Pakistan tells US to leave Shamsi airbase

Published: June 30, 2011

Defence minister says it is time to review anti-terror cooperation with Washington.

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan is pushing the US to abandon an airbase in Balochistan that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has reportedly been using for years to undertake its drone campaign inside the country’s tribal areas, the defence minister said.

Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s statement confirming that the US had been told to leave the Shamsi airbase is the latest indication of the simmering tensions between the key war-on-terror allies.

The minister told a group of journalists in Islamabad on Wednesday that it was time to review the anti-terror cooperation with the US.

“We have told them [US officials] to leave the airbase,” APP quoted Mukhtar as saying.

Pakistan first asked the CIA to vacate the airbase early this year when the two countries negotiated to redefine their cooperation after an American contactor shot at and killed two Pakistanis in Lahore.

Islamabad pressed its demand harder after last month’s overnight-raid by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad that killed former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

The move by the security establishment was part of its efforts to reduce US footprints on Pakistani soil.

It is still unclear whether at all, or when, the Americans would abandon the facility they have been using since former president Pervez Musharraf first allowed them to operate from it back in 2006.

Meanwhile, there were more signs of escalating tensions between Washington and Islamabad as the Pakistani military hit back at US generals accusing it of being lax on militants.

A statement by the military’s public relations wing rebuked a statement by top US generals in a testimony before the Senate’s arms service committee.

“We reject allegations leveled by senior US military officials as reported in a section of the press casting aspersions on the desire and capability of the Pakistan army to fight militancy,” said the statement by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR).

Lieutenant General John Allen, named the next commander in Afghanistan, suggested Pakistan was keeping its options open by allowing Haqqani fighters to operate within its borders.

“It’s a function, probably, of capacity. But it might also be a function of their hedging, whether they have determined that the US is going to remain in Afghanistan and whether our strategy will be successful or not,” Allen told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

But Pakistani military rejected the comments terming them “uncalled for”.

“Our concerns and constraints must be taken into consideration before making any statement questioning our commitment to fighting militancy,” the ISPR statement added.

The reaction by the Pakistani military appeared to be indicating that both countries were facing a severe trust deficit in terms of who should spearhead a so-called reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Mukhtar also admitted that the level of trust deficit was the highest in 10 years, but suggested it could be reduced through constant engagement.

“This trust deficit could be reduced by sitting together and taking joint actions,” he told the media.

On Tuesday, US vice admiral William McRaven, who oversaw the Bin Laden raid, said the US military believes that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar is in Pakistan and had asked the Pakistani army to locate him.

Asked about Omar, Mukhtar said: “Even if he was in Pakistan, he would have left the country after the Abbottabad incident.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2011.

Reader Comments (48)

  • Someone
    Jun 30, 2011 - 7:38AM

    Thank God. Move this trash out of the country for once and for all. Recommend

  • AnisAqeel
    Jun 30, 2011 - 7:52AM

    Way too late buddy.Recommend

  • Haris Chaudhry
    Jun 30, 2011 - 7:58AM

    US did not occupy Shamsi airbase on its own. Gen Musharraf / Pak army provided access for the airbase to US. That was when billions were flowing into Pakistan without any questions asked and Pak generals were the flavour of western world and US being feted across the world as partners in combating terrorism.

    The world then sees the duplicity and hypocrisy of the same generals over preceding years who would rather keep taking billions of dollars in aid and shiny weapons from one hand but keep protecting its strategic assets to kill NATO / US forces and innocent civilians in Afghanistan.

    US then goes and takes out Osama and questions Pak’s sincerity in helping it eliminate the murderous thugs that are hell bent on harming its interests and killing fellow Pakistanis. Pak generals under the spot light chuck another tantrum as their reputation nose dives within Pakistan and its commitment to fight militants questioned around the world.. This posturing is for domestic consumption. This is called “hood winking”.
    Pakistan cannot survive without US, IMF and ADBP aid. Pakistan and its generals know this well. They will surely toe the line and offer another base to US until such time that the media gets the wind of the new base and then this cycle will start all over again..!

    You cant fool all of the people all the time… !

