US nearing agreement to use Pak's airspace for military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan

New Delhi Published: Oct 23, 2021, 09:13 AM(IST)

A Taliban fighter walks past a US national flag at the airport in Kabul on September 14, 2021 Photograph:( AFP )

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According to reports, Pakistan has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India

According to US media reports, the Biden administration is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan.

The report by CNN, which has quoted three sources familiar with the matter, states that Pakistan has expressed a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India.

However, the negotiations are ongoing and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalised, could still change.

Notably in May, Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Pakistan’s Senate that Islamabad would not provide its military bases to the US for future counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan and also would not allow drone attacks inside Pakistan.

“I want to assure the House that Pakistan is in safe hands,” he remarked.

But on October 1, Qureshi made a U-turn saying that the proposal of using Pakistan airspace is up for discussion with the Imran Khan-led Cabinet.

“Question of support …I believe it was mentioned that there was a discussion in which there was a mention of the usefulness of a corridor provided by Pakistan in the past. We are in talks…on the continuation or cooperation in the days ahead. Obviously, that's a decision that will be taken by the Cabinet (decision on approval of usage of Pak air space by the US) after due deliberation. Looking at all the pros and cons, Pakistan will decide what is in the interest of its security, national security (and) regional stability. Pakistan will take a decision accordingly,” Qureshi said during a press conference.

Moreover, the US is also reportedly mulling to establish its military presence in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to conduct so-called “over-the-horizon operations” in Afghanistan.

However, it is being reported that the move might run into severe opposition from Russian President Vladimir Putin and some local politicians.

“Both are long shots. These are pipe dreams due to needing Putin's blessing,” CNN quoted the source as saying.

Currently, the US conducts its over-the-horizon operations from bases in the Middle East (Gulf countries), forcing drones to fly from distant bases, such as those in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, around Iran and through Pakistani air space before reaching Afghanistan, according to CNN.

(With inputs from agencies)

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