Posted by lex, on February 13, 2009
The ongoing use of Predator and Reaper drones to target senior al Qaeda and Taliban leadership in northwest Pakistan is deeply inflammatory to Pakistani popular opinion, who believe that the UAVs are a violation of their country’s sovereignty and that innocents are often caught up in the pinpoint attacks. The Pakistani government routinely issues denunciations against these attacks, but their protests are largely seen as a pro forma sop to the masses, since the government has at last become aware of the strategic threat the terrorist pose to Pakistan. The government is an awkward spot, since using national security forces and the army are a two-edged sword – there are elements within both the military and ISI that actively support al Qaeda and the various Islamic militants that make Pakistan a home. Nor is the Pakistani military trained or equipped for counter-insurgency, having long preferred to prepare to repel an Indian assault across the Punjabi plains.
So we have reached a kind of delicate consensus with Pakistan: They will pretend to protest when we do their work for them. We will pretend to listen.
A senior U.S. lawmaker said Thursday that unmanned CIA Predator aircraft operating in Pakistan are flown from an airbase inside that country, a revelation likely to embarrass the Pakistani government and complicate its counterterrorism collaboration with the United States.
The disclosure by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, marked the first time a U.S. official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft patrolling Pakistan take off and land.
At a hearing, Feinstein expressed surprise at Pakistani opposition to the ongoing campaign of Predator-launched CIA missile strikes against Al Qaeda targets along Pakistan’s northwest border.
The level of paranoia in the Arab world about the CIA is difficult to overstate. And now, a senior US Senator has just put the Pakistani government of trying to explain why it is tolerating an operation of hunter/killer CIA drones on Pakistani territory.
Can’t anybody here play this game ?
Update: Apparently, revealing confidential information is nothing new for the California senator. An alert reader reminded me that while mayor San Francisco, Feinstein revealed crucial evidence about the Richard Ramirez “Night Stalker” case that enabled the serial murderer to escape as the jaws of justice were closing in on him and kill again.
Inside information is the coin of the political realm: What you know points to who you know. Of course, if you reveal or confirm inside information, it isn’t “inside” any more, is it?