    Haris ChaudhryRecommend

  • Mirza
    Jun 30, 2011 - 8:14AM

    Even in the worst democracy the truth is starting to come out. The last paragraph where the defense minister talks about Mullah Omar, and says:
    “Even if he was in Pakistan, he would have left the country after the Abbottabad incident.”
    The question is what incident? On one hand the military touts are spreading rumors that OBL was not killed, or died before that incident, it is all bunches of lies, etc. If it is all lies then why would defense minister say that after this incident Omar would have left the country after Abbottabad incident?
    In a democracy the truth starts trickling out even despite the iron grip of army. When would the army spokesperson start telling the truth to its employer, we the people of Pakistan?Recommend

  • Jun 30, 2011 - 8:49AM

    Thank you Almighty Allah. May Allah reward them for commendable deed.Recommend

  • fahim
    Jun 30, 2011 - 8:52AM

    we have gone crazy… get kicked both inside and outside… Recommend

  • R
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:06AM

    From Shamsi to which airbase have the Khakis allowed the US to move to?

    Joke of the day: Mullah Omar has left Pakistan according to the Defense Minister. This time he knows, someone knows! Recommend

  • Tariq
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:28AM

    I thought Pakistan Govt always insisted that they had no US base in Pakistan. What liarsRecommend

  • The patriot
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:39AM

    This means , if we ever had war with USA we will be only country being attacked from inside… :PRecommend

  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:45AM

    US will not vacate Shamsi Airbase as the land on which Shamsi Airbase does not belong to Pakistan as the land was sold to UAE.

    To get the Shamsi Airbase vacated, it would be necessary for GoP to first cancel the lease/allotment of the land sold to UAE and then ask US to get out of Shamsi Airbase.

    If US refuse to vacate the Shamsi base, GoP should order its jet fighters to keep on targeting the drones until US vacate Shamsi Airbase. Recommend

  • Jun 30, 2011 - 9:47AM

    Wrong news. The correct news should be: “Pakistani tells everyone they have asked US to leave Shamsi airbase!”Recommend

  • sam
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:51AM

    kick them out … gain control of the situation and smoke out the militants.. thats the only way we can save this country… oh and while ur at it kicking them out pls ahve a go at zardari and gillani as well.. i refuse to call them president or PM.. its wayy to embarassing a fact to admit…Recommend

  • Baqar
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:52AM

    Too little too late…

    What difference does it make now even if they leave Shahbaz airbase. The damage has already been done. As for Afghanistan end game America is poised to give the lead role to India, only thing that give Pakistan the edge is the pashtoon card. Recommend

  • Dr S
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:58AM

    Kick the superpowers out of the region!Recommend

  • omar yusaf
    Jun 30, 2011 - 10:24AM

    @Mirza: The “incident” being referred to concerns the violation of airspace and not the claims of killing & burying Bin Laden. I would have thought this was obvious.Recommend

  • Frank
    Jun 30, 2011 - 10:32AM

    Good riddance to bad rubbish.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jun 30, 2011 - 11:00AM

    @omar yusaf:
    You are really funny! The Abbottabad incident is violation of Pakistani airspace? Why only onne incident, the drones violate the airspace everyday, several times? However, there is reaction to only one violation, why? It is so obvious that this one violation has hurt Pakistanis much more than the daily drones.
    Regards,
    MirzaRecommend

  • wasim younis
    Jun 30, 2011 - 11:18AM

    The US needs to realize that they should work together with Pakistan. If they are trying to do operations on their own it will not only Pakistan but the whole region. So, i advice both countries to act in a sane manner and solve their differences between them.Recommend

  • ghairatmand
    Jun 30, 2011 - 11:28AM

    Mukhtar said: “Even if he was in Pakistan, he would have left the country after the Abbottabad incident.” – Hence NO NEED FOR US TO SEARCH ! Thats very logical statement to make :-)Recommend

  • Chebbo
    Jun 30, 2011 - 12:30PM

    Well done Pakistan army, that’s the only way to be savvy of the Americans state owned
    covert gangsterism’. It’s never too late when it comes to remove these foreign boots from the soil. They should be careful about the Americans movement in the country and their ambiguous language such as ‘specified’ or ‘unspecified’ in their contracts specially when you deal with a crone like Hillary Rodham Clinton because they do use such terms to leave loopholes in the operative conditions in the contract to get benefits of their desired agenda a posteriori. Pak Army should refrain from making any further contract in any case and do not listen any American plea or allegations in this regards. You may hear them coming with lots of apprehensions about the Talibans and the region. Do not listen to them, be straight and ask them to pack their bases from every inch of the homeland called Pakistan. That’s the voice of every Pakistani.Recommend

  • Furqan
    Jun 30, 2011 - 12:59PM

    kick them out all of themRecommend

  • RizwanTKhan
    Jun 30, 2011 - 1:22PM

    what what? is there a man in our govt & Military to dare ask the US to leave our air-base? Where is that man? We would want to see him in govt of wolfs.Recommend

  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Jun 30, 2011 - 2:25PM

    According to CNN dated June 30 2011:Asked about the remarks, a U.S. official said the comments “are news to us” and that U.S. counterterrorism operations in Pakistan were continuing.

