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Pakistan goes into overdrive to counter US claims on air bases

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Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that his country has refused to give its military bases to the US as the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan (Image courtesy: Twitter/Shah Mehmood Qureshi)

Even as the US National Security Advisor (NSA) Jake Sullivan said Monday night that negotiations continue with Pakistan on exploring military bases in the country after the United States withdraws military forces from Afghanistan, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has once again said that Islamabad has categorically rejected any such option.

"I'm not going to get into the details of our negotiations with Pakistan. I will only say this: We have had constructive discussions in the military, intelligence, and diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America’s capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which al Qaeda or ISIS or any other terrorist group can attack the United States," Sullivan said last night while replying to a question on if the US would like to have a drone base in Pakistan to be able to fight against the Taliban in future.
 
The US NSA said that the "specifics" of what things will look like will however have to remain in  private channels as Washington is talking to "a wide range of countries" about how to build an effective, over-the-horizon capacity, both from an intelligence and from a defense perspective, to be able to suppress the terrorism threat in Afghanistan on a going-forward basis.

Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Qureshi said that Pakistan has refused to give its military bases to the US as the foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan.

In an interview with Geo News, the Pakistan Foreign Minister categorically stated that he has told all the political parties in a briefing that they have no such intention.

"Search for bases could be their wish. There's no question of giving them bases, we have to see our interest," he was quoted as saying by the leading Pakistani news channel.

NATO Afghanistan

Spanish troops lower their flag for the last time in Afghanistan as their part of Op Resolute Support mission comes to an end. Spain had been an integral part of the NATO coalition since 2002 (Image courtesy: NATO)

The New York Times had reported Monday that as the military pushes to have all forces out by early to mid-July, well before US President Joe Biden’s deadline of September 11, an "intense pressure" has been created on the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to secure bases close to Afghanistan for future operations.

As it draws down in Afghanistan ending the alliance's largest military operation, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who had admitted that "the decision to leave (Afghanistan) entails risks" and a lot of uncertainty, met with Biden at the White House early Tuesday (India time), to discuss preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit on June 14.

Sullivan said that during his first foreign visit as the US President, Biden will reinforce the importance of burden sharing — "not just the 2 percent commitment that Allies made back in 2014 at the Wales Summit, but the need for Allies to give not just cash, but contributions to exercises and to operations that NATO is undertaking..."

Biden NATO

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with US President Joe Biden at the White House on Monday (Image courtesy: NATO)

After meeting Stoltenberg and holding a bilateral meeting with the NATO chief, the US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said that he is confident that, as Resolute Support begins to stand down, a "new relationship" with Afghanistan and the Afghan forces will begin.

"We will continue to provide support to the Afghans with our continued civilian presence in Afghanistan, with continued funding for the Afghan security forces, and also looking into the possibility of providing out-of-country training for Afghan forces, and of course, also helping to maintain critical infrastructure such as the airport," said Austin.

Threat of Talibanization rising

While Biden has assured that the US will not take its eye off the terrorist threat and reorganize its counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been busy threatening the neighbouring countries.

Pakistan's latest refusal to give its military bases to the US comes at a time when the Taliban had warned Afghanistan's neighbours last week to avoid making the "historic mistake" of letting foreign forces operate from their soil.

"We urge neighbouring countries not to allow anyone to do so. If such a step is taken again, it will be a great and historic mistake and disgrace. We would not remain silent in the face of such heinous and provocative acts," the Taliban had said in a statement.

Australian media revealed today that even the Afghan translators employed by Australian troops have been placed on a Taliban kill list for working alongside "infidel enemies" over the past 20 years.

"In one instance, an Afghan father who worked with Australian Defence Force soldiers from 2010 was tracked to his home by a Taliban operative. Earlier this month, a threatening letter signed by a Taliban 'guerilla operations' commander named Spin Talib, was taped to the front door of the translator's home after his address was identified by the 'Mujahedeen', or jihadist fighters," reported ABC News.

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