Pakistan opposes prolonged US presence in Afghanistan

Published: July 4, 2012

Drivers chat atop a fuel tanker truck, used to transport fuel to Nato forces in Afghanistan, parked along a road in Karachi on Tuesday. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: 

Pakistan has agreed to reopen Nato supply routes, but has turned down United States’ request to extend the facility beyond the 2014 deadline earlier set for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan.

Senior diplomats and defence officials told The Express Tribune that Americans would like to continue using the land routes and want to establish permanent bases in Afghanistan. The US would then remain the only external force in the region after Nato and Isaf’s exit.

They claim that Washington intends to establish at least three permanent bases, one each in Bagram (close to the capital city of Kabul), Kandahar and Herat, to stay in the country till 2024. This is contrary to its earlier claims of handing over security arrangements to Afghanistan and exiting the war-torn region by 2014.

According to recent reports, the United States’ counter-terrorism campaign includes drone strikes around the Durand Line for the next 10 years.

An official privy to negotiations said though neither side had entered into a definitive agreement on allowing the use of Nato land routes till 2024, it was one of the factors that kept Pakistan from taking the decision for so long.

The officials from diplomatic and defence quarters wished to remain anonymous because they are not authorised to speak on the subject. They maintain that both sides have decided not to push too hard and leave the matter for now.

“The ultimate decision was let’s move forward for now and leave this issue for when the time comes,” said one of them.

“Pakistan is going to be their (US) best bet when they are alone in Afghanistan,” said a Peshawar-based security analyst Rustam Shah Mohmand, who says US’s dependence will increase after the exit of other international forces.

Mohmand, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan in the past, said no other regional power such as China, Russia or Iran would ever allow Americans to transport supplies through their territory the way Islamabad has. His logic is simple: “no one likes to invite trouble in their backyard.”

Officials said Pakistan opposes the US plan to establish a military base in Kandahar, a southern Afghanistan province close to the Durand Line, said to be the heartland of the Taliban led by Mullah Omar.

China, Iran and Russia are also not happy with this idea. Iran, particularly, is wary of a US base in Herat, which has a majority of non-Pakhtun Shia communities with strong ideological ties with Tehran.

The officials say Pakistan is now set to face stiff resistance from regional powers. “That is why,” one of them said, “officials have been repeatedly arguing that the matter does not just concern the Americans, but a cluster of 49 countries.”

Published in The Express Tribune, July 4th, 2012.

Reader Comments (18)

  • Jul 4, 2012 - 10:31AM

    Vienna,July 4,2012
    They have consulted with me,the 49 plus countries to remain together
    as a single unit as long as there remains a terror safe haven in FATA,
    Pakistan´s Federally Administered Tribal Territories. Americans are
    not expected to give up their leadership.It is for Pakistan to reclaim
    sovereignty on FATA from the terrorist guests considering its own
    interests.When NATO withdraws from Afghanistan 2014 Pakistan
    should be free of foreign terrorists Afghan origin included.
    Taravadu Taranga Trust for Media Monitoring TTTMM India
    –Kulamarva Balakrishna

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  • Mirza
    Jul 4, 2012 - 10:33AM

    Finally Pakistan made the right decision and went back to pre-Salala situation. Let us not overdo it and try to show our victory. We have already ridiculed us in the community of the world with Kerry-Lugar Bill, then Salala. The whole world knows about the US timetable and there is no reason to sound militant about it.

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  • Suraj
    Jul 4, 2012 - 11:44AM

    Who knows what happens after 2014.. This statement is directed to pacify the people against the resumption of NATO supplies..

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  • Baby ka Husband
    Jul 4, 2012 - 11:58AM

    Pakistanis can’t do a damn about American presence in Afghanistan and in Pakistan. Just look at the way the routes issue is resolved??? Does an apology really matter in the greater scheme of things??? It does not. Yet, America’s $1.1B CSF payment means more to Pakistan. What happens after 2014 is left to chance. Noori-el-Maliki PM of Iraq, even with more than 60,000 US troops in Iraq did not budge an inch when it came to US presence or bases in Iraq. They all had to leave. Note how Pakistanis cave in and then they have expectations that Russia and China will come to their aid. No one aids cowards and charlatans, says Baby.

