Pakistan won’t provide bases to US

ISLAMABAD    –   Pakistan will not provide bases to the United States under any circumstances for operation inside Afghanistan, officials said on Friday.

Close aides of Prime Minister Imran Khan told The Nation that Pakistan cannot provide bases against any country.

“If the US has to conduct any operation, we will not be part of it. This is against our sovereignty (to provide bases to any other country). We will, however, continue our role for peace in Afghanistan,” said one aide of the premier.

Another close aide said that the US had not sought any bases officially but “we will not accept this demand if made.”

Earlier, US Democratic Party front-runner for presidential nominee Joe Biden said that the US should insist that Pakistan provide it with bases to conduct operations against terrorists in Afghanistan and unilaterally pull out troops from there.

Participating in the Democratic Party presidential nomination debate, the former vice president said: “We can prevent the US from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases — insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to airlift from and to move against what we know.”

Biden gave an incoherent description of the Afghanistan situation saying that it was ‘three countries’ with one under “Pakistani control.” “It’s three different countries. Pakistan owns the three counties – the three provinces in the east. They’re not any part of – the Haqqanis run it. I will go on and on,” he said.

Last week, US President Donald Trump said talks with the Taliban aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan were ‘dead.’ “As far as I’m concerned, they are dead,” he told journalists in the White House.

Trump cancelled secret plans to host a Taliban delegation in the US after the militant group admitted killing a US soldier. The two sides had appeared close to a deal and the Taliban said the US would “lose the most” for cancelling talks.

The US president has made withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan a key foreign policy aim, but asked about the 14,000 US troops still there, he said: “We’d like to get out but we’ll get out at the right time.”

Trump had been due to host the Taliban as well as Afghan president Ashraf Ghani at the Camp David presidential retreat before abruptly cancelling.

Last month, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to meet Afghan Taliban leaders to take forward the peace process.

Qureshi made it clear that Pakistan was not a guarantor but only facilitator in the Afghan peace process. “Prime Minister Imran Khan wants to have a meeting with the Taliban to woo them for the intra Afghan dialogue.  Pakistan is moving forward in good faith,” the FM said.

Qureshi’s remarks come days after Doha-based Afghan Taliban leaders announced that they were ready to visit Islamabad and meet PM Khan if invited.

Islamabad has already arranged landmark direct talks between the US and the Taliban in an attempt to find a political solution to the lingering conflict in Afghanistan, which has entered its 18th year.

Qureshi said that the entire onus of the Afghan peace process cannot be put on Pakistan. He said Pakistan believes that it is the shared responsibility of all the stakeholders to take forward the peace process.

He said convergence was seen on Afghan issue during a meeting between Prime Minister Imran Khan and the President Trump. “This has opened a new chapter in Pakistan-US relations,” he added.

International affairs expert Dr Khurrum Iqbal said Pakistan had previously remained successful to convince US administration that negotiation was the ultimate solution to Afghan dispute.

“It is diplomatic victory of Pakistan that US has endorsed Pakistan’s stance in resolving Afghan issue. Pakistan should continue to play its role to facilitate Afghan reconciliation process,” he said, adding the US will ultimately have to come to the talks table.

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