The following article, by Anwar Iqbal, was published in the Dawn, Pakistan’s leading English Newspaper:
“WASHINGTON: Drones that attack suspected terrorist targets inside Pakistan actually take off from the Pakistani soil, a senior US lawmaker said at a congressional hearing which also heard from the US intelligence chief that joint US-Pakistan efforts had reduced Al Qaeda’s capability to carry out terrorist attacks.
On Thursday evening, the Senate Intelligence Committee also heard from US National Intelligence Director Admiral Dennis C. Blair that nuclear weapons were preventing yet another war between India and Pakistan.
But it was Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, who stole the show with her disclosure about the use of a Pakistan base for the drone attacks.
Expressing surprise over Pakistan’s opposition to the campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against targets inside the Pakistani border, Senator Feinstein said: “As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base.”
As chairperson of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Feinstein has access to classified information which requires her to exercise caution when discussing sensitive matters in public.
Even Admiral Blair was taken aback. “Pakistan is sorting out” its cooperation with the United States, he said quietly, while responding to her remarks. He did not say whether what Senator Feinstein said was correct.
The existence of drone bases inside Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counter-terrorism than has been publicly acknowledged.
The CIA declined to comment, but former US intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that Senator Feinstein’s account was accurate. Later, Philip J. LaVelle, a spokesman for the senator, said her comment was based solely on previous news reports that Predators were operated from bases near Islamabad.”