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Pakistans Dangerous double game – Secrecy and denial – The Times

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Secrecy and denial as Pakistan lets CIA use airbase to strike militants

A Veronique De Viguerie drone in Afhganistan

(Veronique De Viguerie)

The Pakistani Government has also repeatedly demanded that the US halt drone attacks

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The CIA is secretly using an airbase in southern Pakistan to launch the Predator drones that observe and attack al-Qaeda and Taleban militants on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan, a Times investigation has found.

The Pakistani and US governments have repeatedly denied that Washington is running military operations, covert or otherwise, on Pakistani territory — a hugely sensitive issue in the predominantly Muslim country.

The Pakistani Government has also repeatedly demanded that the US halt drone attacks on northern tribal areas that it says have caused hundreds of civilian casualties and fuelled anti-American sentiment.

Failing to do so would be political suicide in a country where 97 per cent are Muslim, and many oppose the support for the US campaign. In doing so, however, he risks being embarrassed by revelations like the one about Shamsi, and fuelling anti-American sentiment.  –more–



February 18, 2009

Dangerous double game that mirrors Pakistan’s identity crisis

The discovery of a secret CIA airbase in southern Pakistan exposes the dangerous double game that Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s President, has to play as he tries to manage relations both with the United States and with a fiercely anti-American public.

While he is criticised in Washington for surrendering to the Taleban by allowing Sharia in the Swat Valley, he will be lambasted at home for allowing the Americans to use a Pakistani base to launch drone attacks on his own territory.

His dilemma mirrors the identity crisis Pakistan has suffered ever since it won independence from Britain in 1947 and especially since it backed the US-led War on Terror in 2001: is it to be an Islamist state, or a secular democracy?

There is no easy answer for the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister who was assassinated in December 2007. […]

Yet he faces a new US Administration that appears determined to strike al-Qaeda and Taleban militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas far harder than had been seen under Mr Musharraf.

As a democratically elected President, Mr Zardari is also under greater pressure to protest publicly about the attacks, especially when there are civilian casualties.

But The Times has discovered that the CIA has been using the Shamsi airfield — originally built by Arab sheikhs for falconry expeditions in the southwestern province of Baluchistan — for at least a year. The strip, which is about 30 miles from the Afghan border, allows US forces to launch a Drone within minutes of receiving actionable intelligence as well as allowing them to attack targets further afield.  –more–

Written by morris

February 18, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Posted in CIA, Pakistan, Taliban

Tagged with , ,

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