Pakistan orders closure of key US airbase after ISAF troops conduct cross-border attack


Google Earth images of Predators on the tarmac at the Shamsi Air Base in Baluchistan province, Pakistan. Image from Wikipedia.

Within 24 hours of a US attack helicopters strike inside Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Mohmand that killed more than 20 Pakistani troops, the Pakistan government has ordered the US to vacate a key airbase in Baluchistan and has closed NATO’s supply lines through the Khyber Pass.

The Defence Committee of the Cabinet, a Pakistani committee chaired by Prime Minister Yousef Gilani, issued a statement calling for US personnel to leave the Shamsi airbase in Baluchistan province and the closure of NATO’s supply chain to Afghanistan.

“In accordance with the resolution of the Joint Session of the Parliament of May 14, 2011, the DCC decided to close with immediate effect the NATO/ISAF logistics supply lines. The DCC also decided to ask the United States (US) to vacate the Shamsi Airbase within 15 days,” according to the statement which was published by the Associated Press of Pakistan.

“The DCC decided that the Government will revisit and undertake a complete review of all programmes, activities and cooperative arrangements with US/NATO/ISAF, including diplomatic, political, military and intelligence, according to a statement issued from the Prime Minister House after the DCC meeting,” the statement continued.

Shamsi is used as both a NATO logistics base and as a key node in the CIA’s Predator and Reaper drone campaign in North and South Waziristan, while more than 30 percent of NATO’s supplies pass through Pakistan. Shamsi was rumored to have been shut down in April, but the rumor proved false.

Pakistan’s military has also reacted angrily to the US incursion that killed 28 Pakistani troops at the post about 1 mile inside Pakistani territory in Mohmand, calling the incident a ” blatant and unacceptable act” and “irresponsible.” The military released a statement via its Inter-Services Public Relations branch condemning the attack, and claimed 24 troops were killed and 13 were wounded.

“NATO helicopters and fighter aircraft carried out unprovoked firing on two Pakistani Army border posts in Mohmand Agency as a result of which 24 troops embraced shahadat [martyrdom] and 13 were injured,” the statement said. “Pakistani troops effectively responded immediately in self defence to NATO / ISAF’s aggression with all available weapons.”

General Arshaf Kayani, Pakistan’s top military officer, said “all necessary steps [must] be under taken for an effective response to this irresponsible act.”

“A strong protest has been launched with NATO / ISAF in which it has been demanded that strong and urgent action be taken those responsible for this aggression,” the ISPR statement continued.

The International Security Assistance Force, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, issued a statement noting that it is “investigating an incident that occurred early this morning along the Afghanistan – Pakistan border.”

“This incident has my highest personal attention and my commitment to thoroughly investigate it to determine the facts,” General John Allen, the ISAF commander, is quoted as saying. “My most sincere and personal heartfelt condolences go out to the families and loved ones of any members of Pakistan Security Forces who may have been killed or injured.”

The reason for an ISAF strike inside Afghanistan has not been disclosed. US helicopters have conducted multiple cross-border strikes into Pakistan while in “hot pursuit” of Taliban and Haqqani Network fighters who use Pakistan as a base to fall back after striking ISAF and Afghan forces. The attacks have sparked outrage in the Pakistani military, which has temporary closed ISAF’s supply lines in retaliation. [For more information, see LWJ report, US helicopters kill 28 Pakistani troops on Afghan border]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.

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  • mike merlo says:

    I wonder if those ‘troops’ killed were really Pakistani’s?

  • dr burke says:

    The President has been looking for an excuse
    to pull out of Pakistan, so why not now? Concentrate our effort’s in Afghanistan. The Paks are never going to cooperate with the West and we should let them stew in their own juice’s.

  • KW64 says:

    The Guardian citing military sources suggests the Pakistanis fired first and the Nato forces responded.
    What is not clear to me is whether the Paks fired at ground forces pursuing Taliban or fired at the helicopters. Clearly any helicopters are ours and if you fire at them, you are trying to kill us. Firing at ground forces can simply be from non-recognition I suppose.

  • mike says:

    This is just Pakistan making a big deal out of nothing. I guarantee those frontier core guys were killed by accident or they shot at the attack helos first to cover the retreat of some Taliban and the Pakistani government is aware of that fact and are just flipping out anyway. These people need our money and they know it. That base and that supply line aren’t going anywhere.

