National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf clarified on Wednesday that Pakistan did not provide the US the chance to ask for airbases after withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
The NSA stated that it made sense for the US to be looking for airbases after withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan had to clarify its stance because of a recent article in the New York Times that talked about this issue. The article, which came out in June, talked about the US’s strategy after withdrawal. It mentions discussions between Pakistan and the US regarding the issue of bases. Yusuf said that this story is not a coincidence and has been used to create an atmosphere that Pakistan now has to clarify.
He stated after this clarification, no one from the US would come and ask to use Pakistani bases. Yusuf said that the world should not look at Pakistan as a “free for all”.
Earlier in June, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi made similar statements, declaring that Pakistan would not give US bases. Qureshi told Geo News “There's no question of giving them [US] bases, we have to see our interest.”
Prime Minister Imran Khan also expressed in June that Pakistan would not give US bases in an interview with Axios. In fact, when asked if Pakistan would allow the US government to “conduct cross border counter-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda, ISIS, and the Taliban”, the PM replied with “Absolutely not”, a statement that went viral in Pakistan. The hashtag #AbsolutelyNot trended on Pakistani Twitter with many praising the PM for his direct and clear response.
Just on Monday, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed stressed the same point, stating that Pakistan stands by its decision to not provide the US with airbases.
In response to all the talk about US bases in Pakistan, a senior Western diplomat cleared the US stance on the issue. The official said that the US has “at no stage or any level even asked” Pakistan for access to military bases. He continued, “Nobody in the entire US administration asked for bases, and yet there is so much focus on the issue in Pakistan.” The official added that, ““The recurring debate and the hashtag ‘Absolutely Not’ campaign in Pakistan has left everyone scratching their heads in Washington”.
Earlier in July, Pakistan Peoples Party chairperson Bilawal Bhutto made similar claims stating that no one from the US had asked have access to bases in Pakistan.