Pakistan’s defense minister says his government has told U.S. forces to leave a key military base in the south of the country, although an American official says the minister’s comments are “news to us.”
The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan Wednesday quoted minister Ahmed Mukhtar as telling reporters in his Rawalpindi office: “We have told them (the U.S. officials) to leave the air base.” According to APP, the minister was responding to a question about Shamsi air base in Baluchistan province, from where U.S. military drones are said to operate.
However, the U.S. official said American counter terrorism operations in Pakistan continue.
Separately– a source familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan said Shamsi Airbase is "still open for business."
Mukhtar’s comment is Pakistan’s latest public statement of displeasure with the United States, following the secret U.S. raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden.
The drone issue had put a strain on U.S.-Pakistan relations, even before the raid. In April, days before that commando operation, a Pakistani official said U.S. personnel had left the base, a claim that American officials had then denied.
-CNN's National Security Producer Pam Benson contributed to this report
A new U.S. counterterrorism strategy will focus on the ability of al Qaeda and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack the homeland, said John Brennan, White House Counterterrorism Adviser.
Speaking at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies on Wednesday, Brennan said, “Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts.”
He added, “We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil….It’s not enough to simply be prepared for attacks, we have to be resilient and recover quickly should an attack occur.”
A law enforcement official confirms that members of the Westboro Baptist Church, known for its controversial practice of picketing military funerals, participated in training for law enforcement officials at Quantico Marine Base in Virginia. The sessions were discontinued this spring after Tom Browne, Assistant Director for the FBI, voiced strong opposition to bringing the group to a military facility.
Members of Westboro were "respectful" when they were on the base and did not cause any disruption, according to the official. He adds, "It wasn't the purpose to give them another outlet to vent their views. It was more academic."
The Pentagon says the message below– from Defense Secretary Gates on his last full day in office– is going out today to "all U.S. military personnel, active and reserve, around the world"
TO THE MEN AND WOMEN OF THE UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES: TOMORROW, 30 JUNE 2011, I WILL RETIRE AS SECRETARY OF DEFENSE. IT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST HONOR OF MY LIFE TO SERVE AND TO LEAD YOU FOR THE PAST FOUR AND A HALF YEARS.
ALL OF THAT TIME WE HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN TWO WARS AND COUNTLESS OTHER OPERATIONS. IT HAS BEEN A DIFFICULT TIME FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR FAMILIES, FROM LONG AND REPEATED DEPLOYMENTS FOR THOSE IN ALL FOUR SERVICES - AND THE ASSOCIATED LONG SEPARATIONS FROM LOVED ONES - TO THE ANGUISH OF THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE LOST FRIENDS AND FAMILY IN COMBAT OR THOSE OF YOU WHO HAVE SUFFERED VISIBLE AND INVISIBLE WOUNDS OF WAR YOURSELVES. BUT YOUR DEDICATION, COURAGE AND SKILL HAVE KEPT AMERICA SAFE EVEN WHILE BRINGING THE WAR IN IRAQ TO A SUCCESSFUL CONCLUSION AND, I BELIEVE, AT LAST TURNING THE TIDE IN AFGHANISTAN. YOUR COUNTRYMEN OWE YOU THEIR FREEDOM AND THEIR SECURITY. THEY SLEEP SAFELY AT NIGHT AND PURSUE THEIR DREAMS DURING THE DAY BECAUSE YOU STAND THE WATCH AND PROTECT THEM.
A Kabul-based official with direct access to security information tells CNN it’s believed the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel was NOT the work of the Taliban but rather the Haqqani network, a longstanding group of terrorists loyal to the warlord Siraq Haqqani.
The Haqqanis have staged many spectacular attacks in Kabul in recent years and have the longstanding goal of trying to destabilize the Karzai government.
The official said “confidence is high” in the information it was the Haqqanis. “Human intelligence and technical information is providing that assessment” this official said.
The official also confirmed that all attackers wore suicide belts–the first one detonated at whatever entrance the attackers came in and the others then rushed in.
The attackers, nine in all, were from the Haqqani network. They came into Afghanistan from Pakistan.