LAHORE, PAKISTAN – The confirmation Wednesday that Pakistan allowed the CIA to build a secret airbase in southern Pakistan to launch drone attacks inside Pakistani territory has lifted the lid on what had become an open secret in official circles.
It is likely to infuriate opposition groups, as well as embarrass the Pakistani government. For months, it’s been on the defensive over the continued airstrikes, as the Monitor reported in November. Islamabad has repeatedly pleaded with the US to stop the politically sensitive drone attacks, which have killed more than 150 people since August. As recently as last week, Pakistani government officials let it be known that an end to Predator drone operations topped the wish list that they handed to US special envoy Richard Holbrooke during his visit here last week. Pakistani foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi denied two days ago that drones were being launched from Pakistani territory.
According to the Times of London, the Shamsi airbase is located in a remote region in Pakistan's southwestern province of Baluchistan, “within reach of militants in Baluchistan, southern Afghanistan and in Pakistan's northern tribal areas.”
The News, a Pakistani daily, notes that the base can be viewed on Google Earth.
The issue of bases in Pakistan was raised in an “apparent gaffe” by Sen. Diane Feinstein, chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in Washington last week. It was the first time a US official had publicly commented on where the Predator aircraft take off.