Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pakistan tells US to leave secret base

A view of a CIA airbase inside Pakistan

Source: Press TV

Pakistan's defense minister has ordered the United States to leave a remote desert airbase in the country's southwestern Balochistan province.

Chaudhary Ahmed Mukhtar says Shamsi secret airbase is reportedly being used for unmanned drone attacks and will soon be passed onto the Pakistani army.

"We have told them (US officials) to leave the air base," Mukhtar told a group of reporters in Islamabad on Wednesday.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been using the airbase to station its unmanned predator drones.

The strategic location of the base allows US forces to launch the unauthorized drone attacks within minutes of an order.

An investigation by The Times revealed in 2010 that the CIA has been secretly using Shamsi to launch strikes on targets on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.

The drones have been used to attack targets inside Pakistan's tribal areas killing several hundred innocent civilians.

The base was also extensively used in 2001 when the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began.

The Pakistani military had reportedly allowed the US to use Shamsi, Jacobabad, and two other bases - Pasni and Dalbadin - in its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan.

The then military government, led by Pervez Musharraf, said the Americans had left the bases in 2006.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington have been tense amid repeated breach of Pakistani sovereignty by US forces.

Pakistani lawmakers have recently passed a resolution condemning the US raid inside Pakistan that allegedly killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in early May.

They have demanded that the government of President Asif Ali Zardari review its ties with the US and other Western countries.

Pakistan has also called on the United States to steeply reduce the number of CIA operatives and halt the non-UN-sanctioned drone attacks on its soil.

Meanwhile, reports say US President Barack Obama has rejected Islamabad's call for more transparency regarding CIA operations in the country.

Mukhtar also said that Pakistan has made many sacrifices in the war against terrorism while payments from the coalition support fund have stalled.

His order to vacate the base comes shortly after he announced Pakistan is reviewing relations with the US in the so-called war on terror.

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