  • Joe Six-Pack says:

    This does not surprise me.
    This is one of those situations where it could have been an accident, or misinformation. We could easily have been set up. Another possibility is that many of those killed were actually the enemy. The term ‘martyrdom’ is an indicator here, although I am not familiar enough with the Pakistani military to know how commonly this phrase is used. It also could be the excuse to do these things that Pakistan has wanted to do.
    It could have all been an accident, but this would tell us that our involvement is not effective enough to warrant our involvement, at least from the Pakistani point of view.
    Although not unexpected, all of these possibilities are not good for us.

  • paki says:

    @dr burke you should be ashamed of yourself for having such a hatred against pakistanis. it also show your inner self and up bringing if you had any which i doubt.

  • American says:

    When will wake up to our own double standards? Collateral damage is one thing and blatant attack on post for which NATO and ISAF has maps available is something else. Now NATO chief wont say that it was mistake on part of NATO forces if so called NATO ( North Atlantic Terrorist Organization ) was acting in self defense. We can not assume that rest of the world is dumb and will buy whatever we feed them. Where is moral high ground we talk about. NATO chief can regret the loss of life of Pakistan troops and say that it was a mistake yet do not have cheeks to apologize.. I am ashamed to be American. This was not the country founding fathers had in mind.

  • fuzair says:

    I’ve seen reports that said that the PA troops fired warning shots to let the helicopters know they were intruding into Pakistani territory. The helis apparently radioed they were taking fire from Pakistani territory and asked permission, which was granted, to return fire.

  • Max says:

    Sounds like a setup, just like we’ve seen so many times before: set up a human shield around your position, or get close to some position where, if fired upon by the US, will result in casualties that will make the US look bad in some way.
    What better way to try and sabotage the Pak-US relationship than to get Taliban insurgents very close to a Pak border post(s) and open fire, which then results in US fire upon the border post, and you know the rest of the story.
    How many times have we seen this in Iraq, and in Lebanon, where Hezbollah set up their rocket launchers in homes or near hospitals so that if Israel returned fire, they could claim some propaganda victory by saying that Israel was targeting civilians, when all along it was just another lie?

  • natej740 says:

    Note to self….don’t fire “warning” shots when an AH-64 Apache is around! I doubt that’s what happened though.
    If this does fall apart and they won’t let our supplies through can we finally hit the taliban in their bases in Pakistan? It just seems like its been a long time coming. If we can’t fly our uav’s there to take them out seems like that would be the only option.

  • Marlin says:

    More confirmation that the Pakis fired first.

    NATO and Afghan forces on a nighttime operation Saturday came under fire from across the Pakistan border before they called in a deadly airstrike on two Pakistani military posts, leaving U.S. relations with Pakistan in tatters, according to Afghan and Western officials’ version of events.
    Pakistan’s army reacted angrily, calling the “unprovoked” raid on the border posts an “irresponsible act.” The military denied firing on NATO forces and questioned why the coalition undertook a sustained two-hour attack on well-known border positions, involving helicopters and fighter jets, which left 25 soldiers dead and another 25 injured.

    Wall Street Journal: Afghans Say Pakistan Fired First in NATO Attack

  • greybeard3 says:

    Ummm…Dr. Burke? Unfortunately, there’s this little problem of geography. The only other land routes into Afghanistan are via Iran, China and the several Lands Called Stan up north. And unfortunately, the Caspian Sea doesn’t have any outlets to the open ocean.

  • Caratacus10ad says:

    Or Maybe the Pak border guards had just got hit by a Pak Taleban attack and the Pak govt/military are using this as a smoke screen to disguise the fact that their ‘guys’ got taken out by a superior force…
    Anything is possible with the Alice in Wonderland world of Af-Pak!

  • sports says:

    The Paki’s probably recieved their just desserts. The Country is riddled with blatent cronisim and corrupt from the core. For some reason I have a feeling they ended up on the losing end of something they did. I know and trust our troops wouldn’t have taken any action unless they had been threatened.

  • Scott says:

    I saw an interview recently of a U.S. Army lieutenant or captain who had command of one of those border posts in Afghanistan. He let it slip that they don’t shoot back when they get rocketed from the Pakistani side because the last time they did that, they killed Pakistani troops.
    So this has been festering for some time, and there is no doubt that those Frontier Corps troops aid the taliban fighters. Maybe someone decided that this status quo wasn’t going to cut it anymore.

