As the US troops have started withdrawing from Afghanistan while Pentagon is exploring military bases in Central Asia and other nations bordering Afghanistan, Pakistan has clarified that it will not permit any foreign military bases on its soil.
“We will not allow boots on the ground or military bases on our territory,” Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told media in Islamabad on Tuesday, as quoted by Pajhwok Afghan News agency.
Qureshi said that Pakistan firmly stood with Afghanistan in its efforts for peace, prosperity, and national reconciliation. “We will remain partners in peace with Afghanistan and will continue to play our role as a facilitator,” he added.
Earlier, WSJ reported that Washington is exploring options to base its soldiers in Central Asia and the Middle East after the US-led NATO troops exit Afghanistan.
The report mentions that the US military commanders wanted bases that can house its soldiers, drones, bombers and artillery to support the Afghan government, control the Taliban and other terror groups like ISIS.
The report mentions that the US would ideally want a base in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan or both (as it borders Afghanistan) so that it can act quickly, as and when required.
However, experts fear that since both countries have been part of the USSR with Russia still holding a massive sway in Central Asian nations and China’s growing assertiveness in the region could complicate matters for the US.
Key sources told the WSJ that Pentagon wants bases that are close to Afghanistan so that the US can quickly deploy both men and material in the case, for example, an attack on its consulate in Kabul.
The US had maintained two bases in Central Asia – one each in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan during Afghanistan operations. However, due to immense pressure from Russia and China, the US removed its forces from the region.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had earlier spoken to Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa to discuss the drawdown of US activity in neighboring Afghanistan, a Pentagon press release said.
“During the call, Secretary Austin reaffirmed the importance of the US–Pakistan bilateral relationship and expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan Peace Negotiations. Secretary Austin and General Bajwa also discussed the drawdown in Afghanistan,” the release read.
Austin and Bajwa discussed the importance of regional stability and the desire for the United States and Pakistan to continue working together on shared goals and objectives in the region.
US To Train Afghan Forces In Other Nations
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley had told reporters that the US considering training Afghan security forces in another country after its troop withdrawal is complete later this year.
Milley emphasized that the United States will continue to provide logistics and financial support to Afghan security forces following the US exit from Afghanistan.
The United States must view its withdrawal from Afghanistan not as closure, but as a transition, US Senator Jack Reed during an event at the Reagan Foundation.
“The president’s decision should be seen as a transition, not closure,” Reed said on Tuesday. “We still have vital security issues in the region, and the United States must continue to ensure that Afghanistan will not become a safe haven for terrorism, and do all we can to empower the legitimate government of Afghanistan.”
Reed, who chairs the US Senate Armed Services Committee, said the United States must learn from the past and keep a strong presence in the region to ensure that another situation such as the rise of the Islamic State terror group does not happen again.
Experts talking to the EurAsian Times who wished to stay anonymous said that it is highly unlikely that the US would like to set up a military base in Pakistan. The only reason Washington could get interested in Pakistan is to check on the Chinese but it is highly unlikely that Beijing would approve that move.
The withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan began last week, following the original May 1 deadline agreed upon by the US and the Taliban. A full withdrawal from the country would mark an end to the longest war in US history.