Taliban accuses Pakistan of letting US drones use airspace

Pakistan's foreign ministry called the allegations 'highly regrettable' in a statement late on Sunday

Afghan Taliban's acting defence minister Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob said in Kabul on Sunday that US drones had been entering Afghanistan via Pakistan. Reuters
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The Taliban has accused Pakistan of letting US drones use its airspace to enter Afghanistan.

The Taliban's acting defence minister told a news conference in Kabul on Sunday that US drones had been going into Afghanistan via Pakistan.

“According to our information the drones are entering through Pakistan to Afghanistan, they use Pakistan's airspace, we ask Pakistan, don't use your airspace against us,” Afghanistan's acting minister of defence Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob said on Sunday.

Pakistan's foreign minister has denied the accusations.

Pakistani authorities have previously denied involvement in or advanced knowledge of a drone strike the US said it carried out in Kabul in July that killed Al Qaeda leader Ayman Al Zawahiri.

Pakistan's foreign ministry called the allegations “conjectural” and “highly regrettable” in a statement late on Sunday.

He added that Afghanistan must abide by its commitments “not to allow the use of its territory for terrorism against any country”.

The Pakistani military has denied allowing the country's airspace to be used, most recently over the Zawahiri case.

A representative of the CIA declined to comment when approached by Reuters.

Pakistan's foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told Reuters he had made checks after the air strike and had been told that Pakistani airspace was not used. He said he would check again after Sunday's allegations but expected the position to be the same.

“I really don't believe that this is a time that I wish to get into a debate with anyone or to have accusations … frankly, I'm focused on the flood relief efforts,” Mr Bhutto-Zardari said in an interview. Floods in Pakistan have killed more than 1,000 and left millions of people homeless.

“The Afghan regime has promised not only to its own people, but to the international community, that they will not allow their soil to be used for terrorists,” he said.

The US led an invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that toppled the first Taliban government after the hardline group refused to hand over Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the 9/11 attacks.

The drone attack in July that killed Zawahiri, bin Laden's successor, was the first known strike by the US on a target in Afghanistan since Washington withdrew its forces from the country on August 31 last year.

Mr Yaqoob said the authorities were investigating US President Joe Biden's claim about the killing of Zawahiri.

“We will share the details when it is complete,” he said.

Tensions rising since Taliban takeover

Tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan have risen since the Taliban seized power on August 15 last year, with Islamabad saying militant groups are carrying out regular attacks from the neighbouring country.

The Taliban government deny harbouring Pakistani militants, but are also infuriated by a fence Islamabad is erecting along their 2,700-kilometre border, known as the Durand line, which was drawn up in colonial times.

Ties between the two countries were further strained when Pakistani military air strikes in eastern Afghanistan killed and wounded dozens in April.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 10:03 AM