Shamsi air base: ‘Drones parked at, but don’t fly from the base’

Published: July 3, 2011
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All US drone strikes in past three months were launched from Afghanistan, in vicinity of Jalalabad: report. PHOTO: AFP

All US drone strikes in past three months were launched from Afghanistan, in vicinity of Jalalabad: report. PHOTO: AFP

While serving ministers battle out the status of US forces at Shamsi air base, The Washington Post reported on Saturday that the CIA suspended its long-standing use of the air base as a launch site for armed drones three months ago, according to US and Pakistani officials.

American personnel and Predator drones, meanwhile, remain at the facility in Balochistan, with security provided by the Pakistani military, the report revealed.

All US drone strikes in the past three months have been launched from Afghanistan, in the vicinity of Jalalabad, the report quoted officials as saying.

Asked to leave

Interestingly, the report corroborated Defence Minister Ahmed Mukhtar’s claim that Islamabad had been pressing the US to leave the base even before the May 2 incursion in Abbottabad.

After the raid, Mukhtar told reporters on Wednesday, “We told them again.”

The Washington Post, quoting a senior Pakistani defence official, reported that in the weeks after Pakistan’s release of the CIA contractor Raymond Davis, top Pakistani military and intelligence officials made “a formal, personal request  … a demand … more than once” to their US counterparts to end the flights and leave Pakistan.

In response, the US official said that “there has been some thinning out at the base, and the drone missions suspended.”  An American official said the CIA’s decision to suspend the launches was part of a US effort to “pay attention to the sensitivities” of the Pakistanis.

Not vacating

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan on Friday, however, dismissed Mukhtar’s statement that the US had been asked to vacate the airbase in Balochistan.

“It’s just a statement for the media,” Awan told a media gathering in Lahore. “I am also a member of the defence committee and the matter was not discussed there.”

Meanwhile, American officials had also rebuffed  Mukhtar’s statements saying there was no plan to evacuate the base.

“That base is neither vacated nor being vacated,” a US official familiar with the matter was reported as saying.

Thawing relations

The Washington Post report also claimed that “the rupture in [US-Pakistan] intelligence cooperation has slowly begun to heal.”

Pakistan has reversed its freeze on visas for United States intelligence officials and allowed dozens of Central Intelligence Agency personnel to reenter the country, the report quoted officials from both countries as saying.

Who granted the permission?

The report appearing in the Washington-based newspaper also said that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf secretly authorised the CIA to operate drones from Shamsi, a small air facility in Balochistan.

The air strip, located about 600 miles southwest of Islamabad, apparently was constructed years ago by the ruling family of the United Arab Emirates as an arrival point for falconry and other hunting expeditions in Pakistan.

The present use of the airfield was revealed in a book published by retired Gen Tommy Franks, the former head of the US Central Command, The Washington Post added.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2011.

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Reader Comments (32)

  • Jul 2, 2011 - 11:18AM

    Now watch as the US newspapers are treated as the divine word rather than a CIA run conspiracy machine to defame all things Pakistani.Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 2, 2011 - 11:27AM

    This news item only proves that Pakistani govt, media and experts are full of it. US always have multiple options, in case the first does not work. They know fully well that Pakistani cooperation can be stopped any time, hence the other options. The fact remains that US still has a home in Shamsi Airbase since 2006. Recommend

  • Raza
    Jul 2, 2011 - 11:39AM

    What difference does it make where the drones are launched? Surely the point is the complicity of the Pakistan Govt…Recommend

  • Ba Ha
    Jul 2, 2011 - 11:46AM

    I guess some forget to tell me. How typical of this foreign faujjRecommend

  • Zahid Qureshi
    Jul 2, 2011 - 12:49PM

    Please also disclose the source of this source of information…………I doubt it’s veracityRecommend

  • Muhammad Ehsan Elahi
    Jul 2, 2011 - 1:14PM

    The report said that the drone strikes are being launched from Afghanistan;

    what a statement, my point of concern is not that drones are launched from Afghanistan or Pakistan, the point is they are launched to Pakistani areas, so either drone flew from Afghanistan, but as a result, the drone is fired in Pakistan. This is the sad part of this statement but the Govt. of Pakistan thinks that they have done their job by answering that drones are launched from Afghanistan instead of Shamsi Air base.Recommend

  • Chengez K
    Jul 2, 2011 - 1:15PM

    This qabza group invasions must be stopped.CIA must be immediately evicted.This is a very dangerous precedent.Today it is Shamsi tomorrow Marines would be landing in Gwadar.

    The opposition especially the two Sharif Brothers who are driving taxis these days should launch a LONG MARCH to evict the illegal occupation of Shamsi base.Recommend

  • Anwar Ali Mian
    Jul 2, 2011 - 1:37PM

    This is not true and just a diversion .

    So what is being stated that in past Shamsi base was used in past…so all statements made by political leaders inside and out side were lies and they need to be disqualified.Tell me which self respecting country would allow it’s soil to be used for such purpose…I say even it is allowed the polititins should not lie.
    Terrorism has to be eliminated from this country at all cost.We need bold and popular leadership who wil join hand with all and eliminate terrorism from the country.

    this si the only way forwardRecommend

  • Jul 2, 2011 - 2:21PM

    Vienna,02-07-2011
    The sum is Pakistan is the partner of the United States in confusing Pakistani
    citizens, who are divided among themselves.My conclusion is that the U.S.
    makes sure Pakistanis obey and ease out the army power for good.What would
    be interesting to see is when the two countries would hold that the next strategic
    session,who will co chair it from the Pakistani side. If COAS would be there
    sharing seats with the civilian officials of the United States. The next term host
    of the meeting belong to Pakistan that means it would be held in Islamabad
    when it is held.
    -Kulamarva BalakrishnaRecommend