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  • Omar Rawi
    Jul 4, 2012 - 12:11PM

    One correction, Herat has a majority 70% Pashtun population, though many of them are Persian speaking Pashtuns. Secondly, US never claimed handing over completely in 2014 and the continuation of US bases beyond 2014 is actually one important article of the recently signed US-Afghan strategic document, which is a public document now. Also, the bases would be more than three, and i would appreciate if your reporters do a desk-study before writing imaginary reports.

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  • chandran
    Jul 4, 2012 - 12:47PM

    Officials said Pakistan opposes the US plan to establish a military base in Kandahar, a southern Afghanistan province close to the Durand Line

    How can pakisthan object to it after all afghan people object to it.

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  • Hedgefunder
    Jul 4, 2012 - 1:41PM

    Just who is Pakistan to oppose anything in the region? They need to take control of areas in their own Cities and NW, FATA etc, before moving further !!

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  • Yusuf
    Jul 4, 2012 - 1:44PM

    Smiles, Smiles in Islamabad. America in Afganistan, Forever.

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  • Lexmarked
    Jul 4, 2012 - 2:48PM

    @Baby ka Husband:
    For once a sane assessment.

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  • Polpot
    Jul 4, 2012 - 2:57PM

    @Hedgefunder: and among the cities Karachi too !
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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  • Polpot
    Jul 4, 2012 - 2:58PM

    America trusts Pakistan….
    ++++++++++++++++++++
    thats why its going to be in Afghanistan for ever!

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  • Afghanistan
    Jul 4, 2012 - 3:00PM

    If pakistan can not prevent drones attack in their own teritory, how can they would be able to prevent USA from creating bases in Afghanistan. Pakistan closed Nato supply but after US different pressure tactics, pakistan re-opened the route without any gain again. I think pakistan should be realistic and should not cross its ability limits.The only thing pakistan can do is training extremist and sending them to its neighbours.

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  • bangash
    Jul 4, 2012 - 8:12PM

    US will make its own arrangements after 2014.

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  • Jul 4, 2012 - 9:35PM

    Fact is fact and remained fact can not be disregarded
    in any circumstances.

    Pakistan in the case, was on right side so succeeded at last
    American would have to accept its stance which was morally and legally justified.

    After saying sorry,it is a legal obligation of the united states to pay compensation
    to heirs of all those killed in unfortunate Salala out post incident and bring all those
    to justice responsible for the death of 24 Pakistan military.

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  • K B Kale
    Jul 4, 2012 - 10:03PM

    @Sultan Ahmed:
    Pl read word-by-word statement of Mrs Clinton. You will read that she refers to ‘mistakes on both sides’ & expresses ‘regrets’ for the lives lost on both sides. I didn’t see any genuine apology there! But if Pakistan is happy with it, so be it!

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  • Mirza
    Jul 4, 2012 - 10:09PM

    All the artificial outrage after Salala incident seems evaporated all of a sudden. A traditional sorry is enough to forget all the talks about the blood of our soldiers! Am I missing something here?

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  • Cautious
    Jul 4, 2012 - 10:11PM

    Peshawar-based security analyst Rustam
    Shah Mohmand, who says US’s dependence
    will increase after the exit of other
    international forces

    I doubt you will find any security consultants outside of Pakistan who believe that Pakistan will have more leverage after 2014. It’s more likely that a small/lethal footprint will be easy to maintain without any cooperation from Pakistan.

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Jul 5, 2012 - 4:18PM

    If Afghanistan lets the U.S. stay beyond 2014, the two should sought out the challenges they face. It’s up to Pakistan, whether it wants to let the U.S. use its territory for its logistics. Indeed the best way to deal with the new situation – which is volatile and unpredictable – is to take it as it comes and play by ear.

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