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Shah Mahmood rejects reports on use of airspace against Afghanistan

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi says the United States’ sudden withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and the “capitulation” of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other top officials are the main reasons behind the chaotic situation in the war-torn country.

“Pakistan advocated consistently withdrawal [of American forces] but [told them to] do it in an orderly fashion. And that would help stabilize things in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the way Ashraf Ghani and his entire team capitulated and left, that created such uncertainty that elements like such could take advantage of; you saw what happened at the airport where innocent lives were affected, so, that sudden withdrawal contributed to the confusion,” Qureshi said in an exclusive interview with Press TV on Wednesday.

The Pakistani foreign minister pointed to terrorism as one of the main challenges currently facing Afghanistan, saying Islamabad does not want to see Daesh footprint expanding in the region and that a coordinated approach was needed to address the problem.

“One of the challenges is terrorism, international terrorist organizations, and Daesh is one of them, we do not want their footprint to increase in Afghanistan or in the region; so, what we need is a collected unified coordinated approach to deal with such elements and entities,” Qureshi said.

The Taliban militant group retook control of Afghanistan on August 15, two decades after they were ousted from power as a result of a US-led military invasion of the country.

Taliban’s seizure of power came in the wake of the withdrawal of US and foreign forces from Afghanistan. Ghani also fled the country and the power vacuum gave rise to the recurrence of tensions and the Daesh Takfiri terrorist group taking advantage of the chaos.

On September 7, the Taliban announced the formation of a caretaker government in Afghanistan.

Daesh has claimed responsibility for numerous attacks in Afghanistan. The ongoing violence after the Taliban takeover has plunged Afghanistan into a dire situation, with international aid agencies calling for urgent action to support millions of struggling Afghans.

Pakistan FM rejects reports on use of airspace against Afghanistan

The Pakistani foreign minister also said his country has not agreed to allow the US to use its airspace for intelligence and military operations on Afghanistan.

Regarding reports that US is nearing a formal agreement with Pakistan to use its airspace to conduct military intelligence operations in Afghanistan, Qureshi said, “There was a report, we looked at it and we denied it. There is no such understanding. Yes, we’ve been cooperating with each other on region security, on counterterrorism … [and] that’s been going on for years, but there is no such understanding.”

Regarding Iran, the Pakistani foreign minister said Tehran and Islamabad have recently increased their cooperation to stop terrorist attacks near their joint borders.

Qureshi highlighted the importance of Islamabad’s recent agreement on counterterrorism cooperation with Tehran, saying the two sides have adopted a joint strategy to deal with terrorist attacks.

The top Pakistani diplomat also said border violence has significantly declined in recent years as the two neighbors want to see a stable and peaceful region, and are looking to expand their economic cooperation.

Border incidents caused by ‘spoilers’

Referring to security incidents along the common border between Iran and Pakistan, which have sometimes led to attacks on Iranian border forces, the Pakistani prime minister noted that such incidents happen on both sides and attributed them to “spoilers who do not want to see this border between … Pakistan and Iran to be border of friendship and peace.”

“[There are] spoilers in Afghanistan and beyond, who do not want to see stability in the region … and they do not want to see stability in Afghanistan. So they always try to create misunderstandings, but fortunately … in the last three years since our government came into office, our bilateral relations with Iran have improved considerably,” Qureshi said.

Moreover, the top Pakistani diplomat reported on the establishment of a mechanism for coordination with Iran to deal with potential border incidents.

“We have a mechanism in place now, we have structures in place through which we can coordinate, share intelligence and adopt a joint strategy to deal with such incidents. And fortunately, they have gone down considerably,” Qureshi said.

“Pakistan has taken a number of steps that will further ensure better border management and that is fencing the border. Hopefully by the end of this year, 2021, we will have fenced our border with Iran … the whole border, and that will make a huge difference,” he added.

 

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