According to The New York Times, the US continues to focus on Pakistan for a military site in the region, despite the fact that some American officials believe the talks have reached a stalemate for the time being.
The US intelligence agency CIA did use a base in Pakistan to launch drone strikes against militants but “was kicked out of the facility in 2011, when US relations with Pakistan unraveled,” the report adds.
“Some American officials (told the newspaper) that negotiations with Pakistan had reached an impasse for now. Others have said the option remains on the table and a deal is possible,” the report explains.
According to the New York Times, CIA Director William J. Burns recently paid an unannounced visit to Islamabad to meet with Pakistan’s military chief and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin has also spoken with Pakistan’s military leadership on several occasions about enlisting Pakistan’s assistance in future US operations in Afghanistan.
Mr Burns did not raise the base problem during his trip to Pakistan since the mission was focused on broader counterterrorism cooperation, but “some of Mr Austin’s contacts have been more direct,” according to the report.
The report states that “the administration in Islamabad is unlikely to sign off on any US strikes against the Taliban that are launched from a base in Pakistan,” while analysing Pakistan’s reluctance to lend a facility to the US.
Yet, “some American officials believe Pakistan wants to allow US access to a base if it can control how it is used,” the report adds while pointing out that “public opinion in the country has been strongly against any renewed presence by the United States.”
The report also quotes from Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi’s speech in the parliament last month, saying that “no US base will be allowed by Prime Minister Imran Khan so long he is in power”.
During a boom that began in 2008, the CIA used the Shamsi air base in Balochistan to carry out hundreds of drone strikes, according to the report. The strikes mostly targeted alleged Al Qaeda members in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal areas, but they also crossed the Afghan border.
Pakistan’s leadership “refused to publicly recognize” that it was authorizing CIA operations, according to the paper, and “would want to proceed cautiously” with a new relationship.
The report claims that in discussions with American 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.”