Pakistan orders US to leave airbase in row over deadly Nato assault

Sunday, November 27, 2011
By Paul Martin

Islamabad says US must leave Shamsi base in 15 days after deaths of at least 24 Pakistani soldiers in mistaken attack

Saeed Shah
Sunday 27 November 2011

Pakistan has given the US 15 days to vacate an airbase used as a key launchpad for drone strikes in Afghanistan in retaliation for a mistaken attack on a Pakistani border outpost that killed at least 24 soldiers and injured 13.

American forces were told to leave the remote Shamsi airbase, secretly given over to the US after 9/11, following an emergency meeting of Pakistan’s top civilian and military leadership late on Saturday. Pakistan has also blocked supply routes for US-led troops in Afghanistan.

Shamsi was used heavily for launching the war in Afghanistan in late 2001, and later served as the base for the US drone programme. Set in sparsely populated desert in the western Baluchistan province, Shamsi is highly controversial within Pakistan for its association with drones, which Islamabad officially condemns.

The decision of the country’s defence committee of the cabinet is an admission that Shamsi remains in American hands. The committee announced that the government would “revisit and undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and co-operative arrangements” with the US, and US-led forces in Afghanistan, “including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence”.

Relations between Islamabad and Washington were already under deep strain before the incident, in which helicopters from the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) operating in Afghanistan shelled checkpoints on the Pakistani side, apparently in error.

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