Pakistan’s defense minister says his government has told U.S. forces to leave a key military base in the south of the country, although an American official says the minister’s comments are “news to us.”
The state-run Associated Press of Pakistan Wednesday quoted minister Ahmed Mukhtar as telling reporters in his Rawalpindi office: “We have told them (the U.S. officials) to leave the air base.” According to APP, the minister was responding to a question about Shamsi air base in Baluchistan province, from where U.S. military drones are said to operate.
However, the U.S. official said American counter terrorism operations in Pakistan continue.
Separately– a source familiar with U.S. drone operations in Pakistan said Shamsi Airbase is "still open for business."
Mukhtar’s comment is Pakistan’s latest public statement of displeasure with the United States, following the secret U.S. raid on May 2 that killed Osama bin Laden.
The drone issue had put a strain on U.S.-Pakistan relations, even before the raid. In April, days before that commando operation, a Pakistani official said U.S. personnel had left the base, a claim that American officials had then denied.
-CNN's National Security Producer Pam Benson contributed to this report