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Canada wants to use Pak bases for Afghan pullout

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* Request still under consideration by Foreign Office

By Iqbal Choudhry

ISLAMABAD: As NATO countries are planning to leave Afghanistan, the Canadian government has requested Pakistani authorities to allow them the use of Pakistani airbases during the withdrawal of their troops from Afghanistan, sources told Daily Times on Thursday.

According to the sources, Canadian troops will leave Afghanistan next year and their government wants to use Pakistani airbases for ‘convenience’ during the departure.

Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit told Daily Times that his ministry had received a request from the Canadian government, however, it had not been decided yet if they would be allowed to use the airbases.

Under the set procedure, the Foreign Ministry has to consult the Defence Ministry before giving the final approval. The request, however, is still being considered by the FO.

To a similar question, Fareeha Iftikhar, from the Media and Advocacy Office of the Canadian High Commission, said Canada would end its military mission in Afghanistan in July 2011 and complete the withdrawal of its forces by December.

“We are currently planning to end the mission in Afghanistan but it is too early to provide any details at this time,” she said.

Around 2,800 Canadian Forces personnel are currently deployed in Afghanistan as part of the ISAF forces.

Pakistan is considered as a direct route to Afghanistan, hence it is believed that the countries wishing to leave NATO forces in Afghanistan would prefer Pakistani airbases due to its strategic importance.

On April 11, a day before the two-day Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, US President Barack Obama met his Kazakh counterpart Nursultan Nazarbayev and their deliberations resulted in the US obtaining the right to fly troops and military equipment over (and later directly into) Kazakhstan for the escalating war in Afghanistan.

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