    Separately, a source familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan said the airbase in southwest Pakistan was “still open for business.”

    Any comments??? Is this statement like the statement he made in China about Gawadar Port?Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 30, 2011 - 2:45PM

    Classic Pakistan —- get caught hiding OBL and rather than apologize you blame the people who exposed your culpability. It really doesn’t matter what base the drones fly out – there still going to fly – and if the drones can’t fly then manned bombers and fighters will take their place and those weapon systems are more than a match for anything in your arsenal. You want to go to war with the USA — bring it on.Recommend

  • Malik
    Jun 30, 2011 - 2:50PM

    The Defence Minister should explain where he was when the armed forces were facing their worst crisis in May 2011. Under his watch PIA has been ruined and an executive director shown on YouTube doing a dance act with a glass full of liquor balanced on his head has been recently promoted as Deputy MD. Nobody is indispensable, not even the DM himself, or his party boss. The military at least had the moral courage to accept the Supreme Court directive to transfer DG Rangers Sindh, and has now started the process of cleansing its rank and file starting with a serving Brigadier. Why is the political government refusing to reform itself. Who was responsible for handing over Shamsi Air Base to NATO for drone flights?. It was none other than Mush who facilitated Zardari to form a government courtesy NRO, which has been declared ultra vires of the constitution by Supreme Court of PakistanRecommend

  • omar yusaf
    Jun 30, 2011 - 3:01PM

    @Mirza: No I am not funny Mirza. I leave that to comedians. I am only stating the reason that has been printed in ALL the newspapers in Pakistan, and abroad. And also as a matter of fact, by our Parliament as well. The jokes on you I am afraid.Recommend

  • mahmood
    Jun 30, 2011 - 3:13PM

    Just one last thing before Pakistan runs out of bargaining chips with the USA — once the supply route goes then Pakistan’s relations with the USA will end and your days of formally being an international pariah will begin. Closing bases and antagonizing the American’s isn’t going to eliminate the embarrassment from being caught hiding OBL.Recommend

  • Javed
    Jun 30, 2011 - 3:22PM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui: You said “If US refuse to vacate the Shamsi base, GoP should order its jet fighters to keep on targeting the drones until US vacate Shamsi Airbase.”
    Do you really believe we have the capacity to go to war with the US. We can’t handle the Taliban and you want to start a war with the US. Stop day dreaming and come back to the real world please. Its our day dreaming that has brought us to this sorry state. Our Strategic Depth( DREAM) is also a part of this dream.Recommend

  • Aryabhat
    Jun 30, 2011 - 3:40PM

    Excellent news!

    Next should be blockage of goods passing through Pakistan for US in Afghanistan! Ghairat bhi koi cheej hoti hey!

    And then what?

    Economic sanctions to begin with. China as only friend and North Korea as role model!

    Brilliant!

    Any more mess up (like series of bomb blasts in China’s north-west or attack on Chinese in Africa or heavens forbid but dirty nuke attack anywhere in world – traced back to Pakistan) and slide down the slippery slope would be hastened to ensure the fall results in defragmentation os the state as we know.

    Who needs India when Pakistan has such great strategists in its defence establishment?Recommend

  • Sher Zaman
    Jun 30, 2011 - 4:04PM

    Pakistan must redefine its priorities, because no one else is going to save us from the mess that we have created by supporting the terrorist elements in the name of strategic assets. Expelling or severing relationship with allies, particularly the stronger ones won’t help but only exacerbate the problem further.Recommend

  • AK
    Jun 30, 2011 - 4:19PM

    @Cautious…..all I can do is only laugh at your comment. Your mentality clearly shows that you’re one of those Indians who are only good at paper and lounge-room talk.

