Musharraf 'allowed CIA base in Fata before polls'
The News, June 10, 2008
By Umar Cheema
NEW YORK: President Pervez Musharraf allowed a secret CIA base inside Fata in January this year to plan missile strikes by drones on militants, senior journalist Ahmed Rashid reveals in his new book.
Under US pressure for military actions in the tribal areas, Rashid writes, Musharraf allowed a secret CIA base for attacks through predators. "On Jan 9, 2008, Mike McConnell, director of the National intelligence, and Gen Michael Hayden, director of the CIA, visited Islamabad where they discussed a plan to make operational in Fata a secret CIA base that could mount attacks on militants by drones armed with missiles."
Musharraf agreed, he writes, and also accepted help from the US special forces to train and mentor Pakistani counterterrorism units. The book also reveals that the US embassy in Islamabad had extensively reported back to Washington before the Feb 2008 vote, informing about the rigging plans being drawn up by the ISI to engineer the elections.
Ahmad Rashid, author of the book "Descent into Chaos", describes how the Bush administration remained soft on Musharraf despite all his follies and instead kept pushing late Benazir Bhutto to conform to the US-sponsored deal.
"Two weeks before her death, Benazir Bhutto told me she was facing enormous pressure from the White House, particularly Vice-President Cheney's office, to conform, while there was no similar pressure on Musharraf to carry out his side of the bargain," Rashid writes in his new book.
The US officials, he writes, refused to accept that the deal was dead or that Musharraf was double-crossing them, even though the US embassy in Islamabad had reported extensively on plans being drawn up by the ISI to rig the elections.
After the elections, Asif Zardari was under pressure from President Bush, Condoleezza Rice and Musharraf to form a coalition with the PML-Q; however, the PPP had refused and announced an alliance with the PML-N, Rashid writes. For eight years, the State Department studiously ignored Benazir Bhutto, with even junior US officials declining to meet her lest their doing so angered Musharraf, Rashid writes in the concluding part of his book.
Ascertaining the reason why the late Bhutto chose to strike a deal with Musharraf, the author said, she had calculated that this was the only chance for her to make a comeback, enjoy full support of the international community and cleanse her reputation.
"She knew that in the Army, only Musharraf, who was an Urdu-speaking Mohajir, now irrevocably weakened, could be persuaded to accept her. The next Army chief and the majority of generals were Punjabis, who would prefer to deal with fellow Punjabi Nawaz Sharif."
About her assassination, the author writes that the Afghan intelligence had privately warned her about a plot by extremists to assassinate her. Afghan President Hamid Karzai was the last dignitary who met Benazir shortly before her assassination. Karzai later told Rashid: "She was very frank to me about the ISI and the role they were playing in undermining her."