From one of my favorite blogs, Information Dissemination, comes the news that Senator Dianne Feinstein has divulged that the United States is conducting strikes in against al Qaeda's network in Pakistan's tribal areas from a secret base inside Pakistan:
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.
Sen. Feinstein's spokesman later claimed she was referring to a February 2008 report in the Washington Post. Here is the article and the excerpt:
With all signs pointing to a unique target, CIA officials ordered the launch of a pilotless MQ-1B Predator aircraft, one of three kept at a secret base that the Pakistani government has allowed to be stationed inside the country. Launches from that base do not require government permission, officials said.
Regardless of how Sen. Feinstein came about the information, her making the statement gives weight to the notion that the CIA is launching attacks on targets in the tribal areas from a base located on Pakistani territory. And that genie cannot be put back into the bottle, Pakistanis will believe this.
Aside from the obvious operational security and diplomatic concerns, Sen. Feinstein has just confirmed what we have all known for some time: the strikes on al Qaeda targets inside Pakistan have taken place with the approval of the Pakistani government, and the government's protests of these attacks are designed to placate Pakistani citizens. But all this has done is harm the image of the United States, as we're portrayed as the big, bad bully that violates Pakistan's sovereignty without a care for the people. This mess also shows that the situation in Pakistan is so bad that the government has to lie to its people about a campaign designed to kill al Qaeda leaders, the very same ones that have been behind numerous suicide attacks on Pakistani soil that have resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians.