The secretive Shamsi Airbase in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province saw some new arrivals today, a pair of aircraft from the US arrived to begin the process of withdrawing military personnel, CIA agents and drones from the base.
Pakistan ordered the US out of the base last month after the deadly US attack on a pair of Pakistani bases in the Mohmand Agency. The attacks killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
The base’s history is somewhat convoluted, as the base had been given to the United Arab Emirates in the early 90’s, and it was Emirati officials, not Pakistan, which transferred the base to US control. Since then the base has been used primarily for surveillance drones, but with the drone war increasingly targeting Pakistani soil, it has become a growing issue.
The US control over the base is something of a poorly kept secret, as Pentagon officials continue to express official mystification at the orders and deny that any troops are deployed there, even as Pakistani officials confirm that the troops who are there are indeed leaving. Though US forces in Shamsi was an established fact for years, Pakistani officials only admitted it to parliament in May.
Which is a step up from the last time Shamsi was made an issue by the Pakistani government. In July Pakistan demanded the US leave the base and while publicly denying that they had any troops at the base anonymous US officials told top media outlets that they had no intention of actually leaving. With tensions soaring however, it seems the estimated 70 US personnel on base are now leaving while the getting is good.