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US Vacating Air Base In Pakistan Used By Drones

ISLAMABAD (AP) — The United States is vacating an air base in
Pakistan used by American drones that target Taliban and al-Qaida
militants, complying with a key demand made by Islamabad in retaliation
for the NATO airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, the U.S.
ambassador said Monday.

The move is not
expected to significantly curtail drone attacks in Pakistan, since
Shamsi air base in southwestern Baluchistan province was only used to
service drones that had mechanical or weather difficulties.
But
Washington’s decision to leave the base shows how the NATO attacks on
Nov. 26 have plunged the already strained U.S.-Pakistan relationship to
an all-time low. The crisis threatens U.S. attempts to get Pakistan to
cooperate on winding down the Afghan war.
Pakistan
immediately retaliated by blocking its Afghan border crossings to NATO
supplies and giving the U.S. 15 days to vacate Shamsi — a deadline that
falls on Dec. 11. It is also boycotting an international conference in
Bonn, Germany, aimed at stabilizing Afghanistan.
U.S.
Ambassador Cameron Munter said in a local TV interview that Washington
was doing its best to comply with Pakistan’s demand to leave the air
base.
“I think what we can promise you is
that we will do everything we can to vacate the Shamsi base by the date
that you asked us,” said Munter.
The ambassador did not mention the use of the base by American drones.
The
U.S. does not acknowledge the CIA-run drone program in Pakistan
publicly, but American officials have said privately that the strikes
have killed many senior Taliban and al-Qaida commanders.

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