• Wednesday, September 28, 2022

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Pakistan remains US focus for base after pullout from Afghanistan: report

US soldiers at Kandahar air base in Afghanistan on January 23, 2018. (Photo by SHAH MARAI/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

THE US is still focusing on Pakistan for a military base after American troops leave Afghanistan this year, although no substantial progress has been made in the negotiations between the two countries, according to a media report.

Pakistan effectively demanded that the American military or CIA need its approval for hitting targets inside Afghanistan in exchange for a base on its soil, a New York Times report said citing unnamed American officials.

The Pakistan government is unlikely to sign off on any US strikes against the Taliban from its base, it said.

“Pakistan has demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the CIA or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan,” it said.

The CIA used a base in Pakistan for years to launch drone strikes against militants in the country’s western mountains but was kicked out of the facility in 2011 when US relations with Pakistan unravelled.

US defence secretary Lloyd J Austin III has had frequent calls with Pakistan’s military chief about getting the country’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan, while CIA director William J Burns visited Islamabad where the discussions remained focused on counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.

Although some American officials believe Pakistan wants to allow the US access to a base as long as it can control how it is used, public opinion in the country has been strongly against any renewed presence by the United States, the report said.

Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had recently said his government would not allow the US military to return to its airbases. “I want to tell the Pakistanis that no US base will be allowed by prime minister Imran Khan so long he is in power,” Qureshi had said.

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