Taliban in a new statement has accused the United States of seeking a military presence in the region, “especially in Pakistan,” as part of its efforts to maintain surveillance in Afghanistan, warning that it will lead to “more bloodshed” in the country if it takes place.
The statement published on Friday says that the Doha agreement has been “repeatedly” violated by the US and that it has led to the continuation of violence in Afghanistan. The US has rejected claims on violation of the Doha agreement.
Taliban says that some media reports have said that the US will keep its presence along the Durand Line for surveillance using Pakistan’s territory and airspace. This will mean that the US will maintain its presence in Bagram and Shindand—bases in Afghanistan—and that if this happens, the Taliban “will continue their jihad” as in the past, the statement says.
The Taliban has asked Pakistan not to facilitate the continuation of “Afghanistan’s occupation;” otherwise, if it happened, it will be “a mistake” and a “big blunder” for Pakistan.
However, Pakistan has ruled out the possibility of allowing the US to operate a military base or conduct drone operations in Afghanistan from its soil.
On May 26, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Pakistan’s Senate that there are no such arrangements with Washington, Islamabad's longtime ally in the so-called war against terrorism.
“Let this House and the Pakistani nation be a witness to my testimony that under Prime Minister Imran Khan, there will be no American base on Pakistani soil,” Qureshi said as quoted by Anadolu Agency.
The Pentagon this week insisted the US commitment to the region is not wavering.
“Just because we are removing our troops and ending our military mission in Afghanistan doesn’t mean that we’re walking away from the region,” Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby told reporters on May 24. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said.
According to an AP report, last week Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, said negotiations with Afghanistan’s neighbors for overflight rights and troop basing are “moving forward” but will take time.
On May 24, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Pakistan's chief of Army staff, Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa. The Pentagon didn’t provide further information about what the two military leaders discussed, other than to say they talked about “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 US – Pakistan bilateral relationship,” the Defense Department said.
Commanders have said they will monitor threats from “over the horizon,” to ensure that terrorists cannot again use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks against the US. But they have acknowledged that the US does not yet have any agreements for basing or overflights from any of the neighboring countries.
“There’s still going to be a robust United States presence in the Middle East, in the Central Command area of responsibility,” Kirby said on May 24. “There’s absolutely going to be no diminution of our commitment to our allies and partners in the region.”
The US and coalition forces started withdrawing from the country on May 1. Some bases have been handed over to Afghan forces. US forces have started scrapping equipment that can neither be repaired nor handed over to Afghan forces in its current state. The scrapping of vehicles and other equipment is taking place at the country’s largest airbase, the Bagram Airfield.
The new statement by the Taliban comes days after their previous statement in which they did not name Pakistan but warned against any attempt to establish foreign bases in the region.
US Central Command announced on Tuesday that they estimate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan to be somewhere between 16% and 25% complete.
Approximately 160 C-17 loads of material and equipment have left Afghanistan, the US Department of Defense (DoD) reported, and more than 10,000 pieces of military equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency.
US-controlled installations in Afghanistan are also being returned to the Afghan Defense Ministry, and so far, five installations have been handed back, said the Defense Department.