Washington is trying to preserve a counterterrorism infrastructure within the area following its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Officers from each side, together with U.S. Nationwide Safety Advisor Jake Sullivan, confirmed that Pakistan and the U.S. have held talks on the matter. Whereas Sullivan careworn that discussions have been constructive, Pakistani interlocutors have ostensibly refused to host drone bases for the Central Intelligence Company (CIA).
In response to a flurry of speculations concerning the prospect of Islamabad giving army bases to the US, Pakistan’s Overseas Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi categorically acknowledged Pakistan wouldn’t give any army base to the US. He went on to say Pakistan would take care of its personal pursuits, indicating that granting basing rights to the U.S. will not be thought of advantageous.
Whereas the precipitous withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan will probably compel Washington to repeatedly cajole Islamabad to revisit its stand on the problem, Pakistan will probably not succumb to U.S. inducements and pressures. There are three components that may account for Pakistan’s perseverance and inflexibility on extending basing rights to the US.
First, the consistency with which Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has vociferously opposed his nation’s previous dealings with Washington has left little room for his authorities to acquiesce to U.S. requests. Earlier than coming into energy, Khan was a staunch critic of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan, even launching a marketing campaign towards them. Nevertheless, Khan’s criticisms weren’t merely directed towards the US and its high-handed habits – he additionally lambasted successive Pakistani governments for what he thought of egocentric, interest-based connivance with Washington. Subsequently, in his enunciations earlier than assuming energy, Khan had vowed to battle the conflict on terror with out being perceived as an appendage of the U.S.
It’s noteworthy that, even after taking the reins, Khan has again and again careworn the necessity for having a balanced and mutually helpful relationship with the US. Additionally, Khan has reaffirmed that Pakistan would solely turn into a U.S. companion in peace going ahead. With Khan having taken such maximalist positions in his coverage towards Washington, his authorities giving the U.S. basing rights, which might pave the best way for kinetic motion from and on Pakistani soil, shall be politically very damaging for him. Such a drastic change of tack might not solely flip public opinion towards Khan but additionally increase many a query on his potential and energy to name the photographs within the international coverage and safety domains. This, in flip, would undercut Khan’s “same-page” mantra concerning civil-military relations. Excessive-ranking Pakistani officers, together with Qureshi and Nationwide Safety Advisor Moeed Yusuf, have additionally alluded to Khan’s well-known strategy to the conflict on terror and Pakistan-U.S. relations as one of many principal components that make it quite inconceivable for Pakistan to decide to internet hosting U.S. bases. With all this in thoughts, an about-turn by the premier shall be costlier than ever.
Second, Pakistan aiding the US in its efforts to control the Taliban would probably vitiate the nation’s ties with the highly effective Afghan group. Pakistan can ill-afford to attenuate its relationship with the Taliban as a result of it’s turning into abundantly clear that they’re essentially the most dominant participant within the Afghan political panorama. Capturing district after district for the reason that announcement of U.S. troop withdrawal, the Taliban look well-poised to emerge because the ruling energy in Kabul. In such a milieu, Pakistan showing to assist the US retain fight and surveillance capabilities meant for use towards the Taliban and different teams, wouldn’t go down properly with the Taliban.
Having already warned Afghanistan’s neighbors towards making the historic mistake of permitting the U.S. to function army bases, the Taliban would definitely not welcome Pakistan taking such a step. They might accuse Pakistan of wilting beneath U.S. stress. The ill-will that would emanate from strained Pakistan-Taliban ties might damage Pakistan’s core pursuits, particularly people who relate to the presence of terrorist secure havens in Afghanistan. If Islamabad is seen as a veritable linchpin of Washington’s over-the-horizon counterterrorism scaffold, the Taliban might go on to encourage inimical outfits to focus on Pakistan. With Pakistan establishing an inexorable linkage between the prospect of bolstering regional connectivity and peace in Afghanistan, eliciting the Taliban’s unfriendliness can be tantamount to capturing oneself within the foot. In different phrases, Pakistan will search to keep away from being seen as an actor doing Washington’s bidding.
Third, Pakistan permitting the U.S. to make use of army bases for finishing up fight missions will probably be a reason for concern for 2 of Pakistan’s neighbors: China and Iran. That each nations are adversaries of the US is all of the extra troubling. Washington has termed Beijing the largest menace to U.S. nationwide safety. Coupled with the U.S. aversion to the China-Pakistan Financial Hall (CPEC), this imply that ought to Pakistan permit U.S. forces to function out of its territory, Washington would nearly definitely use that benefit to maintain tabs on CPEC, which is anticipated to increase and acquire momentum. Each Pakistan and China wouldn’t prefer to see the U.S. bodily lurking round CPEC hotspots, together with the vital Gwadar port.
Aside from China, Iran may even be immediately affected if Pakistan had been to let the U.S. ensconce itself in shut proximity to that nation. Ought to Pakistan decide to giving bases to the U.S., not solely will Khan’s bid to reset ties with Iran be discredited but additionally his function as a mediator within the conflicts involving Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the U.S. shall be questioned. Moreover, Pakistan’s delicate balancing act within the Center East shall be disturbed, one thing which might current a plethora of challenges laden with grievous safety implications for Pakistani policymakers to cope with.
Thus, Pakistan letting the US use its bases will solely add to the nation’s tally of exterior safety considerations and inner political tussles. At a time when Pakistan is trying to bounce on the geoeconomics bandwagon, that is precisely what it can’t afford.