US prepares to vacate Shamsi airbase

Published: November 30, 2011
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US officials are reluctant to openly talk about drone operations because they are considered a covert CIA activity. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

US officials are reluctant to openly talk about drone operations because they are considered a covert CIA activity. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON: The US is preparing to accede to Pakistan’s demands that it vacate Shamsi airbase, with their operations set to be further hindered by Nato supply routes remaining closed “until they apologise to Pakistan”.

Pakistan demanded that the US leave the remote airbase used for drone flights within 15 days and blocked ground supply routes to US forces in Afghanistan, following the Nato attack on a military outpost last weekend that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Three sources, who declined to be identified, said that US’ plans to leave the base are under way. The move, however, is not expected to have a significant impact on operations against militants, according to US government sources.

Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar, meanwhile, reiterated the decision taken by the Defence Committee on Cabinet (DCC) after the “Isaf misadventure”, saying that the Shamsi airbase will be shut down on December 11 “at every cost”.

Talking to the media, the minister said, “We do not want to go to war with the US, but we will use other options to protect national sovereignty and integrity.” Mukhtar added that US activities at the Shahbaz Airbase will also be inspected to determine what is going on there.

Eviction underway

One US government source said the US has spent months preparing for a possible eviction from the airbase by building up other drone launching and staging capability.

Earlier this year, after the US raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, some Pakistani officials demanded that Washington vacate the Shamsi facility.

At the time, however, US officials said that American personnel would remain at the base and would continue to conduct drone flights.

US officials believe that this time Pakistan appears much more resolute about carrying out the eviction threat.

Vacating the airbase was seen more as an inconvenience rather than a critical blow to drone operations, which the US also conducts from Afghanistan and possibly elsewhere.

Responding to question about similar retracted decisions in the past, the defence minister said, “There is a major policy shift this time. We have done what was necessary this time”. He added that Nato will have to tender an apology.

Blocked supply route

The US also has to deal with the blocking of the ground supply route through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

US Congressman C A ‘Dutch’ Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said that route accounts for less than half the supplies for international forces in Afghanistan.

“We have a large distribution network to make sure that coalition forces are well-stocked,” he told Reuters. “It’s not going to affect our ability to follow through and execute our mission.”

Yet alternative supply routes such as the northern distribution network are not a perfect substitute and there are concerns that the cost of keeping soldiers fed, armed and fuelled without use of Pakistani roads would be excessive.

(Read: Factbox – NATO supply routes into Afghanistan – some facts)

(REUTERS with ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY PEER MUHAMMAD)

Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2011.

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Reader Comments (62)

  • usman
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:43AM

    This is just a cosmetic thing to say that vacate the air base.
    If we are real gutsy (and I doubt we are), we would ban our airspace.

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  • Imran
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:04AM

    Now what? Any card Pakistani Generals are left with?

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  • Proud Pakistani Pakthoon
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:20AM

    And stay out.

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  • Javed Basit Hassan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:22AM

    Lots of civilians died in Pakistan thanks to the drone attacks and today we know that they used to take off from our own country. What a shame. Civilian blood has no value in this country and it is for sale all the time. The military now realized when their own men died. Better late than never I guess.

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  • TomTom
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:52AM

    Nothing comes for free. Pakistan will be made to pay for this.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:38AM

    US should not prepare but should vacate the Shamshi Airbse by all means.

    I don’t know as why the government was keeping mum over this issue when it has been indicated on numerous occasion that US was attacking Pakistan through drone attacks from the very Shamshi Airbase.

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  • Tariq Khan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 8:44AM

    What about Shahbaz air base in jacobabad?Recommend

  • GS@Y
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:08AM

    I wonder what will happen now when the next drone strike occurs… Something? Nothing?

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  • Syed
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:08AM

    What about Jacobabad air base? Wasn’t this was given to US as well?
    Our previous PM Jamali may knows about it – I think Jocababad comes under his constituency – I may be wrong here.

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  • N
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:12AM

    The way NATO attacked on Pakistani posts highlights that they are well prepared and planned for the after affects. It seems they want to provoke Pakistan so that it will sideline itself from the end process of Afghanistan so that new partner (India) can play its role openly and when needed, Pakistan can be blamed for the failures.

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  • P N Eswaran
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:34AM

    Good. Pakistan is tightening the noose around it’s own neck. It is in Pakistan’s interest to play down the event. Pakistan is in a state of silent confrontation with the US. By escalating the border incident it has brought the confrontation to the surface. This was inevitable. The center of the war is shifting from Afghanistan to Pakistan a right shift which if it had been done earlier would have been better.

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  • biryani
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:40AM

    well tarbela is better place for big birds, its strategically better located then shamsi and besides there are couple of thousands of american marines present at tarbela as well. to add to that its a no go zone for pak army as well….

    so i guess U.S will rellocate from shamsi to tarbela =)

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  • Straight Fire
    Nov 30, 2011 - 9:45AM

    @TomTom:
    Then Israel, India and all your allies will need to pay too … You cannot expects roses back after throing stones in other’s balcony ….