  • Bob says:

    Let’s get back to the topic at hand: the closure of the UAV base in Pakistan. Go to the other thread for discussion on the who fired first and other ulterior motives.
    Losing this base is huge. I know we have others in the area, but one deep inside the border was very important to the killing of various high value targets.

  • Jimbo says:

    Why would we believe anything the duplicitous Pakistanis say about anything? I find it far more believable that the Guardian report is right and the FC attacked first. ISAF has routinely been attacked by FC and PAK Army in Paktiya from their border posts in Waziristan. Obama would do best to cease all aid to Pakistan and begin treating them like the enemy they truly are. There is good reason that the Afghans and Indians hate them.

  • sports says:

    @ paki and american…the two of you are nothing more than trolls…I laughed my you know off while reading your posts. Get a life and better yet go get some perspective.
    @ Jimbo…I think you got the right perspective…who would and who could believe the double crossing pakis?
    They deserve all the bad things that come their way until they learn to be truthful and most importantly honorable.

  • Javier says:

    Obama would do best to cease all aid to Pakistan and begin treating them like the enemy they truly are.

    Cease aid, yes. But to treat a nuclear-armed country as an enemy would be a very big mistake.

  • Andrew says:

    The Pak troops have a habit of firing to provoke retaliation and to provide cover to retreating militants. They’ve been using this tactic across the Kashimir border with India for years, and now they are employing the same tactics at the AfPak border.

  • destab says:

    Here’s a link to a Washington Post article stating that the base was stopped being used in April if true Pakistan is just feinting outrage and punishment to feed the media.
    WaPo Link

  • James says:

    Nor is Pakistan today,the country that Jinnah had in mind.
    Pakistanis should be ashamed for living in a country where all citzens are not equal by law

  • rezy5172 says:

    If the airbase in Baluchistan has drones why haven’t their been any enemy attacks on it?

  • Knighthawk says:

    I’m not buying most of what the Paki’s are selling. Seem more likely then not Nato forces were engaged in some fashion and returned fire. As nate mentioned you don’t fire ‘warning shots’ at NATO air assets in that border region and then get to complain when they return fire and annihilate you. Sounds to me like there was some aiding and abetting going on from these border posts and they caught and paid for it.

  • If we stop giving aid to Pakistan during this dispute we have to worry about what they will do with their nuclear weapons. There is no question that we are fair weather friends to them at best, so we have to handle this one with caution.

  • Marlin says:

    Here’s a fun fact I never knew.

    According to media reports, Pakistan handed over the Shamsi airbase to the UAE in 1992 for hunting expeditions, but its authorities sublet it to the US for carrying out drone attacks.

    I wonder how much the USA had to lean on the UAE to get them to do this?

    The United Arab Emirates has dived into troubled Pakistan-US ties in a desperate effort to prevent them from unravelling and avert an immediate eviction of the Americans from the Shamsi airbase whose control they enjoy.
    UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan arrived in Islamabad on Monday on an unscheduled trip and met President Asif Ali Zardari and Army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.
    In both meetings, the UAE minister pleaded against pushing too hard for getting the airbase vacated.

    Dawn: UAE mounts pressure to get airbase decision reversed

  • Jimbo says:

    “But to treat a nuclear-armed country as an enemy would be a very big mistake.”
    I disagree – it would simplify relations because the repercussions are potentially much more severe. Nuclear armed states are an issue that we have been dealing with since the post WWII USSR. Moreover, this is 1940’s technology that has and will continue to proliferate. North Korea, Pakistan and likely soon (if not already), Iran. The West cannot and should not be blackmailed by states with rudimentary nuclear weapons.

  • The demand of Al qaeda and Pakistani politcians have converged here. Why? does the nukes are kept in underground bunkers in this area?

  • Zeissa says:

    American: You have no idea what America was founded on. It was founded on independence from a Great Empire that provided it with protection, prosperity and investment and which would soon ban slavery.
    These days America has inherited those ideals and are protecting them, however worthless people like you decide on a camp that suits their tastes (whether extremist left or right) and make puns instead of read books with plates and tens of pages of references.


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