No understanding with US to use Pakistani airspace for operations in Afghanistan: FO

Web Desk BOL News

23rd Oct, 2021. 02:47 pm
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A file photo of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad.

Foreign Office spokesperson clarified on Saturday that currently there is no understanding between Pakistan and the United States for the use of the country’s airspace to carry out military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan.

“In response to media queries regarding latest news report alluding to formalisation of an agreement for the use of Pakistan’s airspace by the United States to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, the spokesperson stated that no such understanding was in place,” read a statement issued by the FO.

The spokesperson reiterated that Islamabad and Washington have a “longstanding cooperation on regional security and counter-terrorism”, adding that both the countries “remain engaged in regular consultations”.

US nearing a formal agreement with Pakistan: report

The spokesperson was reacting to a CNN report that claimed that the Biden administration has informed US lawmakers that Washington is close to signing an “agreement” with Islamabad for the use of Pakistani airspace to carry out “military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan”.

The channel published the report based on three sources that were privy to a “classified briefing” given to members of US Congress.

“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,” a source was quoted by CNN.

However, another source told the publication that negotiations were still ongoing and the terms of the agreement is yet to be finalised.

The third source told the channel that discussions on the agreement took place when US officials visited Pakistan. However, they were not clear what Pakistan wants or how much Washington is willing to give in return.

The source may be citing the recent visit of US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and CIA chief Bill Burns.

The channel reported that the “US military currently uses Pakistan’s airspace to reach Afghanistan as part of ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts”. However, it clarified that currently there is no formal agreement between Islamabad and Washington that would ensure the US gets “continued access” to Pakistani airspace to reach Afghanistan”.

CNN had reached out to a Pentagon spokesman but was denied a comment as “US Defense Department does not” issue statements on “closed briefings due to security classifications”.

Ever since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan began reports have been rife about the US reaching out to Pakistan for the use of its airspace or a base.

Multiple reports from US-based publications have claimed that talks have been ongoing between the two countries on the issue. However, Pakistan time and again has denied that such talks or discussions have taken place.

Back in August, even National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf had told Pakistani journalists that no such discussions took place during his trip to Washington.

“The word base was not mentioned, not even once, during our talks, except in the media,” Yusuf had told US-based Pakistani journalists.

“Bases were not discussed at all from either side during this trip because we have already made our position clear. That chapter is closed,” Yusuf was quoted by daily Dawn.