|One Bold Step, Order to Vacate Shamsi Air Base|
So Message was loud and clear, Stop Drone Attacks
As the relations between Islamabad and Washington have strained due to latter’s mounting interference and repeated breach of Pakistan’s sovereignty, the US Embassy spokesman, Alberto Rodriguez, confirmed that there are no US forces at the Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan.
Pakistan Air Force (PAF) spokesperson, when approached about his version on the vacation of US forces and the deadly drones from Shamsi airfield, explained that the airfield does not belong to the PAF while the Pakistan Army sources confirmed that the airfield was free from the American forces.
No one was prepared to share with The News the dates or the time period when the Shamsi airfield was vacated by the Americans although the sources insist that it is a recent development.
Almost a year back, Defence Minister Ahmad Mukhtar spoke on the topic of the Shamsi Air Base confirming that it was being used by American forces for logistical purposes but, he added, the government was not satisfied with payments for the use of the facility.
Mukhtar, however, did not go into the nature of airfield’s use by the American forces. Prior to Shamsi, Pakistan had also got vacated from the US forces the Jacobabad Air Base and Pasni, which were used for its operations in Afghanistan.
The US has been using thraf’s policies and allowed much larger number of drone attacks than before.
WikiLeaks had revealed that Prime Minister Gilani had endorsed the drones’ policy. Gilani was reported to have even said to the US officials that his government would raise hue and cry over these drone attacks for the sake of countering the public pressure.
However, of late and after the Raymond Davis episode, things became extremely tense between Washington and Islamabad with the CIA insisting to carry on with its operations, including the drone attacks inside Pakistan, while the ISI is adamant to restricting the Americans from crossing the red-line.
Pakistan concerned over Israeli Soldiers presence at Shamsi AirbasePakistani security officials were shocked when they found over two dozen Jewish soldiers at the Shamsi Airbase, deemed e Shamsi Air Base in Balochistan province to station unmanned Predator drones that have been used to attack terrorist targets inside Pakistan’s tribal areas. Shamsi airfield, also called Bandari, is a small airfield and air station located about 200 miles southwest of Quetta near the town of Washki.
In 2009, media reports revealed that the airfield was used by the United States Central Intelligence Agency as a base for Predator drone attacks on so-called militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas but ended up killing several hundreds innocent people. On January 9, 2002 a US Marine Corps KC-130 aircraft reportedly crashed on approach to Shamsi. All seven crew members were killed in the crash.
In February 2009, The Times of London had announced that it had obtained Google images from 2006 which showed Predator aircraft parked outside a hangar at the end of the runway of the Shamsi airfield. Before that, a US Senator Dianne Feinstein said that the CIA was basing its drone aircraft in Pakistan. The US company Blackwater was also reported to have a presence there, hired by the government to arm the drones with missiles.
It was General Musharraf who had permitted the US to use its airbases not only to attack Afghanistan but also to launch drone attacks on the people of Pakistan in the name of the so-called war on terror. The present regime also continued with Musharas a key station for launching airstrikes in Afghanistan and northwestern areas of Pakistan, sources said.
The sources said that the Pakistani officials visited the airbase for the immigration of US officials in the wake of cabinet decision to evacuate the base after a Nato raid in Mohmand Agency that killed 24 soldiers last month.
A security official requesting anonymity told that the Jewish soldiers were introduced to Pakistani officials as Americans, but Islamabad thinks that the Jewish soldiers were under cover agents of Israel and were deployed in Pakistan for espionage purpose.
They said that the Jews’ deployment was amid at spying on Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
FC troops take over Shamsi AirbaseThe Pakistani security forces have taken over the control of Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan, according to a source from Kharan.
The source said a US plane landed at Shamsi Airbase on Saturday for shifting military equipment and American staff from there. He claimed that Frontier Corps Balochistan has effectively taken the control of the base.
It was also learnt that officials of Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority have also reached the airbase for performing duties there. Shamsi Airbase was being used by US troops for drone attacks in Fata and other operations in south-western regions of Afghanistan. Following the Nato attack on Pakistan checkposts which killed 24 soldiers, Pakistan had asked US to vacate the base and set December 11 deadline for it.
While the Shamsi base is reported to have been “technically” evacuated from the US forces, some 150 to 200 American personnel, reported to be the security guards and supporting staff at the facility, have not left as yet. An Afghanistan-bound military flight would purportedly carry these personnel to Kabul during late hours today.
According to credible sources, Pakistan does not intend to use the aforesaid airfield for military purposes once the country gets its administrative control owing to the security related sensitivities having evolved given that the same facility has remained in the use of American military and air force for over a decade. Secondly, before the facility was handed over to the US forces in October 2001, Shamsi base did not have any strategic or military importance for Pakistan and was used as hunting ground for Arab royalties from United Arab Emirates who had acquired the base on lease in 1991, reportedly.
Informed government officials shared with this newspaper that the proposal to use Shamsi airbase as an airport was on the cards but no decision was finalised as yet. For the time being, the Frontier Corps (FC) would assume the base control while Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) may be assigned to run the affairs of the air facility by turning it into an airport.
Washuk, a rural district of Balochistan where Shamsi airbase is located, does not have any airport at the moment. FC, a paramilitary wing of Pakistan Army that is subordinated to the interior ministry, would keep partial presence in the facility till any final decision on Shamsi facility is made. Washuk was previously part of Kharan district and is still governed by Kharan’s district administration.
When contacted, General Manager Public Relations and CAA Spokesperson Pervaiz George expressed ignorance about the issue saying that it was within the government’s authority to take any such decision. “I have no idea in this regard.”
Kharan Deputy Commissioner Tufail Baloch told The Nation that Pakistani security agencies would take over Shamsi airbase once officially notified that the base was ready to be taken into possession. He said, deciding about Shamsi base future was a federal subject and it was therefore mandated to federal government to proceed accordingly.
Contrary to the speculations that Pakistan Air Force (PAF) would acquire control of the Shamsi airbase in the coming days, the armed force has negated of having been privy to any development concerning the airfield. When inquired on Saturday, the PAF responded that it had no role, involvement or obligation pertaining to the aforesaid base. “PAF has nothing to do with it,” he said.
Leased to the United States soon after Pakistan became its “ally” in the war on terror following September 11 attacks, Shamsi airbase has attracted a lot of notoriety in recent years amid verified reports that the base was hotbed for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sponsored drones campaign in Pakistan’s north-western tribal region of Fata (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). Hundreds of drone-hits that reportedly killed several militants along with civilians had taken off from the same air facility.
However, after Pakistan went tough on the US and gave it 15-day deadline to “pack up” from Shamsi base on November 26 following the fatal attack on two Pakistan military pickets in Mohmand Agency killing 24 soldiers, the drone hits have seen a conspicuous halt.
According to Conflict Monitoring Centre’s last month report on CIA drone-hits in Waziristan region, four drone attacks were reported, three in North Waziristan and one in South Waziristan. Twenty-six to 37 militants were killed in these attacks that took place between November 3 to November 17.
How CIA Was Expelled From Pakistan’s Shamsi Airbase
As Pakistani soldiers took positions around the base two days before the deadline, US military conveyed to a reluctant CIA that this was the end of its decade-long expedition in Pakistan.
The events of the weekend of 10 and 11 December show how a reluctant and arrogant CIA was forced to leave a base in southwestern Pakistan amid fears that Pakistani military might seize sophisticated equipment on the base used to operate drones. The American intelligence agency was also let down by the waning resolve of the US government and the military, both of whom conveyed to the agency they would not contest a Pakistani move to seize the base and all of the equipment on it if the facility was not vacated by the midnight of Sunday, December 11, Pakistan standard time.
If CIA had any doubts about Pakistani resolve to expel American agents from a base in southwestern Pakistan, those doubts ended when Pakistani soldiers took position around the base two days before end of the deadline yesterday.
CIA officers at the base, in Kabul and back in the US were resisting pressure from the White House and the State Department to leave Pakistan in accordance with the deadline given by Islamabad. They were hoping for a last minute break that would allow them to keep some kind of presence in the strategic base that provides easy access to Iranian, Pakistani and Afghan air spaces.
This reluctance was part of the agency’s overall intention of not leaving Afghanistan and the region at any cost, despite popular US demands to end the war.
Pakistan had a bitter experience with the arrogance of CIA officials operating in Afghanistan, which is their biggest base of operations in the world today, and wanted to take no chances.
The CIA had ignored an earlier Pakistani request, in May, to leave the base. Islamabad waited then but did not pursue the matter in deference to the United Arab Emirates, an ally whose royal family leased what was a simple airstrip back in 1992 for use as a landing point for its private hunting trips. In October 2001, the UAE leased the base to CIA with the consent of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
But this time, Pakistan had a contingency plan for the worst case scenario. In case CIA agents refused to leave, the Pakistani military was going to storm the base and expel CIA and its agents and technicians by force and seize whatever CIA drones found parked on the base.
When the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corp units assumed positions around the base on Dec. 8, CIA operatives knew they had to leave by the midnight of Dec. 11, the end of the two-week deadline given by Pakistani federal government. There was no way CIA was going to risk its prized equipment falling in Pakistani hands.
Unlike CIA, the US military decided early on not to take chances. Transport aircraft belonging to US military started arriving as early as Dec. 4 to take away soldiers and equipment. US military officers also conveyed to CIA that they would not resist or help CIA counter any move by Pakistani military to seize the base.
Finally, the last US transport plane left the base at 1500 hours on Sunday, Pakistan time. CIA agents on the ground destroyed bunkers and barracks and some equipment to render them useless for Pakistanis.
US media outlets linked to CIA are trying to downplay the impact of this move on CIA’s operations in the region.
The expulsion of CIA and its drones from the base marks an end to the decade-long CIA footprint on Pakistani soil. Tens of CIA agents have already been expelled by Pakistan earlier this year.
Shamsi Airbase is now in Control of Pak Army on Dec 11th, 2011
Earlier, Pakistan had asked the US to vacate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province following NATO fighter jets and helicopters bombed two border posts on November 26 and killed 24 soldiers.
This Airbase was built by the Sheik Zayed Al Nahyan in 1992. This air base was in the used of US since the 2001.
US is using this airbase for the military operations in Afghanistan and drone Attacks in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
US set equipment on fire before leaving Shamsi air base
US set equipment on fire before leaving Shamsi air base