(MSNBC) — Facing domestic political pressure, Pakistan’s government escalated the war of words with the United States, with its defense minister repeating calls for the U.S. to stop using a remote air base for drone strikes and to vacate the base.
Relations between the two uneasy allies have been on a downward slide for months, but deteriorated after the May 2 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden.
Bin Laden’s presence in a military town less than a mile from Pakistan’s version of West Point reinforced suspicion in the U.S. that elements of Pakistan’s security establishment may have helped hide him.
Wednesday’s remarks by Defense Minister Ahmed Mukhtar that the U.S. had been asked to vacate Shamsi Air Base, in the remote southwest part of the country, was the latest salvo as the two countries tussle over their interests in an Afghanistan settlement and the Pakistani government seeks to publicly distance itself from Washington.
“We have been talking to them (on the issue) for some time, but after May 2, we told them again,” Mukhtar told Reuters on Thursday. “When they (U.S. forces) will not operate from there (Shamsi base), no drone attacks will be carried out.”