Why Is Pakistan Setting Up A New Airbase In Balochistan Close To The Afghan Border?

The Pakistan Air Force has confirmed that it is planning to set up a new airbase in the Nasirabad district of Balochistan to step up military presence in the region. Speculation is rife that the airbase is aimed at helping the US troops in Afghanistan.

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According to a BBC report, the service has already inspected and acquired land for the airbase. Earlier in May, it was reported that the officials arrived in the conflict-torn region who had then proposed a tract of land to be acquired for establishing the base.

The airbase will be built in the Notal area of Nasirabad. It is said that the construction of a new airbase would help develop the region. For this, around 26,000 acres of land are to be acquired and the rate of private land had been fixed in 2020.

This will also help in shifting focus from Jacobabad, Sindh, while also creating new opportunities for the locals. This airbase is aimed at maintaining a more credible military presence in the area dominated by Baloch separatist-militant organizations.

Local reporters, however, claim this airbase is being built to help the US troops in Afghanistan, an allegation the Pakistan government has outrightly denied.

“There is no US military or airbase in Pakistan, nor was any such proposal envisaged. Any speculation on this account is baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided,” Foreign Office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudri said on May 24.

The speculation was fuelled by Pentagon’s statement that Pakistan has allowed the American military to use its airspace and given ground access so that it can support its presence in Afghanistan, Pakistani news outlet Dawn reported.

Jacobabad in Sindh province is one of the most important airbases of the Pakistan Air Force and has also been used by the US Air Force for carrying out operations against Al-Qaeda and the Taliban during its military intervention in Afghanistan.

Some analysts believe that this new airbase at Notal would help in providing more security to the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.

A PAF official was quoted by BBC as saying that the proposal to build an airbase in Notal is indeed being considered, but no final decisions have been made. He said four sites are under consideration at present. 

The soil in this region is less fertile and is not suitable for farming, pushing the locals to join militant groups. Heavy military presence accompanied by the Air Force assets is expected to serve as a deterrent.

Earlier, as EurAsian Times reported citing US media reports, the Pentagon has been exploring options to station its soldiers in Central Asia and the Middle East after the US-led NATO troops exit Afghanistan.

The report mentions that the US military commanders wanted bases that can house its soldiers, drones, bombers and artillery to support the Afghan government, control the Taliban and other terror groups like ISIS.

Key sources told the WSJ that Pentagon wants military bases that are close to Afghanistan so that the US can quickly deploy both men and material in the case, for example, an attack on its consulate in Kabul.