    Buddy, if USA tried to mess with Pakistan, they would be finished in 2-3 weeks. All their troops are stationed in Afghanistan, a landlocked country. Imagine no more NATO supplies, no food, no weapons. No coastline for escape. Where would they end up? The nearest coffin/graveyard/cemetry is the appropriate answer.

    Rather than talking crap about Pakistan, you should be kissing Pakistan’s feet for the food it provides to the hungry tombs of the Americans otherwise most of them would starve to death by now. LOLRecommend

  • Javed
    Jun 30, 2011 - 4:32PM

    @Iftikhar-ur-Rehman:
    I think we should ignore statements made by Ahmad Mukhtar as a rule. Recommend

  • Ammad
    Jun 30, 2011 - 5:15PM

    In Pakistan you can never be sure about what is being reported. Like Mr. Iftikhar mentioned minister’s statement regarding gwadar port in China; he never made any such statement. Pull out the actual text, he said we’d be honoured if they did, that too after 35 years! I

    Regarding this particular statement, I wouldn’t know, haven’t read or heard the original statement.

    Recommend

  • Jun 30, 2011 - 5:30PM

    All is well that ends well. Yes, millions of dollars were pouring in Pakistan, as in case of so called ‘Holly war’ against the then Red Army in 80s, after Pakistan agreed ( or was forced to agree ) to play a front line state role in the on going war against terrorism soon after the tragic episode of 9/11. Pakistani nation bears a great sense of respect and honor to our august armed forces, who are alive round the clock to our existence against every kind of aggression; yet history will encompass the fact that some of our brave generals surrendered, at least while fighting in the battle field in 1971 against India, while others surrendered to US wrath embodied in an agenda of reportedly US 12 points in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks at World Trade Centre. History is the mirror of ones actions, and one is left with no option but to learn from it. There could be other airports too in the direct control of foreigners to cater to their nefarious designs. We are renowned professional global beggars and never lose any opportunity to grab few dollars, when and where ever the chain of events provides so. This is the time to restore our distorted integrity & international image. Lets be fair and clear in our approach to our selves and to the world at large and forget not that we cannot fool all of the people all of the timeRecommend

  • harry stone
    Jun 30, 2011 - 5:39PM

    I am sure this will make Pakistan safer. Hopefully this is the first step of ending the relationship with the US. This too will be to the advantage of Pakistan. Pakistan can find partners like Russia, China and Iran. Recommend

  • Menon
    Jun 30, 2011 - 6:07PM

    @wasim younis:

    Think we tried that for a decade but you guys were duplicious. Next advice?Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jun 30, 2011 - 7:27PM

    @AK – Buddy, if USA tried to mess with Pakistan, they would be finished in 2-3 weeks.

    I am sure that America is quaking in it’s boots – but in case you have forgotten America still has the capability of bombing Pakistan back to the Stone Age — and it can do that without a single American fatality. If you have doubts about that use Google and research how successful Saddam was in combating the American airforce – and he had what many consider the most extensive anti air defense in the World.

    Whether you like it or not — American can pretty much eliminate anything of value in Pakistan (including your air force, navy, electrical grid, and economy) without much risk — can fly over Pakistan at will. You won’t be fighting guys with suicide jackets, AK’s and RPG’s.Recommend

  • Sameer
    Jun 30, 2011 - 8:00PM

    Oh wow, look at all the Imran Khan, ghariat brigade types supporting this move.

    The sad fact is that the drones work and the people in the tribal areas like them. All the research says only 6% of the casualties are civilians. This is very sad but it’s much more effective than waiting for the crazies in FATA to come and blow things up in Lahore and Karachi and Peshawar.

    Recommend

  • Malay
    Jun 30, 2011 - 8:15PM

    @AK

    You are a genius.
    You redefine Bravado and Optimism.Recommend

  • malik
    Jun 30, 2011 - 9:35PM

    Whether we like it or not, US is our biggest donor. In fact, without the US aid, we can’t even survive for a day.

    It’s also a fact, because US is supporting us, other countries are also willing to pitch in whatever they can. Once US withdraws its aid package, the rest will follow suit, citing difficult economic conditions in their home.

    Considering these, is it wise to keep arm-twisting US and to keep bullying our biggest donor? Has anyone thought of the consequences of US getting irritated with Pak and getting disengaged with Pak? Has anyone thought of the consequences of pushing US to a corner for scoring minor brownie points?

