Islamabad: Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf has said that no US official or lawmaker asked for a military base in Pakistan, rejecting reports that the Biden administration was seeking American military bases in the country to influence developments in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Yusuf made the comments as he wrapped up his 10-day trip to the US. He met senior officials during his visit before leaving for Islamabad, the Dawn newspaper reported on Saturday.
“The word base was not mentioned, not even once, during our talks, except in the media,” Yusuf told US-based Pakistani journalists while summing up the visit.
“Bases were not discussed at all from either side during this trip because we have already made our position clear. That chapter is closed,” he said.
Prime Minister Imran Khan in June ruled out hosting American bases in Pakistan for military action inside war-torn Afghanistan, fearing it might lead to his country being “targeted in revenge attacks” by terrorists.
Earlier reports in both US and Pakistani media claimed that the Biden administration was seeking military bases in Pakistan to influence developments in Afghanistan, particularly if the Taliban seized Kabul.
At recent congressional hearings, US officials did talk about using Pakistani airspace for reaching Afghanistan and having bases in the region but did not say where.
Underlining Pakistan’s desire to maintain good ties with the US and China, Yusuf said, “if there are tensions between the United States and China, we cannot say that our relations with both will remain seamless.”
Recent reports in the US media have suggested that Afghanistan and China are the two main obstacles in rebuilding a close relationship between Pakistan and the US.
According to the reports, Washington wants Islamabad to use its influence to prevent a Taliban takeover in Kabul.
US policy makers also want Pakistan to join a US-led alliance to contain China’s growing influence in the region.
Commenting on this, Yusuf said that Pakistan did not see this as a “zero-sum game, either with the US or with China.”
Pakistan has, and wants to retain, good relations with both, he added.
“In fact, our location provides us the opportunity to play a key role in promoting good relations between the United States and China, as we did in 1970,” he said.
The NSA said that Pakistan wants America to stay engaged in Afghanistan and to continue playing a leading role, as it did in the past.
“In fact, we think a total US withdrawal will have a negative impact on the entire region,” he said.
“Pakistan shares US aspiration for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said.
Insisting that both countries had the same goal, “reaching a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani official said, “the difference is over the methodology alone and that’s why we have decided to stay engaged.”
Afghanistan has seen an uptick in violence by the Taliban after US President Joe Biden’s announcement of the withdrawal of American and NATO troops by August 31.
Dawn reported that Yusuf, however, acknowledged that there were differences between Pakistan and the current government in Kabul, mainly because “they keep giving offensive statements about Pakistan.”
While Kabul claims that Islamabad is sending thousands of militants to fight in the war-ravaged country and providing safe haven for the Taliban, Pakistan alleges that Afghanistan harbours the anti-Pakistani group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan—the Pakistani Taliban—and also the secessionist Balochistan Liberation Army.