KABUL: The United States is edging towards a formal agreement with Pakistan to use its airspace to carry out military and intelligence operations in Afghanistan, according to sources familiar with the details of a classified briefing with members of Congress on Friday.
CNN reported that Pakistan is eager to sign an agreement in exchange for assistance with its own counterterrorism efforts and help in managing the relationship with India, one of the sources said. But the negotiations are ongoing, another source said, and the terms of the agreement, which has not been finalized, could still change.
Biden administration has told lawmakers about this deal as the White House is still trying to use a country near Afghanistan to carry out counterterrorism operations against ISIS-K and other adversaries in Afghanistan now that there is no longer a US presence on the ground for the first time in two decades after the NATO withdrawal from the country.
The US military currently uses Pakistan’s airspace to reach Afghanistan as part of ongoing intelligence-gathering efforts, but there is no formal agreement in place to ensure continued access to a critical 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. The third source said that an agreement was discussed when US officials visited Pakistan, but it’s not yet clear what Pakistan wants 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.