The United States is nearing a formalized agreement with Pakistan for use of its airspace to conduct over-the-horizon military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, CCN reported quoting three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Friday morning.
Pakistan has shown a desire to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the United States in exchange for the US assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts, one of the sources told CNN.
According to another source, the negotiations are still ongoing. The third source said that an agreement was discussed when US officials visited Pakistan, but it's not yet clear what Pakistan wants or how much the US would be willing to give in return.
According to the sources, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan are also the top possible options to establish a military base and conduct operations in Afghanistan; however, the sources said that President Putin might object to US military presence in those countries.
The news followed remarks by Zabihullah Mujahid, deputy minister for information and culture, who in late September accused the US of violating Afghanistan airspace by its drones.
“It has recently acted in violation of all international law and the United States' commitments to the Islamic Emirate in Doha, Qatar, and Afghanistan's sacred airspace is being occupied by US drones. These violations must be corrected and prevented,” Mujahid said.
Mujahid said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan calls on all countries, especially the United States, to act in light of mutual commitments and in accordance with the international laws and avoid violating Afghanistan airspace.
Mujahid's statement followed remarks by US officials who said the United States does not need to cooperate with the Islamic Emirate on over-the-horizon counterterrorism efforts.
“We retain all necessary authorities to execute over-the-horizon counterterrorism operations and we remain confident in these capabilities moving forward without speaking to specific rules of engagement surrounding airstrikes. There is currently no requirement to clear airspace with the Taliban and we do not expect that any future over-the-horizon counterterrorism strikes would hinge on such a clearance,” US Department of Defense spokesman John Kirby had said.