Pakistani security forces took control of a strategically important airbase in the country’s southwest Saturday evening after most of the U.S. military personnel have vacated the airfield, local media reported.
Pakistan had asked the U.S. to vacate Shamsi airbase in Balochistan province following NATO fighter jets and helicopters bombed two border posts on November 26 and killed 24 soldiers.
The U.S. had reportedly been using the airbase since late 2001 for military operations in Afghanistan and for drone strikes in Pakistan tribal regions, according to American and Pakistani media.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani said last week that the United States has been asked to vacate the airbase by December 11.
Pakistan’s Geo television reported that the Frontier Corps took control of the airbase from the U.S. soldiers late Saturday evening as most of the American personnel have left the airfield. “Only one American cargo plane is still parked at the airbase which will transfer the remaining personnel and equipment,” Geo TV quoted sources as saying.
Pakistani Civil Aviation officials also arrived at the airbase to take its full control after the remaining officials leave the facility.
Geo TV reported on Friday that the U.S has shifted five spy aircraft from Shamsi airbase to Afghanistan. The U.S. officials dismantled fiber-made residential barracks which had been 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.
U.S. officials recently said that they have a backup plan in Afghanistan if the Shamsi airstrip is closed down.
Geo television reported that the airbase will be handed over to the United Arab Emirates after the complete U.S. evacuation.
Pakistan’s Air Chief, 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.
Pakistan 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 aircraft could land at the airbase.
Pakistani TV channels had reported that the U.S. had expanded runway of the airfield for its big aircraft. The UAE had been using the airfield for small aircraft of its leaders when they used to come to Pakistan for hunting.
Geo TV reported that Pakistan has sent immigration authorities to the airbase to facilitate evacuation of the American personnel.

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