  • Farrukh Siddiqui
    Jul 2, 2011 - 3:00PM

    The Express Tribune is just a mouth piece of American policiesRecommend

  • YOUNUSZAFAR
    Jul 2, 2011 - 3:23PM

    The point is they are launched to Pakistani areas, so either drone flew from Afghanistan, but as a result, the drone is fired in Pakistan. This is the sad part of this statement but the Govt. of Pakistan thinks that they have done their job by answering that drones are launched from Afghanistan instead of Shamsi Air base. pigeons parasitesRecommend

  • YOUNUSZAFAR
    Jul 2, 2011 - 3:25PM

    Khurram Hussain The point is they are launched to Pakistani areas, so either drone flew from Afghanistan, but as a result, the drone is fired in Pakistan. This is the sad part of this statement but the Govt. of Pakistan thinks that they have done their job by answering that drones are launched from Afghanistan instead of Shamsi Air base. pigeons parasitesRecommend

  • Aryabhat
    Jul 2, 2011 - 4:37PM

    This is classic case of debating tactics instead of strategy.

    Shamsi base or not, USA is not stopping Drone attacks. Wasn’t the drone attacks crux of matter, whether they origin in Pakistan or Afghanistan or in Florida? It will still kill exactly same way as it has done so far.

    Real difference will come if Pakistan Army and PAF really believes that it is killing civilians (it is not however, exceptions are there in any conflict which by nature is bloody) and then try shooting down a drone or two. And even if it brings down a drone or two, so what? Nothing would change. Not a single US pilot would have died and Americans can make drones faster then PAF can shoot it down!

    There is also a big hypocracy in public opinion with Drone strikes. Everyone was happy when it killed Ilyas Kashmiri who was suspected for Mehran attack. So why double standards when it kills Terrorists that kill Afghans?Recommend

  • Salman
    Jul 2, 2011 - 5:16PM

    Topi Drama from both US and Pakistan (Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan statement) to diffuse the issue from the media and drones will continue to take off from this very base.Recommend

  • Anam Gill
    Jul 2, 2011 - 5:18PM

    Stop dropping lies into our heads!Recommend

  • Khurram
    Jul 2, 2011 - 6:00PM

    What is really going on at Shamsi Air Strip? Are we that much dysfunctional that the right hand does not know anything of what the left hand is doing? Or you are trying to cover up your share in the Faustian Deal by feeding us lies upon lies.Recommend

  • mawali
    Jul 2, 2011 - 6:18PM

    That is just plain humiliating. A country does not know what happens within its borders. Hail Democracy!Recommend

  • aZEEEEEEEE
    Jul 2, 2011 - 6:34PM

    I think USA not use this base currently….Recommend

  • Ahtesham khan katikhel
    Jul 2, 2011 - 6:34PM

    No matter where lie the launching pad of the Drone aircraft, the real issue is their continued attacks on Pakistani soil. The US must stop the strikes at once because it does more harm than good.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 2, 2011 - 7:14PM

    Takes an enormous ego and a great deal of stupidity to think the USA is dependent on Pakistan to bomb Pakistan. Good grief.Recommend

  • Gen. Biriyani
    Jul 2, 2011 - 7:17PM

    What difference it makes to the people getting killed? whether it is from Pak or Afghan?Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 2, 2011 - 7:41PM

    @Farrukh Siddiqui – “The Express Tribune is just a mouth piece of American policies”

    Don’t blame the messenger. The only difference between IT articles and those appearing in Dawn, AlJazeera, BBC etc. is timing. One gets weary of all the conspiracy theory nonsense.Recommend

  • vertigo
    Jul 2, 2011 - 8:31PM

    Oh – that’s alright then.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Jul 2, 2011 - 9:36PM

    You want to stop the drone attacks? Simple — stop allowing terrorist to use Pakistani soil to attack your neighbors and allies. If you need help in eliminating those terrorist sanctuaries allow NATO boots on the ground. Until then — quit whining.Recommend

  • Asad
    Jul 2, 2011 - 10:01PM

    Two province of Afghanistan which are under Taliban control why isn’t the USA or NATO going into those provinces or using drones against them?Recommend

  • Sameer
    Jul 3, 2011 - 1:47AM

    @ mawali – democracy is not Pakistan’s problem. It’s the inability of the military and ISI to allow REAL democracy. The military and ISI are the most culpable for the mess Pakistan is today. Recommend

  • Mirza
    Jul 3, 2011 - 1:53AM

    @Cautious:
    You said it all in simple words in less than four lines. And you were not too cautious either!
    Recommend

  • zev
    Jul 3, 2011 - 4:31AM

    Why is this defence minister mukhtar making this statement about the shamsi air base,when he hasn’t got the backing of the cabinet and the prime minister? If he has the support of the rest of the cabinet and the prime minister, why are they not giving it.They should all be speaking with one voice on such important matters.Recommend

  • Jul 4, 2011 - 9:18AM

    Is anyone here capabale of telling the truth? I suppose it would be uneralistic to expect an honest answer to that question.Recommend

  • Jul 4, 2011 - 9:20AM

    Is anyone here capable of telling the truth? Ooops, I suppose it would be unrealistic to expect an honest answer to that question.Recommend

  • Ahmer Ali
    Jul 4, 2011 - 10:54AM

    Assalam-o-Allaiklum Warahmatullah.How much more and very funny,ridiculous and rubbish statement.Can you imagine that on any airbase/airport where planes are touched down but can’t be taken off?Recommend

  • dude
    Jul 4, 2011 - 3:24PM

    If they don’t fly the what do the do standing there? Does this statement make any sence.Recommend

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