The Taliban’s acting minister of defense said on Sunday that Pakistan allowed US drones to use its airspace to access Afghanistan, which Pakistan’s minister of foreign affairs denied.
Pakistani authorities have previously denied involvement in, or advance knowledge of, a drone strike the US said it carried out in Kabul last month that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Afghan Acting Minister of Defense Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob told a news conference in Kabul that American drones had been entering 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,” he said.
Pakistani Minister of Foreign Affairs Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari said he made checks after the air strike and had been told that Pakistani airspace was not used.
“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,” Bhutto-Zardari said, referring to deadly floods in Pakistan that have 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.
Pakistan’s ministry of foreign affairs released a statement saying it noted Yaqoob’s comments with “deep concern.”
“In the absence of any evidence, as acknowledged by the Afghan minister himself, such conjectural allegations are highly regrettable and defy the norms of responsible diplomatic conduct,” the statement said.
Yaqoob’s comments could exacerbate tension between Afghanistan and its neighbor at a time when the Afghan Taliban is mediating talks between Pakistan and a Pakistani Taliban militant group.
Afghanistan, which is experiencing an economic crisis, relies heavily on trade with Pakistan.
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