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Musharraf allowed CIA base in Pak: book

Writer-journalist Ahmed Rashid says that Prez Pervez Musharraf permitted the CIA to establish a base in northern Pakistan to launch strikes by drones on Islamist militants.
By HT Correspondent | IANS, Islamabad
UPDATED ON JUN 10, 2008 01:41 PM IST

President Pervez Musharraf permitted the CIA to establish a base in northern Pakistan to launch strikes by drones on Islamist militants, says writer-journalist Ahmed Rashid.

"On Jan 9, 2008, Mike McConnell, director of national intelligence, and Gen. Michael Hayden, director of CIA, visited Islamabad where they discussed a plan to make operational a secret CIA base that could mount attacks on militants by drones armed with missiles," Rashid says in his book "Descent into Chaos".

The base was located in the restive Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, a region considered a safe haven for Taliban and al Quaeda cadres, The News on Tuesday reported, quoting from the book.

Musharraf, the book says, accepted help from the US Special Forces to train and mentor Pakistani counterterrorism units.

Turning to the February elections, the book says the US embassy in Islamabad had extensively reported to Washington about the plans drawn up by the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to rig the polls.

Rashid describes "how the Bush administration remained soft on Musharraf despite all his follies and instead kept pushing (slain former Prime Minister) Benazir Bhutto to conform to the US-sponsored deal" to share power with him after the polls.

"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 says.

After the elections, Bhutto widower Asif Asli Zardari came under considerable pressure from US President George Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Musharraf to form a coalition with the erstwhile ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, the book says.

Zardari refused and instead allied with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

As to why Bhutto chose to strike a deal with Musharraf, Rashid says she had calculated this was her only chance of making a comeback.

"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," the author maintains.

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