Pakistani officials maintain they will not permit the U.S. to maintain any bases in Pakistan
U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan this week confirmed to journalists that Washington has been engaging with Islamabad to prevent the Taliban from ever again securing a foothold that results in terror threats to the U.S. However, he stressed, the specifics will remain private while negotiations are ongoing.
“We’ve had constructive discussions in military, intelligence, diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America’s capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which Al Qaeda, ISIS or any other terrorist group can attack the United States. But in terms of the specifics, what that would look like will have to remain in those private channels as we work through them,” he told a press briefing in response to a question on Washington seeking access to a drone base in Pakistan.
Sullivan said that the U.S. was in discussions with several countries for this purpose and Pakistan was not the only option. “What I will say, we are talking to a wide range of countries about how we build effective over-the-horizon capacity both from intelligence and from defense prospective to be able to suppress terrorism threat in Afghanistan,” he added.
Reports of the U.S. seeking a base in Pakistan from which to maintain a military and intelligence footprint in the region have been circulating for several weeks, despite Pakistani officials maintaining this would not be allowed. Such a base, say U.S. officials, would allow them to maintain aerial surveillance in Afghanistan and potentially use drones to take out terror targets.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi last week told the National Assembly that the U.S. would not be permitted to establish a base in Pakistan so long as the incumbent Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government was in power. However, a few days after his address, The New York Times published a story quoting unnamed officials who claimed the Biden administration was talking to Pakistan on the issue.
Revealing that CIA chief William Burns had paid a “secret” visit to Islamabad to meet Pakistan Army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa and discuss the situation, the report noted that talks appeared to have hit an impasse, as Pakistani officials were not amenable. “In discussions between American and Pakistani officials, the Pakistanis have demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the CIA or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan, according to three Americans familiar with the discussions,” read the article.