Taliban warn Afghan neighbours against allowing US bases

Published May 27, 2021
Taliban and Washington entered into a landmark deal last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. — AFP/File
Taliban and Washington entered into a landmark deal last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. — AFP/File

KABUL/ISLAMABAD: The Taliban warned Afghanistan’s neighbours on Wednesday against allowing the United States to operate military bases on their soil, the insurgents insisting they would thwart such a “historic mistake”.

“We urge neighbouring countries not to allow anyone to do so,” the Taliban said in a statement.

“If such a step is taken again, it will be a great and historic mistake and disgrace.” They would “not remain silent in the face of such heinous and provocative acts”, the statement added.

The statements come amid speculation the United States, as it withdraws the last of its 2,500-3,500 soldiers from Afghanistan, will want a nearby locale from which to launch strikes against militant targets.

Several of Afghanistan’s neighbours allowed the US military limited use of air bases in the early 2000s after the overthrow of the Taliban.

Such overt physical support has largely ended, however, although some countries do allow their airspace to be used for military flights.

The Taliban and Washington entered into a landmark deal last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan.

In return, the Taliban said it would not allow Afghanistan to be a base for jihadist groups such as Al Qaeda and the militant Islamic State group.

US President Joe Biden announced last month that all remaining 2,500 American troops would leave Afghanistan by Sept 11, the 20th anniversary of Al Qaeda attacks in the United States that led to the invasion of the country.

But the withdrawal has raised concerns over whether Afghan government forces alone can fight the Taliban.

Violence has soared in recent weeks as government forces and the Taliban clash in near-daily battles, with the insurgents pressing on with their campaign to capture more territory as peace talks to end the war remain deadlocked.

In a statement earlier this week, the US Central Command said it had completed about 25 percent of its withdrawal.

The logistics of withdrawing are tremendous and according to the Centcom statement departing troops have already packed military equipment on to 160 C-17 cargo aircraft and shipped them back to America.

Published in Dawn, May 27th, 2021

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