President Joe Biden has maintained a strict stance on US presence in Afghanistan. His announcement in April on the complete withdrawal of American troops from Afghan territory seems to be in effect. Consequently, the Pentagon is reaching out to its allies in the region for greater support. They plan to leave the country, but maintain a keen eye on the security situation. In line with the American strategy of surveillance and using local partners as allies in times of direct military action, Washington has contacted Islamabad to deliberate on the possibility of hosting US bases in the country. To the average citizen, this may seem surprising or almost unexpected but for more nuanced spectators of foreign policy, these happenings are pretty self explanatory. Almost as if history is repeating itself, albeit with a different course. Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has blatantly struck down the possibility that the Pentagon will be allowed to make such a move, citing that US bases in Pakistani territory is not an “advantageous endeavour” for the country. While the Biden-led policy of building an anti-terrorism infrastructure around Afghanistan is lucrative for American goodwill, it is more detrimental for Pakistan. Islamabad cannot afford to sevrage ties with the Taliban group who seem to be gaining traction in the bid to control Kabul. Neither can the country afford to upset it’s neighbours in the north, the Chinese and in the west, the Persians, who are fighting American hegemony in their own capacities. Pakistan’s policy for the middle east may also be disrupted, diverging from its current stance of neutrality and mediation. US bases in the country may also threaten the security of the land as American eyes can infiltrate more classified areas of Pakistan’s domestic policy such as CPEC and the nuclear infrastructure. Not being part of the US lobby opens up doors of numerous possibilities but begs the question of why America would ask for Pakistan hosting its bases in the first place? The answer is the country’s worst kept secret, the fact that we have a history of using military bases as leverage for political and economic diplomacy. Taking a look at history, Pakistan heavily depended on US aid in the 1950s with General Ayub Khan adamant on extracting military infrastructure from the Western superpower. These were cold times of the American war against Sovient expansion with both nations in constant pursuit of regional allies and geographical domination. Talks were held behind closed doors with the Central Intelligence Agency and the upper echelons of Pakistan’s bureaucracy, concealed from public eye. Deals discussed were bases in exchange for military aid. With word escaping these secret meetings, the opposition leaders and critics questioned Pakistan’s approach to joining the US camp in a war that they had no role in. The then Governor General, Ghulam Muhammad publicly denied all such claims which would prove to be the start of a long history of lying to the public. Eventually, Pakistan would sign a Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement in 1954 which put US intentions of military assistance on paper. We were also going to join the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) in the same year, in a bid for more aid. Taking this course fulfilled the desires of three specific individuals who were to rule the country in years to come: Iskander Mirza, Ayub Khan and Yahya Khan. It also soured ties with the Soviets and the Indians, a choice that would shape the next few decades of Pakistan’s foreign policy. After abrogating the constitution, Iskander Mirza had established martial law in 1958 and now the country’s foreign policy was to be explicitly controlled by military elements for the next decade. The first site given to the Americans was Badaber, a facility situated 7 km south of Peshawar. Now President, Ayub Khan was the one to give permission and lend the area on a 10-year lease. The Pentagon needed a radio station to listen in and monitor Soviet transmissions. Badaber or as it was to be known in the western world, USA-60, was the perfect place for its discreet locality. The American’s also used this facility for communication with spy planes which often took flight from the air base in Peshawar. Khrushchev, the Soviet premiere at the time, did not take well to this unholy matrimony between Pakistan and the US. What lies ahead is deceit, delusion and disparity. One usually follows the other when it comes to Pakistan-American relations. Transcending the long wait of years, another base comes to mind when thinking of the unstable relationship between the two countries. This is Shamsi Air Base, a facility in western Balochistan. This was handed over to the United States at the advent of the “war on terror”, following 9/11. It was a launching pad for US retaliation in Afghanistan and was later utilized as a site for the US drone program. A subtle point to be noted here is that this handover was also done in secret, without public or parliamentary approval. The dark past of the Shamsi airbase is that a lot of drone attacks launched from the site had Pakistani citizens as collateral damage. In 2011, an accidental NATO drone strike at a border outpost saw about 28 Pakistani soldiers lose their lives. This attracted public resentment of the highest order as Pakistan was forced to vacate the facility from US presence. Certain facts are still blurred between the lines and the reality of whether US troops actually left will forever remain questionable. One thing is for sure, drones (although titled as “surveillance drones”) continued flying and bases in exchange for aid continued to dictate Pakistan-American relations. Now, times have changed and so have priorities. With the government’s strong stance against hosting US bases and for obvious reasons, it is safe to assume that Pakistan has outgrown its past with the Pentagon. The “harbinger of sovereignties” no longer gets to dictate our foreign policy but it’s not all a picturesque setting. Another superpower is now pulling the strings. From masters of the West, we have moved to masters of the East. As old secrets die, new secrets form. From Badaber to Shamsi, we have learned much and given history’s course, we shall learn again.