According to a senior Western diplomat, United States has at no stage even asked Pakistan for its military bases following their retreat from Afghanistan. In his understanding, the self-sponsored debate and the ‘Absolutely Not’ campaign from Pakistan have left Washington confused.
The debate should focus more on why the Taliban failed to start negotiations in time for a political settlement with the current government in Kabul, another senior diplomat said. The diplomats wish to remain anonymous as they are not authorized to speak on the issue publicly.
As per informed sources, the US has also conveyed its reservations to Islamabad over the subject.
According to an article published on 6th June 2021 in The New York Times, it was claimed that the CIA Director William J Burns had unofficially met with the chief of the Pakistani military and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, the country’s military intelligence agency. Mr. Burns had not, however, brought up the issue of the bases during his meetings, and the focus primarily remained on counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.
In the same article, it is also mentioned that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has had frequent contacts with the Pakistani Military Chief on getting help with future U.S. operations in Afghanistan. However, the talks stalled when Pakistani counterparts showed their reluctance on the matter in question.
Seeking regional support
In May, the Foreign Minister of Pakistan Shah Mahmood Qureshi had openly declared on the Parliament floor that no military base will be handed over for foreign interests as long as Prime Minister Imran Khan is in power.
Under the Doha agreement signed between the U.S. and Taliban in February 2020, U.S. will withdraw its forces within 14 months if the Taliban complied with the agreed conditions amongst which one is to cut their ties with Al-Qaeda.
In April, Joe Biden had announced that all U.S. troops will withdraw by September 11 after which the American National Security team has been in contact with the regional allies in hopes for intelligence information and counterterrorism strikes in case Afghanistan becomes the victim of another civil war after the NATO troops pull out.
In a White House Press briefing the U.S. National Security Adviser had stressed that apart from Pakistan, there is a wide range of countries that Biden Administration is looking at. Negotiations to build effective over the horizon capacity both for intelligence and defense are important to eradicate any further threat from Afghanistan.
U.S. officials have also discussed having bases in Central Asia with countries bordering Afghanistan, however, Russia has already voiced their opposition, saying those nations have assured Moscow they have no plans to allow such activities from their soil.
From where it all began
In June, Prime Minister Imran Khan had given an interview to Jonathan Swan in which he had clearly stated that Pakistan will “absolutely not” allow any bases for interference in Afghanistan whatsoever. Khan also added that he hasn’t been in talks with Mr. Biden ever since he came into power.
Pakistan will "absolutely not" allow the CIA to use bases on its soil for cross-border counterterrorism missions after U.S. forces withdraw from Afghanistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan tells @jonathanvswan in a must-see interview airing Sunday. https://t.co/fdXQybfAIb
— Zach Basu (@zacharybasu) June 18, 2021
The statement was applauded by the nation and became a top trend on Twitter as it coincides with the general opinion of the public of Pakistan.
The rumors regarding the bases were also important to address as, over the years, U.S. has been using Pakistani military bases for action against terrorism. Both countries have been coordinating ever since the Afghan war began. America has also been using the bases to dispatch help to Pakistan in times of crisis.
However, in a National Assembly speech given by Imran Khan on 30th June, he said that Pakistan’s biggest mistake was becoming the frontier state for the US’s war that resulted in the loss of 70,000 precious Pakistani lives. He further added that a friendly nation, unlike the US, would never bomb its own friend and hence Pakistan would never again compromise its sovereignty for another country.
Future coordination over military bases looks highly unlikely under the present regime as Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also said “We will not allow the kinetic use of drones, nor are we interested in monitoring your drones. This a very clear-cut policy of this government. Forget the past.”