US to continue drone operations from Shamsi airbase despite Pak's demand to vacate it

Last Updated: Wed, Jul 06, 2011 05:00 hrs

The United States plans to keep using the Shamsi airstrip in Pakistan for its drone operations against militants near the Afghanistan border despite being asked to vacate the base, according to American officials.

The Shamsi air base in Balochistan will continue to be used for some drone surveillance operations, while the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which is principally responsible for the campaign, is already using facilities in Afghanistan to launch some armed drone aircraft strikes on targets over the border in Pakistan.

The facility remains fully operational and supports US counterterrorism operations in Pakistan, The News quoted one of the officials, as telling a foreign news agency.

But the official added that if, for whatever reason, it was no longer available, the CIA certainly has other ways to continue its drone program and to sustain the intense pressure it has put on al Qaeda and its militant allies.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani had recently said that the US was never given access to Shamsi airbase for carrying out drone attacks.ddressing a news conference in Multan, Gilani insisted that the US was given access to the base only for surveillance purposes by the previous government.

Earlier, Pakistan's Defence Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar had said that the US had been asked to stop using the base for drone strikes and vacate it. (ANI)

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