5 Dec 2011 DEFENSETECH
So, Islamabad is making good on its demand that United States forces leave Shamsi air base, one of several facilities used by CIA drones inside Pakistan.
American cargo planes have apparently arrived to pick up U.S. personnel at the base less than a week after the Pakistani government ordered them out in response to the killing of 24 Pakistani troops by NATO AC-130 gunships and helicopters on Nov. 26.
From Fox News:
According to the official, U.S. cargo planes arrived at Shamsi air base to take equipment and other gear used by U.S. personnel out of the country. The move comes after Pakistan told the U.S. last month to leave within 15 days following a drone strike that U.S. and Afghan officials say was ordered to protect troops being fired upon at the Afghan-Pakistan border.
This is significant because Islamabad has previously demanded that the U.S. leave its drone bases in Pakistan after smaller friendly fire incidents, it has always reneged on those demands and allowed the U.S. to stay.
Shamsi is the remote base in south-central Pakistan that was made famous a couple of years ago when U.S. drones were visible on the ramp to Google Earth users. The U.S. reportedly stopped flying strike missions out of the base a while ago, limiting its drones to ISR flights only. This means that all those drone strike missions you hear about in Pakistan are originating at other facilities in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
It will be interesting to see how this move impacts the CIA-run drone war in Pakistan. Remember, the U.S. alledgedly operates out of several other air bases inside Pakistan. Just because American drones out of Shamsi doesn’t mean that they aren’t operating from another Pakistani air field, like this F-16 base that is long-rumored to have a U.S. military presence.