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Our New Megabase in Afghanistan

by John Reed on January 3, 2012

So, this is some drone-related news about the Afghan war that we missed. While most media attention has been focused on CIA drone bases in Pakistan, the U.S. last year transformed the remote ex-Soviet air field at Shindand, near the Iranian border, into the second biggest air base in all Afghanistan.

The perimeter of the once sprawling Soviet base was officially expanded to three times its size to accommodate the Afghan air force’s undergraduate pilot training center. However, with last month’s downing of an RQ-170 Sentinel stealth drone, news emerged that Shindand plays host to the secret UAVs, which had previously only been known to fly out of Kandahar air base.

The facility’s remoteness and proximity to the border with Iran makes it the perfect location for a variety of ops against Tehran. In fact, its one of the few major U.S. bases that doesn’t appear to be updated when veiwed through satellite viewers like Google Maps. Even the sensitive U.S. facilities in the UAE show plenty of Western jets parked on their ramps. Meanwhile, updated (albeit grainy) images of Kandahar Airport, where the RQ-170 likely takes off from for missions over nearby Pakistan, are easily viewable in Google Maps.

Do a quick Google Image search for Shindand and you’ll see plenty of images of everything from AH-64 Apache helos, F-15E Strike Eagles and C-17 Globemasters (shown above) to Afghan air corps Cessna Caravans and even old MiG-21s operating out of the base.

Shindand’s remote location even made it the ideal ground for the Soviets to test out their VTOL fighter, the Yak-38 in 1980.

In any case, as long as tensions between the U.S. and Iran remain high, you can bet that Shindand will remain important.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Musson January 3, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Meanwhile the coalition is planning to start bringing home $30 Billion in equipment.
http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Coalition-t

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arty January 3, 2012 at 5:07 pm

If we only kept a large base operational in Iraq, we would have had Iran surrounded on 3 sides.

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Kotch January 3, 2012 at 5:25 pm

If anything happens I'm sure Iraq will welcome some USAF fighters into their country to prevent Iran lashing out in their weakened direction

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Thunder350 January 3, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Iraq is now religiously aligned with Iran, and the leadership is a puppet of Iran aswell.

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ForrestCantrell January 3, 2012 at 7:29 pm

You seem to forget a thousand years of Persian-Arab enmity. The Arabs will never trust the Iranians, Shia or not.

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itfunk January 4, 2012 at 12:59 pm

That is before America united them.

Sanem January 4, 2012 at 5:20 am

it does leave the shortest route for an Israeli air attack open with no air defence whatsoever (does Iraq even have good radars?)

and while I don't think the Iraqi's would thrust Iran, I think they would prefer them over the US (the enemy of my enemy is my friend, divide and conquer, all that)

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Michael January 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm

I feel like Columbo with the late Peter Falk as he slumps in his coat and says, "Lemme get this straight–we got a huge base in Afghanistan which could be very handy in the event of a major strike on Iranian sites but we're gettin' out of Iraq but we have the largest US embassy in the world ( larger than the Vatican)in Baghdad in area, which will have USMC guards and thousands of civilian contractors…." Somethin' ain't kosher here…"

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Brian Black January 3, 2012 at 7:04 pm

Give it a few years and the Air Force will be laying another new runway, somewhere in Iran.

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IronV January 3, 2012 at 8:01 pm

Could be you have to pull in your timeline…

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Musson January 4, 2012 at 9:02 am

Desert One – South East of Tehran?

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Nick January 3, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Any word on air defenses? If things went sideways with Iran thats a target even they could hit.

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Stephen Russell January 3, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Yeah will Iran target base in pre emptive strike since now Israeli jets have place to make Emergency landing or Refuel mid mission??

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@Earlydawn January 3, 2012 at 9:50 pm

I don't think Afghanistan is where you think it is.

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Lance January 3, 2012 at 11:49 pm

Might be the best base to attack Iranian Nuke sights.

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Rhyscurrency January 4, 2012 at 2:14 am

The stark reality is that NATO (read, USA) is not leaving Afghanistan anytime soon, as many are claiming.
If that were really true, then why build all those military megabases?
It is in there for the long haul. It came not for al-qaeda, but for getting a foothold right under the belly of Russia.
Chasing al-qaeda serves as a convenient smokescreen

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Sanem January 4, 2012 at 5:33 am

yep, the US has had plans for invading Afghanistan since 1990. its location between Pakistan, China, Iran and the other 'Stans, south of Russia, makes it vital for controlling that region (and its oil transit lines to Asia)

plus it's the biggest opium producer in the world, which the CIA probably uses as a major source of income. until the Taliban shut it down in 2000, probably saving untold Western lives in the proces. and a year later the Taliban were ousted (by none other than the CIA), and opium production goes back up to 100%

I honestly wouldn't be suprised if the whole Al-Qaeda thing was set up by the CIA from scratch, as an excuse to invade Afghanistan (and later Iraq). but even if it was, we'll never know, so who cares

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Sanem January 4, 2012 at 7:37 am

true, but Pakistan has nuclear weapons, is a close ally to China and can be bought (unlike Afghnistan, where major oil companies broke off negotiations with the Taliban shortly before 9/11, because the Taliban wouldn't accept their offers)

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Tenn Slim January 4, 2012 at 9:40 am

Add to the mix, the F15 recent sale to the Saudis.
Iran recent activities in the Gulf brings the year 2012 one step closer to the predicted “crisis” of Pre Election November.
Expect this summer to be domestically, and Middle Eastern conflicts crisis to erupt.
Semper Fi

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RCDC January 4, 2012 at 2:51 pm

I guess we need to delay any draw down of our troops in Afghanistan because of the potential conflict in the Strait of Hormus with Iran,

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blight January 5, 2012 at 6:11 pm

Not really, because a counter-insurgency geared force is not the right one to defend from Iranian attack or to counterattack. Either forward deploy more relevant equipment or leave the country.

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Billy January 5, 2012 at 8:32 am

Uhmmm why not just let them kill each other.

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blight January 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Because "they" hate the United States more than they hate "each other".

We already tried abandoning them in the '90s. And that's why we're here again.

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gladys February 27, 2012 at 9:32 am

are our men safe there is there internet access

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heres June 24, 2014 at 11:44 pm

minecraft

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Nick January 4, 2012 at 1:33 pm

Missiles*

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Realist January 24, 2012 at 11:10 am

“seems legit”

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