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 FDD’s Long War Journal.