    Or Do we think that we are indispensable to US and they have no other option except to pay us and to deal with us? Do we think that the aid from US is a perennial source of funds and will never dry up? Do we think that the NATO route is a golden goose to us?

    This public posturing of anti-Americanism may win applause from rabid anti-US lobby in Pak (aka ghairat brigade), but definitely it does not augur well for the economic or political stability of the country.

    I hope saner counsel prevails soon, otherwise it might be too late !!!Recommend

  • 1stResponder
    Jun 30, 2011 - 11:01PM

    @Cautious: why do u call yourself ‘cautious’? u r just the kind of incautious, gun happy, swaggering, dumb ape that the usa is infamous for. what makes u think that pakistan doesnt have its own self-interests? do u think that pak has to comply with all the usa’s demands? i think they r a sovereign nation and the usa needs to learn to respect the fact that not every country needs to bow to the usa’s wishes.
    seems like this whole thing is about who is going to control afghanistan, the usa or pak. the best thing to do, imo, is to let afghanistan determine its own future.Recommend

  • 1stResponder
    Jul 1, 2011 - 1:11AM

    how do most pakistanis feel about the haqqani network?Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 1, 2011 - 1:12AM

    @omar yusaf:
    Sorry I am not that smart. God has created all kinds of naive people I have to live with this fact. However, I can still understand that Shamsi Airbase was given/leased to the US in 2006 and that was a naked violation of Pakistani space as drones were attacking Pakistani areas from within the Pakistan. This violation of not just the airspace but the sovereignty of Pakistan is ongoing for five years. There were dozens of people killed in various drone attacks almost every day. However, the only incident that killed OBL in a military base is so hard to swallow. Being a person of modest intelligence, I am still asking the questions:
    Was OBL there in the safe compound, specifically built for him?
    Was OBL killed in that compound?
    What was OBL doing there and how did he manage for 5 long years with his harem?
    If the US was so brutal why did they not kill all his children and the multiple wives?
    If any of this is a lie, then our ISPR who loves to make political statements should come out and expose the US lies. Why would the generals of Islamic Republic of Pakistan become men and tell the truth to their employer the people? By not contradicting the US statements regarding OBL, they actually are agreeing to it, otherwise they promptly deny every other small news in the US media.
    Thanks and regards,
    MirzaRecommend

  • Jameel
    Jul 1, 2011 - 5:51AM

    Well US has refused point blank. Here is the news;

    U.S. rejects demands to vacate Pakistan drone baseRecommend

  • Jul 1, 2011 - 6:28AM

    @1stResponder:
    “what makes u think that pakistan doesnt have its own self-interests? do u think that pak has to comply with all the usa’s demands? i think they r a sovereign nation and the usa needs to learn to respect the fact that not every country needs to bow to the usa’s wishes.”

    Who cares if you have self-interests? All countries do. Most, if not all, wars begin due to ignorant “self-interest.” If Pakistan doesn’t want to be tagged a bomb-worthy enemy, yes, it does have to comply to some extent. Respect? No country respects Pakistan. It doesn’t do anything to deserve it. In fact, it takes every chance it gets to lower the whole world’s respect for it. I can’t recall a single respectable action or stance in opinion. It has been getting free second chances by the world for a long time like they were dealing with a mentally challenged person who just doesn’t know any better. Also, almost every country entering or causing a war would be called “sovereign.” You have a messed up view of the world. You’re speaking of details/circumstances that don’t even matter and ones that don’t even exist. Nothing you say has any ground in the reality of the circumstances. Friend and foe does not depend on anything you speak of. Sure, you have the ability to choose whether you help or not. But the outcome certainly isn’t a matter of helping or being left alone. It’s either helping or being put into the category of an accomplice to the current enemies, making you an enemy by that relation. Thus, you either help as an ally or die like a terrorist. You’re free to choose which just like all other sovereign nations of the world in the past that may or may not still exist today. Such circumstances are not only attributed to US involvement. They have always existed in terms of war long before the US even existed.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jul 1, 2011 - 9:57AM

    I am sure Pakistan didn’t ask US to leave Shamsi air base Infect US may have given time to leave Shamsi because they are withdrawing from Afghanistan !!!Recommend

  • Jul 1, 2011 - 2:58PM

    kick them out all of them .Pakistan zindabadRecommend

  • Praful Shah
    Jul 2, 2011 - 3:01AM

    @Someone:

    So should all the aid, not even one red cent and defense equipment.Recommend

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