Islamabad: Pakistani security forces on Saturday
took control of a strategically important airbase in the
country`s southwest after US military personnel vacated the
facility in line with a demand from the Pakistan government.
Pakistan had asked the US to vacate Shamsi airbase in
Balochistan province after a cross-border NATO attack on two
border posts killed 24 soldiers on November 26.
The US had been using the airbase since late 2001 for
military operations in Afghanistan and drone strikes in
Pakistan’s tribal belt, according to American and Pakistani
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had said last week that
the US had been asked to vacate the airbase by December 11.
Troops from the Frontier Corps took control of the
airbase late this evening after most of the US personnel left
Only one US transport plane was parked at the airbase to
transfer remaining personnel and equipment, Geo News channel
quoted its sources as saying.
Officials of the Civil Aviation Authority too arrived at
the airbase to take full control of it after the remaining
American officials leave the facility.
Media reports yesterday said the US had shifted five
drone aircraft from Shamsi airbase to Afghanistan.
US personnel dismantled residential barracks which had
been set up for the military personnel.
The United Arab Emirates had leased the airbase, located
about 300 km from the Balochistan capital of Quetta, in 1992
for use by members of the country`s royal family who travel to
Pakistan every year for hunting expeditions.
The UAE gave the US access to the airbase after the 9/11
Shamsi airbase was originally built to operate small
aircraft and the US extended the runway so that larger
military aircraft could be based there.
Numerous reports by the Pakistani and American media have
said that Shamsi was used by CIA-operated drones that carried
out attacks on militants in Pakistan`s restive tribal belt.