Government sources have begun informally confirming CIA Cheif’s covert visit to Islamabad, claiming that he was told flatly that Pakistan would not host the CIA’s drone sites.
Government sources informal confirmation comes after the New York Times reported on June 6 that Mr Burns had been to Pakistan to meet with Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI Director General Lt Gen Faiz Hamid to discuss counterterrorism collaboration between the two countries.
After the troop departure from Afghanistan is completed, the Central Intelligence Agency is thought to be exploring for locations around the country from which it may gather intelligence and carry out counterterrorism strikes.
Meanwhile, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, in response to a question about the US seeking a drone base in Pakistan, said: “We have had constructive discussions in the military, intelligence and diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America’s capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which Al Qaeda rises or any other terrorist group can attack the United States.”
Although neither side has revealed the actual date of the CIA director’s hours-long journey, it is thought to have occurred in late April.
The goal of Pakistani authorities privately providing material with select media at this stage seemed to be to dispel the impression that the two parties were in talks about Pakistan hosting US drone bases.
According to a New York Times piece, American officials believe Pakistan wants to provide the US access to a base. However, it appeared that Pakistani officials were imposing extremely strict requirements.
“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,” as per the article.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, NSA Moeed Yusuf and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan, Gen Bajwa and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, COAS/DG ISI and CIA chief, and the army chief and the US charge d’affaires have all held discussions on this issue in recent weeks.
Officials said the CIA director intended to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan, but that only a counterpart meeting between the two countries’ leaders was conceivable.
The government’s insistence for a counterpart meeting originates from its dissatisfaction with the lack of high-level interaction since US President Joe Biden took office in January.
The CIA head was also told clearly that no US action would be allowed from Pakistani soil, according to the officials. They seem to have requested that the Americans hand over the drones so that they might carry out strikes against terrorist targets.