There has been plenty of talk over the past several months that the Pakistani government had come to some sort of secret understanding with the United States about its continued use of Predator drones to launch attacks on Pakistani soil. But with the Pakistani government publicly denying it and the United States refusing to even officially confirm that it had launched most of the strikes, concrete evidence was elusive. That is no longer the case.
The Wall Street Journal cites several unnamed officials on both sides confirming that Pakistan’s military is giving “significant support” to the US attacks. The Times of London has published aerial photos from 2006 of a Pakistani airbase in Balochistan that also shows three Predator drones on the runway: seemly confirming last week’s comments by Senator Dianne Feinstein claiming that the United States had been using a Pakistani base for their drone attacks.
The stakes are high for the already floundering coalition government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. If the formal protests and summoning of the US Ambassador is all really, as one Pakistani official put it “for the sake of public opinion,” the Zardari government has been openly lying to its citizenry about one of the most controversial domestic issues it faces. If it is possible for the already skeptical population of Pakistan’s tribal areas to lose more faith in the government, this would certainly be the issue for it.
The United States has been launching a growing number of drone strikes in North and South Waziristan since mid-2008, killing a large number of civilians as well as the militants it has targeted. President Obama made advocating the strikes a centerpiece of his Pakistan policy, and the attacks have continued since he took office last month.