- Spokesperson Ned Price diverts to generic statement when asked if Washington has indeed asked Pakistan for military bases
Spokesperson for the United States Department of State, Ned Price, refrained from clarifying if Washington had asked Pakistan to provide any military base, and instead, diverted to a generic statement on the two countries sharing “any number of interests”.
During the weekly press briefing, Price was asked to clarify if the US had requested Pakistan to provide any military base, a topic that has garnered special attention in recent weeks.
"Has the United States asked Pakistan to provide any military base?" asked a journalist during the briefing.
Price, however, refrained from going into details.
“Well, again, the United States and Pakistan share any number of interests,” Price responded. “We have interests in the realm of counterterrorism; we have interests in the region.
“And those regional interests certainly include an Afghanistan that is stable, that is peaceful, that is secure.
“We have worked very closely with Pakistan over the course of many years in pursuit of some of those mutual interests, and I think I would leave it at that.”
The journalist’s question comes in the backdrop of a recent interview of Prime Minister Imran Khan to HBO Axios, in which the cricketer-turned politician categorically ruled out allowing the US to have bases in Pakistan. The catchphrase, ‘absolutely not’ trended on Twitter after the interview.
"Absolutely not," the PM said to HBO Axios' National Political Correspondent Jonathan Swan when asked if Pakistan would allow the US government to have the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the country to conduct cross-border counter-terrorism missions against Al Qaeda, ISIS and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
“There is no way we are going to allow any bases or any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not," the PM said. However, a report by The New York Times claimed that CIA is reportedly looking to find new bases for its counterterrorism and surveillance operations after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan.
While many appreciated Pakistan’s stance, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari claimed that the US has not asked the PM for any base.
"You must have been hearing that the US will not be given bases and the prime minister has taken a stand [...] to tell you the truth, no one has even asked him, no one has made him a phone call, no one has asked him for a base, he is just saying it on his own," the PPP leader said.
Meanwhile, Price said Pakistan has much to gain from “an Afghanistan that is peaceful, stable, and secure”, adding that the country has a critical role in enabling this outcome.
“When it comes to Pakistan, we know that Pakistan has much to gain from an Afghanistan that is peaceful, that is stable, that’s secure,” said Price.
“And Pakistan has the potential to have a critical role in enabling that outcome. We do appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to advance the peace process and stability in South Asia, including by encouraging, as Pakistan has done, the Taliban to engage in substantive negotiations.”