Pakistan clarifies reports about US military base on its soil

Pakistani security personnel stand guard at Shamsi Airbase, which was vacated by the US military in 2011.–File photo

The Pakistani Foreign Office said on Monday there was no US military or airbase in Pakistan and nor was any such proposal being discussed in the country.

“Any speculation on this account was baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said on Monday.

The spokesperson said that Pakistan and the US had a framework of cooperation in terms of Air Lines of Communication (ALOC) and Ground Lines of Communication (GLOC) in place since 2001. No new agreement has been made in this regard, he added

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had made it clear a few days ago that Pakistan would not provide air bases to the US after withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

“No. We don’t intend to allow boots on the ground here, and Pakistan isn’t transferring any base (to the US),” Qureshi told a press conference in the federal capital Islamabad.

Qureshi said the Pakistani government had formulated an “explicit policy” on partnership with the US for peace in Afghanistan. “We will be partners in peace, and this will be our role — the role of a facilitator,” he told the media.

Qureshi said there was no pressure on Pakistan from the US to provide airbases, saying: “There is no pressure. Pakistan will protect its interests.”

US President Joe Biden had said last month that the remaining 2,500 foreign troops would leave Afghanistan by September 11 this year, more than four months after the initial deadline of May 1 set by the Taliban and Washington as part of a historic agreement signed in Doha more than a year ago.

Biden also warned the Taliban that the US could defend itself and its partners from attacks as it draws down its forces, and that Washington would “reorganize its counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region” to prevent the emergence of another terrorist threat.

In his congressional testimony last month, General Kenneth Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command, had said that Washington was engaged in “a significant” diplomatic effort to determine where it will base a counterterrorism force in the region to deter terrorist groups after all American troops leave the country.”

“No such understanding, however, currently exists with any of Afghanistan’s neighbours for housing the proposed anti-terrorism forces,” he added.

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