‘Highly regrettable’: FO rejects Afghan Taliban’s claim that Pakistani airspace was used for Zawahiri hit

Published August 29, 2022
The army chief of staff Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat (L), acting defence minister of Afghanistan Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid (C) and Taliban defence ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khawarizmi speak during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 28. — AFP
The army chief of staff Qari Fasihuddin Fitrat (L), acting defence minister of Afghanistan Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid (C) and Taliban defence ministry spokesman Enayatullah Khawarizmi speak during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 28. — AFP

The Foreign Office (FO) on Sunday rejected the Afghan Taliban’s claims about Pakistani airspace being used for the US strike that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The FO’s response came after, earlier in the day, Afghan Defence Minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid accused Pakistan of providing airspace for US drones to enter his country, saying the incursions were a continuation of Washington’s “invasion”.

Mujahid’s comments came less than a month after US President Joe Biden announced al-Zawahiri’s killing in a drone strike in Kabul.

US drones continued to be seen flying over Kabul even now, Mujahid said.

“Our information shows that they (US drones) are entering into Afghanistan from Pakistan, using the airspace of Pakistan,” Mujahid told reporters when asked where the drones were coming from.

“We demand that Pakistan should not allow its airspace to be used against us.”

Deploying these drones into Afghanistan is “still a clear invasion of Afghanistan and its airspace by the Americans”, Mujahid said.

“They are doing this shamelessly. We condemn this illegal act and demand that the Americans put an end to it.”

The drone attack in July that killed Zawahiri, Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden’s successor, was the first known strike by the US on a target in Afghanistan since Washington withdrew its forces from the country on August 31 last year.

Mujahid said the authorities were investigating Biden’s claims of killing Zawahiri. “We will share the details when it is complete,” he said.

Responding to the Taliban claims, FO Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar Ahmad issued a press release, saying that Pakistan had noted Mujahid’s allegation’s with “deep concern”.

“In the absence of any evidence, as acknowledged by the afghan minister himself, such conjectural allegations are highly regrettable and defy the norms of responsible diplomatic conduct.

“Pakistan reaffirms its belief in the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all states and condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,” the press release reads.

The FO urged Afghan authorities to “ensure the fulfilment” of international commitments made by Afghanistan to not allow the use of its territory for terrorism against any country.

Border tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban seized power last year, with Islamabad claiming militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from the neighbouring country.

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