With the withdrawal of the United States forces from Afghanistan moving well ahead of schedule, the Taliban are urging neighboring countries not to allow any U.S. military presence inside their borders. which could be used to target Taliban and al-Qaeda terrorists inside of Afghanistan in the future.
The withdrawal of U.S. troops is expected to be completed by July, well ahead of the September 11 deadline imposed by the Biden administration. However, the U.S. has stated that it will look to reposition some U.S. troops in the region to continue conducting counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan post-withdrawal.
The Taliban released a statement saying, “We are asking neighboring countries not to provide such an opportunity or allow such a move. If, God forbid, still someone allows this, this will be a historic mistake and ignominy.”
The statement called the presence of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan the “fundamental reason for regional insecurity and war,” adding that the group would “not remain silent against such a heinous and provocative act.”
The Taliban statement conveniently overlooked that the cause of the U.S. presence in the country was that 20 years ago al-Qaeda terrorists planned and trained for the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. from Afghanistan. Following the attacks, the Taliban refused to evict or turn over al-Qaeda terrorists to the U.S.
“[Our] demand [is for] others not to allow their soil and airspace [to be used] against our country, and if such a step is taken, the responsibility of any problem and its outcome will lie on those who commit such a mistake,” the statement added.
Pakistan’s Ambivalent Allegiance
Pakistan shares the largest border, 1,615 miles, with Afghanistan.
Islamabad has been accused of playing both sides of the conflict. It has simultaneously supported the Taliban while allowing the U.S. to use its airspace in the fight against them.
Despite high-level meetings last week between U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin with Pakistani National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf and Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa no new cooperation deal appears imminent.
Further, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi stated earlier this week, “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 built on Pakistani soil. Forget about the past,” he said while addressing Pakistan’s upper parliament house.
“The government of Pakistan has categorically said that we will not allow kinetic use of drones nor are we interested in the surveillance of your drones. That’s a very clear-cut policy of this government,” Qureshi said.
The Pakistanis have kept close ties with the Taliban and have been receiving billions of dollars of economic aid from the Chinese government. Therefore, the prospects of them allowing U.S. bases on their soil remain extremely remote.
Regional Countries Are Unwilling to Support the Fight Against the Taliban
Since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, several countries, including Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan, have allowed the U.S.-coalition to use their airspace and bases to attack the Taliban. However, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan backed out of the campaign and now are unlikely to allow Washington back.
Russia’s presidential envoy to Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said that Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, will not allow the U.S. to establish military bases inside their territories.
Turkmenistan’s policy of neutrality while engaging with several Afghan factions, including the Taliban, pretty much rules it out as well. Iran is, obviously, not an option either.
So, while the U.S. continues to claim that it is engaging with Afghanistan’s neighbors, finding any partners will be unlikely.