Predator drones flown from base in Pakistan, U.S. lawmaker says
Sen. Feinstein’s surprise disclosure likely to complicate joint campaign against Taliban militants
Greg Miller | Washington Bureau
February 12, 2009 - Chicago Tribune
WASHINGTON, D.C. - 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.
“As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,” she said of the planes.
The basing of the pilotless aircraft in Pakistan suggests a much deeper relationship with the United States on counterterrorism matters than has been publicly acknowledged. Such an arrangement would be at odds with protests lodged by officials in Islamabad and could inflame anti-American sentiment in the country.