Pak allows overflight to US military to support presence in Afghan: Pentagon official


Washington: Pakistan has allowed the US military to have overflight and access to be able to support its presence in Afghanistan, a top Pentagon official has told lawmakers.

Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs David F Helvey also told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on Friday that the US will continue its conversation with Pakistan due to the important role it has played to support the peace process in the neighbouring war-torn country.

Helvey said that Pakistan has allowed the US to have overflight and access to be able to support its military presence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan and they have supported the Afghan peace process, he said, responding to Senator Joe Manchin during a hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee on Afghanistan.

We will continue our conversations with Pakistan because their support and their contribution to the future of Afghanistan, the future of peace in Afghanistan is going to be critical, the Pentagon official said.

Could you outline your assessment of Pakistan and specifically the Pakistan Intelligence Service the ISI, and the role you expect them to play in our future? Manchin had asked.

Last month, US President Joe Biden announced to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11 this year.

Senator Jack Reed, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that the president’s decision should be seen as a transition, not closure.

It should not mean an end to our counterterrorism effort. We must ensure that Afghanistan will not be a source of planning, plotting or projecting of terrorist attacks around the globe, including particularly against our homeland. Despite great progress over the last 20 years, the threats from al-Qaeda, ISIS and other terrorist groups still remain, he said.

Ranking Member Senator James M Inhofe of the Republican Party said that he and his party are opposed to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan at this point of time.

The fact that the president chose this date, the 20th anniversary of the most horrific terrorist attacks in our nation’s history, indicates this was a calendar-based political decision. It was not based on conditions on the ground, which is the strong bipartisan recommendation Congress has given to both Republican and Democrat presidents over the last decade, he said.

Inhofe said the precipitous drawdown from Afghanistan carries many risks.

First, there is a risk of severe chaos and violence, and instability in Afghanistan as the Taliban uses American withdrawal to escalate its attacks around the country and in Kabul.

As we saw after President Obama’s withdrawal from Iraq in 2011, terrorists will exploit this instability. Two and a half years after the US troops left Iraq, ISIS captured Mosul.

Secondly, the complete withdrawal of US troops will make it much harder and more expensive to effectively support our Afghan security partners. Over-the-horizon counterterrorism does not work, he said, adding that the US drawdown puts at risk thousands of Afghans.

The US and the Taliban signed a landmark deal in Doha on February 29, 2020 to bring lasting peace in war-torn Afghanistan and allow US troops to return home from America’s longest war.

Under the US-Taliban pact signed in Doha, the US agreed to withdraw all its soldiers from Afghanistan in 14 months.

There are currently 2,500 American troops left in Afghanistan, the lowest level of American forces in the war-torn country since 2001.

Since the US-led invasion that ousted the Taliban after the September 11, 2001 attacks, America has spent more than USD 1 trillion in fighting and rebuilding in Afghanistan.

About 2,400 US soldiers have been killed, along with tens of thousands of Afghan troops, Taliban insurgents and Afghan civilians. (PTI)