ISLAMABAD: United States envoy Angela Aggeler on Friday met Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa to continue bilateral discussions on post-withdrawal Afghanistan and the peace process.
“During the meeting, matters of mutual interest, overall regional security situation, including recent developments in Afghan peace process, and bilateral cooperation in various fields were discussed,” Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement.
The meeting between the US chargé d’affaires and the army chief was part of the ongoing engagement between the two countries on Afghanistan.
Several high-level contacts have taken place between the two sides in the past fortnight starting with a telephone conversation between US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi.
Later, national security advisers of the two countries met in Geneva and the US defence secretary spoke with the army chief over the phone. Moreover, several unannounced contacts have also reportedly taken place.
“The US dignitary appreciated Pakistan’s sincere efforts for bringing peace and stability in the region, especially the Afghan peace process,” the ISPR said.
It has been speculated that the US has been asking for bases in Pakistan after the withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan.
The speculation had followed President Joe Biden’s statement that the US would “reorganise … counterterrorism capabilities and the substantial assets in the region to prevent reemergence of terrorists — of the threat to our homeland from over the horizon. We’ll hold the Taliban accountable for its commitment not to allow any terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil”.
The US, moreover, has logistical requirements for withdrawal. For the Americans, Pakistan is a preferred choice for future counterterrorism basing.
Foreign Minister Qureshi had earlier this week told the Senate that Pakistan would not allow American bases in the country. “Let this house and the Pakistani nation be a witness to my testimony that under Imran Khan there will be no American base built on Pakistani soil. Forget about the past,” he had asserted.
“The government of Pakistan has categorically said that we will not allow kinetic use of drones nor are we interested in the surveillance of your drones. That’s a very clear-cut policy of this government,” Mr Qureshi further said.
American bases are a sensitive issue in Pakistan.
Afghan Taliban have, meanwhile, warned the “neighbours” against hosting the US forces after their departure from Afghanistan, saying that any such action would be seen as “provocative”.
Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2021