US starts vacating Shamsi airbase in Pakistan

An American aircraft arrived in Pakistan to fly out US nationals.

Islamabad: The US Sunday began to pull out from the Shamsi airbase that had been used to launch drone attacks, a move that came after Pakistan told America to leave over a NATO airstrike that left 24 soldiers dead.

A US aircraft landed at the Shamsi airbase to bring back American officials deployed there, Geo News reported.

There was tight security in the area and locals were told not to leave their homes. The road leading towards the airport had been sealed.

Dawn quoted sources as saying the process of shifting US nationals into the aircraft had begun.

Pakistan had set a Dec 11 deadline for the US to vacate the airbase.

NATO helicopter gunships had targeted two border posts in Mohmand Agency Nov 26, killing two dozen soldiers and sparking outrage in the country.

Islamabad has since stopped the passage of NATO supplies through the country to protest the NATO attack.

It has also decided against attending the Dec 5 Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Wednesday: "The US will vacate the airbase by Dec 11."

The US has been using the airbase for nearly a decade for military operations in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan`s tribal regions.

In a telephone call Saturday, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had told Gilani that America has the highest regard for Pakistan`s sovereignty.

Hillary conveyed her personal condolences on the death of Pakistani soldiers.

She said the attack was not intentional and that "we must wait for the outcome of the investigation".

She added that this incident should not be allowed to jeopardise the bilateral relationship as both countries have common interests.

IANS