President Joe Biden’s administration has told lawmakers that the United States is finalizing an agreement with Pakistan for the use of its airspace to conduct military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan.
According to international media reports, three sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress that took place on Friday morning, have said that Pakistan wanted to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India. Negotiations in this regard are ongoing and the terms of the agreement had not been finalized.
The White House is trying to ensure that it can carry out counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and other adversaries in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s airspace is used by the US military to reach Afghanistan as part of intelligence-gathering efforts, but there was no formal agreement in place to ensure continued access to this piece of airspace necessary for the US to reach Afghanistan. The air corridor through Pakistan to Afghanistan may become even more critical if and when the US resumes flights into Kabul to fly out American citizens and others who remain in the country. A source told newsmen that an agreement was discussed when US officials visited Pakistan, but was not yet clear what Pakistan wanted or how much the US would be willing to give in return.
With no formal agreement currently in place, the US runs the risk of Pakistan refusing entry to US military aircraft and drones en route to Afghanistan.
Earlier in June, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that Pakistan had turned down the United States request of military bases for operations in Afghanistan.
“Will you allow the American government to have the CIA here in Pakistan to conduct cross border counter-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban?” a journalist had asked the premier during an interview.
“Absolutely not,” PM Imran Khan had responded.