Pakistan rejects reports of new US military base on its soil

Islamabad on Monday rejected reports of the US military setting up a base inside Pakistan as it withdraws troops from Afghanistan.

“There is no US military or air base in Pakistan, nor is any such proposal envisaged. Any speculation on this account is baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said in a press release.

He further said Pakistan and the US have a framework of cooperation in terms of air lines of communication (ALOC) and ground lines of communication (GLOC) in place since 2001. “No new agreement has been made in this regard,” he stated.

This comes after reports emerged this week that Pakistan has allowed the US to use its airspace and ground access.

David F Helvey, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the United States would continue its conversation with Pakistan because it had a critical role in restoring peace to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan. They supported the Afghan peace process. Pakistan also has allowed us to have overflight and access to be able to support our military presence in Afghanistan,” Helvey had told the committee.

“We will continue our conversations with Pakistan because their support and contribution to the future of Afghanistan, to future peace in Afghanistan, is going to be critical,” he had added.

Sources meanwhile, told Ariana News on Monday that US forces have begun construction of a large military base across the Durand Line.

According to the sources, the base is being built at the Shalozan Kurram Agency area in the Tribal Area inside Pakistan – in the Zazai Aryub district which borders Paktia province in Afghanistan.

Members of the Paktia provincial council told Ariana News that the base is under construction 8km from the Durand Line inside Pakistan and “supplies are being delivered via air and ground every day.”

Colonel Sonny Legget, a spokesman for the US Forces in Afghanistan, however, rejected these reports.

Meanwhile, the National Security Advisers of Pakistan and the United States met in Geneva on Monday.

The meeting between Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan is the first in-person high-level contact between the two countries since the Biden administration assumed office in January.

“Both sides had a positive conversation on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest and agreed to advance practical cooperation on these issues,” Pakistan’s Daily Times reported.

In a tweet, NSA Yusuf said he was “pleased to meet US NSA @JakeSullivan46”, adding that the Pakistan and US delegations had held positive discussions on a range of issues.

The NSAs’ meeting comes days after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told US lawmakers that Pakistan was seeking a broad-based, strategic partnership with America, which would also cover Afghanistan.

In virtual meetings with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the foreign minister invited a group of 15 US lawmakers to visit Pakistan in June for consultations with their Pakistani counterparts and officials on how to improve bilateral relations.

On Monday, however, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had a phone conversation with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

According to a US Defense Department statement issued by Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, Austin and Bajwa discussed shared regional interests and objectives.

“During the call, Secretary Austin reiterated his appreciation for Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and expressed his desire to continue to build on the U.S. – Pakistan bilateral relationship,” the statement read.

“Secretary Austin and General Bajwa discussed regional dynamics and our shared interest in security and stability in the region,” read the statement.