Islamabad: The UAE was concerned over
leaks about its military cooperation with the US at a
Pakistani airstrip that has long been suspected of being the
base for CIA-operated drones, according to a secret American
diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks.
As far back as 2005, an official of the UAE government
"expressed his displeasure...that some details of the UAE`s
cooperation with the US military in Pakistan have become
public", said the cable written by then US Ambassador to the
UAE Michele J Sison.
During a meeting on May 11, 2005, Ahmed Al Musally,
Director of the Asian and African Affairs Department in UAE`s
Foreign Ministry, told the US Deputy Chief of Mission about
Al Musally complained that retired general Tommy
Franks, former commander of the US Central Command, had
mentioned in his memoir that "US forces had made use of Sheikh
Zayed`s private airstrip in Balochistan".
Al Musally said this leak was brought to his attention
by the then UAE Ambassador in Pakistan, who sent him an
article published in a Pakistani newspaper on April 27, 2005
that criticised "the Pakistani government for keeping secrets,
and applauds General Frank`s openness in his book about the
cooperation between Pakistan, the US, and other allies".
Days after the US raid that killed Osama bin Laden in
Abbottabad on May 2, Pakistan`s deputy chief of air staff told
an in-camera session of Parliament that the Shamsi airbase in
Balochistan believed to be a base for US drones had been
under the control of the UAE since the 1990s.
The US cable quoted Al Musally as saying that the UAE
government "desires to keep details of the UAE cooperation
with the US military in Afghanistan and Pakistan confidential,
because the (UAE) government is concerned that public
acknowledgment of this assistance could pose risks" to the
security of Emirati officials within the UAE or in Pakistan.
Al Musally noted that "members of the UAE`s ruling
families frequently visit Pakistan for hunting" and the
information given by Franks could compromise their security.
"He noted that there are 500,000 to 600,000 Pakistanis
residing in the UAE... `Maybe they can`t do anything here (in
the UAE), but they might try there (Pakistan), especially when
our leaders travel there`," Al Musally was quoted as saying.
The complaint led to a meeting between the US envoy
and the UAE Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Abdullah Rashid Al
Noaimi on May 14, 2005.
At that meeting, Ambassador Sison assured the Emirati
official that the US Embassy would relay UAE`s "concerns
regarding this matter to Washington".