Video: How CIA Was Expelled From Pakistan’s Shamsi Airbase
As Pakistani soldiers took positions around the base two days before the deadline, US military conveyed to a reluctant CIA that this was the end of its decade-long expedition in Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—The events of the weekend of 10 and 11 December show how a reluctant and arrogant CIA was forced to leave a base in southwestern Pakistan amid fears that Pakistani military might seize sophisticated equipment on the base used to operate drones. The American intelligence agency was also let down by the waning resolve of the US government and the military, both of whom conveyed to the agency they would not contest a Pakistani move to seize the base and all of the equipment on it if the facility was not vacated by the midnight of Sunday, December 11, Pakistan standard time.
If CIA had any doubts about Pakistani resolve to expel American agents from a base in southwestern Pakistan, those doubts ended when Pakistani soldiers took position around the base two days before end of the deadline yesterday.
CIA officers at the base, in Kabul and back in the US were resisting pressure from the White House and the State Department to leave Pakistan in accordance with the deadline given by Islamabad. They were hoping for a last minute break that would allow them to keep some kind of presence in the strategic base that provides easy access to Iranian, Pakistani and Afghan air spaces.
This reluctance was part of the agency’s overall intention of not leaving Afghanistan and the region at any cost, despite popular US demands to end the war.
Pakistan had a bitter experience with the arrogance of CIA officials operating in Afghanistan, which is their biggest base of operations in the world today, and wanted to take no chances.
The CIA had ignored an earlier Pakistani request, in May, to leave the base. Islamabad waited then but did not pursue the matter in deference to the United Arab Emirates, an ally whose royal family leased what was a simple airstrip back in 1992 for use as a landing point for its private hunting trips. In October 2001, the UAE leased the base to CIA with the consent of Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
But this time, Pakistan had a contingency plan for the worst case scenario. In case CIA agents refused to leave, the Pakistani military was going to storm the base and expel CIA and its agents and technicians by force and seize whatever CIA drones found parked on the base.
When the Pakistan Army and Frontier Corp units assumed positions around the base on Dec. 8, CIA operatives knew they had to leave by the midnight of Dec. 11, the end of the two-week deadline given by Pakistani federal government. There was no way CIA was going to risk its prized equipment falling in Pakistani hands.
Unlike CIA, the US military decided early on not to take chances. Transport aircraft belonging to US military started arriving as early as Dec. 4 to take away soldiers and equipment. US military officers also conveyed to CIA that they would not resist or help CIA counter any move by Pakistani military to seize the base.
Finally, the last US transport plane left the base at 1500 hours on Sunday, Pakistan time. CIA agents on the ground destroyed bunkers and barracks and some equipment to render them useless for Pakistanis.
US media outlets linked to CIA are trying to downplay the impact of this move on CIA’s operations in the region.
The expulsion of CIA and its drones from the base marks an end to the decade-long CIA footprint on Pakistani soil. Tens of CIA agents have already been expelled by Pakistan earlier this year.