American flag lowered at Shamsi airbase

American flag lowered at Shamsi airbaseISLAMABAD – American flag was lowered at the strategically key Shamsi air base in Balochistan on Sunday as the last group of U.S. military personnel and a transport aircraft vacated the facility, official sources said.

The government had asked the U.S. to vacate the airbase after NATO fighter jets and helicopters bombed two border posts in Mohmand tribal region on November 26 and killed 24 soldiers.
The U.S. had been using the airbase since late 2001 for military operations in Afghanistan and for drone strikes in Pakistan tribal regions, according to the American media.he security forces entered the airfield Sunday morning and hoisted the national flag as the last transport U.S. aircraft left with remaining personnel and equipment, sources said.Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had said last week that the United States has been asked to vacate the airbase by December 11.The U.S. shifted all its personnel in 9 planes and equipment in nearly 20 transport planes. The personnel, drone aircraft, weapons and other equipment have been shifted to Afghanistan, the sources said.

U.S. officials recently said that they have a backup plan in Afghanistan if the Shamsi airstrip is closed down.Senior officials from the Defence Ministry and Civil Aviation were at the airbase at the time of the vacation.Soldiers from the Frontier Corps took control of the airbase late Saturday evening as most of the American personnel had already left the airfield and one U.S. cargo plane had been at the airbase for transferring the remaining personnel and equipment.
The U.S. officials dismantled fiber-made residential barracks which had built for military personnel.

A Pakistani military official in Balochistan recently said that the U.S. officials at the airbase had also burnt some equipment, which he said is a routine practice as they were not required to be taken out of the facility.Air Marshal Rao Qamar Suleman told the parliament in a special briefing in May after Osama bin Laden was killed by the U.S. military that the Shamsi airbase had been under the control of UAE.The media then reported that the UAE had allowed the U.S. to use it for spy aircraft operation in Pakistani tribal regions. When the facility had been given to the UAE, only small aircrafts could land at the airbase.

According to sources, top leadership will decide whether or not to hand over the Shamsi airbase to the United Arab Emirates after the complete U.S. evacuation. The UAE had been using the airstrip for small aircraft of its leaders when they used to come to Pakistan for hunting. The U.S. had extended the runway to enable big aircraft to land. – pakistantoday