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  • MAD
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:02AM

    I understand that they still have atleast one other airbase in pakistan. Is that also being vacated?Recommend

  • Waqas Rafiq
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:08AM

    The Shahbaz Air Base was one of three Pakistani air bases used by U.S. and allied forces to support the Operation Enduring Freedom campaign in Afghanistan….
    ‘ the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force said he was not aware of a hotline’
    i think they are just making a fool….they have to leave now in any way….:@

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  • ashok sai
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:17AM

    They are vacating the airbase, but with respect to drone gifts, ‘its business as usual’.

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  • maestro
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:19AM

    @TomTom:
    And you will be paid in kind dont worry. This is not iraq or afghanistan. you’ll forget vietnam if you touch us again.

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  • Hedgefunder
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:20AM

    Pakistan is all set to extricate itself from the “US war of terror”. While Pakistan goes independent with her policy; India has chosen a dangerous path of becoming the regional poodle of US. When US Sergeant says “Jump”, Indian generals say, ‘How high’?

    Alas, we Indians can only bark and not bite….

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  • Cautious
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:34AM

    The cure for drone strikes is obvious — quit providing sanctuary to terrorist. The USA doesn’t need Pakistan’s airbase to fly drones or any other military aircraft.

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  • Hafeez Pasha
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:35AM

    @Tariq Khan:

    US vacated Shahbaz Air Base in Jacobabad some years ago. It is now home to PAF’s No. 5 Squadron flying Block 52+ F-16s.

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  • guest-worker
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:44AM

    Thanks to Musharaff they have had time to make alternate arrangements. Like the commentators say they have enuf fuel for 6 months so unless you hit the storage it not going to have the desired effect.

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  • k. Salim Jahangir
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:46AM

    Sooner the better……

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  • dar
    Nov 30, 2011 - 11:07AM

    American spkesman says there are no american personnel at shamsi air base.Officials in pakistan should confirm this and inform the nation exact number of personnel if located there.

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  • dsbaker
    Nov 30, 2011 - 11:21AM

    @Mohammad Ali Siddiqui:
    we can leave that fine, the us is very smart on alot of things,we will find other ways to kill rag heads. but what about the millions or billions of dollar pakistan has been pay for their military.money they can’t raise on their on ,or will they get in bed with russia now. so america needs to stop giving money to them NOW. I SORRY about the deaths,but accidents happen. but was osama being there a true gross mistake of bad pakistan security work or what is their true reason what side are they on. if its not justice then stay out on nato way

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  • Aamir
    Nov 30, 2011 - 12:30PM

    Our Army has shown cracks in its preparedness and giving excuses on incidents one after the other. A proper scrutiny of our security mechanism is absolutely needed.

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  • antanu
    Nov 30, 2011 - 12:45PM

    @Imran:
    international affairs are not a game of cards…dont be stupid

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  • Khawaja Faraz
    Nov 30, 2011 - 1:04PM

    When Dalbadin, Pasni and Jacobabad Bases are going to be vaccated…..OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH i forgot Mangla

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  • Not required
    Nov 30, 2011 - 1:14PM

    Its all drama. Shamsi air base was given to UAE on lease.

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  • Pakistani
    Nov 30, 2011 - 1:43PM

    CIA is using Shamsi air base to do spy flights on Iran to monitor their nuclear capability development. Now you understand the desperate perusing of US/UAE/KSA to retain occupancy of the air strip.

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  • A
    Nov 30, 2011 - 1:54PM

    @Tariq Khan: “What about Shahbaz air base in jacobabad?”

    Reply”
    In an interview given to Dawn newspapers, PAF’s AVM Arshad Quddus told reporters that Shahbaz Air Force Base is under the PAF control: “The Shahbaz Airbase is under complete operational control of the PAF. If you see any American let me know….Seeing is believing…there are no drones and no Americans.” However, American military or Lockheed-Martin contract personnel are present as the PAF takes ownership of 18 new F-16’s and works to bring these aircraft up to operational capability.

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  • SM
    Nov 30, 2011 - 3:08PM

    I think the United States and Pakistan announced that operations from the shamsi air base had actually ceased in April 2011. If this is so then how the Salala incident happened where 26 Pakistani troops killed….?

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  • Pragmatist
    Nov 30, 2011 - 3:32PM

    Do you need any spare parts for your F-16? The US will be happy to supply them to you.
    Pakistan might as well mothball the F16s and acquire Chinese planes. But have a couple of parachutes handy.

