Pakistan asks US to vacate Shamsi airbase within 15 days
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday ordered the United States to vacate a controversial airbase within 15 days and closed Nato supply lines into Afghanistan permanently in response to a deadly cross-border Nato air strike.
The order refers to Shamsi, the remote desert outpost in southwest Pakistan reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone strikes, which Pakistan previously told the United States to leave in June.
Pakistan would also review all its diplomatic, political, military and intelligence activities with US and Nato.
The decision was taken at an extraordinary meeting of senior cabinet ministers and military chiefs chaired by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, his office said, after Pakistan said up to 28 soldiers were killed in the strike.
The defence committee of cabinet (DCC) upheld the closure of the Afghan border to Nato supply trucks, implemented earlier Saturday, and demanded that the United States vacate a remote desert air base reportedly used as a hub for covert CIA drone strikes on Pakistan’s border areas with Afghanistan.
“The DCC decided to close with immediate effect the Nato/Isaf (Nato force in Afghanistan) logistics supply lines. The DCC also decided to ask the US to vacate the Shamsi air base within 15 days,” said the prime minister’s office.
“The DCC decided that the government will revisit and undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/Nato/Isaf, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence.” In June, Pakistan also told the United States to leave Shamsi, as Islamabad sought to limit US activities after a clandestine American raid killed Osama bin Laden on May 2 near the capital Islamabad.
The US embassy, which was not immediately reachable for comment on Saturday, has previously said there were no US military personnel at Shamsi.
CNN reported in April that US military personnel had left the base.
Washington has not publicly acknowledged operations at the base, but images said to be of US Predator drones at Shamsi have been published by Google Earth in the past.
The airstrip is 900 kilometres (560 miles) southwest of the capital Islamabad in Balochistan province.
Pakistan gave the US military logistical support at several bases after joining the US-led war on terror in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks.