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When President Joseph R. Biden announced his decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan, he said: "We will ask other countries in the region to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India and Turkey." Biden has also talked about the US reorganizing its counterterrorism capabilities in the region to be able to hit the target from “over the horizon.” These discussions have triggered speculations about the Biden administration seeking access to military bases in Pakistan to target the Taliban after total US pullout from Afghanistan. Such speculations are strengthened by what Biden said in a Democratic Primary debate on September 12, 2019: "We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing airbases and insisting the Pakistanis provide bases for us”. There's even talk of possibly escalating US military operations in Afghanistan from bases in Pakistan.
Responding to a question on the subject of "drone strikes and air strikes" asked in an interview by Voice of America's Ayesha Tanzeem, President Arif Alvi said: "I’m not aware, and I don’t think Pakistan will be in a position to offer that".
Alvi's response has not diminished the ongoing speculation about Pakistan helping US military's counterinsurgency ops in Afghanistan. Nick Reynolds, an analyst at the London-based think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), has written a piece on it which brings in the United Kingdom helping the United States persuade Pakistan to allow the use of its territory to launch air strikes in Afghanistan. Here's an excerpt of Reynolds' article:
"Ultimately, counterterrorism operations will have to continue in the region, and the US, UK and NATO will be further entangled in Pakistani diplomatic affairs as a result. There is a risk that the UK and NATO, if they wish to support the US, will only be able to do so by striking into Afghanistan from basing in neighboring countries, effectively a continuation of one of the current lines of effort that the Biden administration is attempting to terminate, except with the bases moved across the Pakistani border. The US, UK and NATO may even end up seriously escalating combat operations in Afghanistan in some form in future, either to prevent the Afghan government from falling or to address Taliban support for terrorist networks if they are allowed to take power. The Biden administration seeks to end the ‘forever war’ by withdrawing. However, given the ongoing situation with Islamist terrorism globally, the forever war looks instead as if it is transitioning into a new and dangerous phase in which the UK and NATO will be forced to play a continuing role".
Back on September 12, 2019, Candidate Biden talked about seeking bases in Pakistan during the third Democratic Primary Presidential debate. Here's what he said then:
"The whole purpose of going to Afghanistan was to not have a counterinsurgency, meaning that we're going to put that country together. It cannot be put together. Let me say it again. It will not be put together. 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. But here's the point. The point is that it's a counterterrorism strategy. We can prevent the United States from being the victim of terror coming out of Afghanistan by providing for bases -- insist the Pakistanis provide bases for us to air lift from and to move against what we know. We don't need those troops there. I would bring them home".
Should Pakistan yield to western pressure yet again as it did after 911? Pakistan has paid a very heavy price for working with the United States in the last two decades. Tens of thousands of Pakistanis have died in attacks launched by groups opposed to US-Pakistan cooperation. Pakistan's economy has suffered hundreds of billions of dollars of losses. And yet, Pakistan continues to be accused of double-dealing. Pakistani civilian and military leaders will undoubtedly face very strong internal opposition to the use of Pakistani territory for any US military operations in Afghanistan.
|General David Petraeus Speaking at RUSI in 2016|