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  • Rafeek Hussain
    Nov 30, 2011 - 3:48PM

    Good gesture from the US. End of tenure. Pakistan should never soften it’s policy. Now we need to quit US alliance and join the hands of Russia and china whom policies are admirable. This is the right time to play solid strokes as iron is hot. Abbotabad operation was also a right time to cut off ties with US but since whole world was admiring US for killing OBL. But now whole world stands with us as US has voilated our sovereignty. Stand up and join hands to hands.

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  • Useless Guy
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:00PM

    @Hafeez Pasha:
    You guys hate America but yet continue to use American technology like internet, computers, aircrafts like F-16 and B-52. This is sheer Pakistani hypocrisy….

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  • Sana
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:02PM

    ***US Congressman C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersberger, the senior Democrat on the House of Representatives intelligence committee, said that route accounts for less than half the supplies for international forces in Afghanistan and the military has contingency plan.***

    Yes we know that you have another route. The only trouble it is more costly. Now start using the route and don’t complain.Recommend

  • Mango
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:02PM

    @Straight Fire:
    Israel and India ? Shamelessly mixing up issuesRecommend

  • noor muhammad
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:15PM

    i read in the newspaper that the onslought continued for 3 hours. where was our our airforce.

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  • Waseem
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:26PM

    @Useless Guy:
    indians make laugh
    in what alternate reality is Internet,computer American ?
    my computer is made in china, and my blog is hosted in Norway.

    Pakistan doesnt have b52 bombers, and f16 belong to pakistan as Pakistan paid for them . Pakistan subsdizes US defence research, so really we help them develop the planes.anyway we dont f16s anymore we have our own fighter jets

    the only hypocrisy is indians spending to much time on pakistani websites

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  • Faisal Shabbir
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:29PM

    @Useless Guy:
    Thanks God America has not part in the creation of natural resources Air, water and rest of natural resources, otherwise he would ve no choice

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  • Adnan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 4:37PM

    Not only vacating but also leave us all alone. We don’t need them. It;s better to suffer on our own rather than suffering due to someone else

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  • Nov 30, 2011 - 5:09PM

    I have been reading all the comments on this issue, memo gate and 24 soldiers killed. What stands out that some how, even educated People, are so cut of from the real picture. This may be due to blind loyalty to the establishment, powerful propaganda by the mullah brigade about jihadi Islam or faulty “hate India,Hate Hindu, Hate christian, Hate Jew teachings right from childhood. What ever it may be but some how as the days are passing the Pakistani people are going away from reality to a world of fantasy. Banning the BBC is a recent example. It is some thing like a sick man running away from light into his dark room. A time may come when there will be nothing left no friends around except leeches.Please wake up. Come out in the light and get away from the world of conspiracies, strategic depth and importing terror. Papers like “Express Tribune” and Dawn are trying there best to spread the light around.

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  • Noshin
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:53PM

    I love to see all these comments here. Majority of them are really intelligently written and reflects the mindset of average intelligent Pakistanis and non Pakistanis who are deeply concerned regarding the current affairs and the wellbeing of the country. Recommend

  • Lahoot e Lamakaan
    Nov 30, 2011 - 5:59PM

    As of now no american trainer is a part of army. There are no marines in Tarbela their is only SSG there. And the army owing to its geo strategic location can play havoc with anyone around. Pakistan is a Gift of God and Mumlikat e Khudad is here to say… Army knows it and they are more concerned and active. All they need is the moral support of populace

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  • Kashi
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:00PM

    Just do it…

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  • hedgefunder
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:08PM

    Pakistan is always right, I just realized that.

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  • Indian
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:22PM

    @Hedgefunder:

    Hello, please don’t drag India into this mess. India can never be a slave-ally of anybody. Don’t you remember India rejected US billion dollar aircraft deal. US is so desperate to drag India to gang up against China, even though India has some disputes with China, it still prefers to be away from politics. This is contrary to Pakistan, now it wants to ditch US and totally side with China.

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  • hedgefunder
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:29PM

    @VINOD: Gee thanks VINOD. All Pakistanis need is advice from an Indian. Perhaps you should be preaching this sermon to the Indian leaders who are always looking at ways to create trouble for its neighbors. Care to explain why India does not have good relations with any of its neighbors? India and Indians should be focused on Indian problems such as poverty, corruption, discrimination, racism, before they come here to give their unwanted opinions about Pakistan and its problems,

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  • Pyro
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:36PM

    Dear friends from across the border: Please spend some time commenting and preaching on indian news sites too. Your interest in our country is appreciated but use your excellent analysis skills and pearls of wisdom on your websites commenting on your own issues. Your countrymen will no doubt appreciate it more. :)

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  • Pyro
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:53PM

    @hedgefunder: I am so happy to hear you say that…that sounded like a wife married to a wife beater resigned to her fate :)

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  • Crafty
    Nov 30, 2011 - 6:59PM

    @ Vinod

    So you are going to connect us with the real picture? What qualifications do you have to do that? That you watch and get your info from the likes of BBC, CNN, Skynews and Star News?

