoping that if elected as the President, Zardari will co-operate with it without reservations. Zardari is giving theimpression that he will. It is most likely that he will turn out to be as insincere as Musharraf. He will give the impression of co-operating whileavoiding it in effect. "

Extract from my article of August 27, 2008, titled "AFTER TRICKY MUSH, TRICKY ZARDARI" at

"The same well-informed sources of the Pakistan People's Party cited in the above-mentioned article of August 27, 2008, say that it iscorrect that Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani and President Asif Ali Zardari had been kept in the picture by officials of the Bush administration, including President George Bush himself, about the new rules of engagement approved by Bush in July before the visit ofGilani to Washington DC. Under these new rules of engagement, the US has been allowed to step up aerial attacks on suspected terroristhide-outs in Pakistani territory by the Predator pilotless planes and undertake ground operations through special forces within a depth ofnot more than five kms if warranted by precise intelligence without informing the Pakistan Army beforehand. According to them, these rulesof engagement also lay down that ground operations would be undertaken in such a manner as not to involve an accidental confrontationwith the Pakistani security forces. As against three Predator strikes and no ground strike during the whole of last year when PervezMusharraf was the President and the Chief of the Army Staff (COAS), there have already been 12 Predator strikes and one ground strikesince the Gilani Government came to office on March 18, 2008."

Extract from my article of September 13,2008 titled PAK-US SNAFU

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For TopicalStudies, Chennai. E-mail: )