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  • Sweet
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:08PM

    This Air base was given to the US in 2001 by Musharraf. I just read his statement confirming that. And the reason he presented was that if he had not given to them, India would have given its bases to them.Recommend

  • bangash
    Nov 30, 2011 - 7:25PM

    where was mighty PAF while the NATO attack was happening or lethal drone ops were being conducted from Shamsi in last 7 yrs ?

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  • Spogmaye
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:29PM

    If attracts are from Pak airbase or Afghan… where ever but they want a war between Pakistani and Afghanistani people. One day they will must left this place and the war will still remain like Kashmir between Pakistan and India after dividing them because American knows that we are not more able to rule on Bar e Sageer. wake for the peace…. We never want outsiders to rule directly or indirectly…

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  • Qasim
    Nov 30, 2011 - 10:30PM

    at last, it is final that drones were flown from Pakistani Home Ground … WHAT a Diplomacy our leaders …. I admire US for leaving our country at last in a way that you planned never … Good Luck …

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  • Dec 1, 2011 - 10:39AM

    @hedgefunder: Dear hedgefunder to begin with I a must say that I have always liked the quality of comments you place on the board. You are direct and truthful. Now coming to your “Care to explain why India does not have good relations with any of its neighbors? India and Indians should be focused on Indian problems such as poverty, corruption, discrimination, racism,…” I agree that you are right and we should and are working hard to attend the points raised by you. However you have not answered a single point raised by me. Asking questions for questions is no argument. I repeat that it is hurting to see that Pakistan day by day is digging its head in the sand and turning to a world of self fantasy. Please catch up with the world and see where the world is going instead wasting time in things like Pakistan ka matlab kya? Hizab, Who is a better Muslim? how powerful my army, how great my atom bombs and people envy us, and dreaming every one is conspiring against Pakistan etc. I assure even if the educated people carefully see what “The Express Tribune” and papers like Dawn are saying it will be enough.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Dec 1, 2011 - 10:45AM

    @TomTom:
    “Pakistan will have to pay for this”.
    This will happen in the future but now you are paying the price of your misdeeds in Afghanistan by handful Taliban/Alqaeda/Haqqani network’s members and now you are announcing withdrawal dates and attacking on innocent people in Pakistan to take the most worst defeat’s revenge you are facing in Afghanistan from innocent Pakistani people.Because you didn’t get any thing first from Iraq’s operation and then now from Afghanistan’s operation except the wastage and destruction of your billions of $$$$$$ and precious army’s vehicle.First cerebrate about yourself,improve your sinking economy and control occupying Wall Street’s campaigns then about the others.

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  • Ahmer Ali
    Dec 1, 2011 - 11:50AM

    USA shall have to vacate Shamsi airbase at any cost because USA’s brutal cruel activities were going beyond affordable and bearable limits.Because this is true that excess of any thing is always bad.Moderation is always much the best and successful policy in every matter of life but US’ leaders were forgotten it in the addiction of power and authority.Now definitely US’ leaders were feeling the worst while vacating Shamsi airbase because nearest point for drones’ taking off and landing place will be vacated and now the drones shall take off and land in Afghanistan to kill the innocent Pakistani tribal people on the name of fake terrorism.

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  • Dec 1, 2011 - 12:26PM

    get out of here

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  • Gautam
    Dec 1, 2011 - 4:32PM

    @Waseem:
    US people can roam in your country .. you have no problem. chinesse can hijack your economy ..you have no issue … Indians are on your web site.. you have issue..Your cricket board is desperate to have cricket connection with India.. Why don’y you have problem then…And pakis are watching indian TV chnnls and movies…no problem to you.. Come on guys don’t hate us that much.. we bring entertainment in your homes and makes ur life little easy and enjoyble despite of so many ugly things happening around you.. lets be normal in our relations.

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  • Aryan
    Dec 1, 2011 - 7:59PM

    @Waseem:
    Regarding “@Useless Guy”, he was talking about inventions by USA; not the end product. As you must have noticed, your Chinese made computer does not run a Chinese operating system but either Windows or Mac OS. Same applies to light bulbs in your home or office, they may be manufactured in Pakistan but were invented by Edison.The reason your blog is hosted in Norway is because Pakistan does not have reliable( power supply?) server capabilities or you are worried about censorship. Last but not least, how Pakistan is subsidizing US weapons research; I would like to know as a US tax payer.

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  • You Said It
    Dec 2, 2011 - 1:50AM

    @maestro:
    *And you will be paid in kind dont worry. This is not iraq or afghanistan. you’ll forget vietnam if you touch us again. *

    Isn’t that what you said on Jan 27 and May 2? You should record it, since there’s a long time until 2024 and you don’t want to tire yourself out.

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