Washington is looking to maintain a counterterrorism infrastructure in the region following its withdrawal from Afghanistan. Officials from both sides, including U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, confirmed that Pakistan and the U.S. have held talks on the matter. While Sullivan stressed that discussions have been constructive, Pakistani interlocutors have ostensibly refused to host drone bases for the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
US Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin also has had frequent telephone contacts with the Pakistani military chief about getting Islamabad’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan, the paper said.
The CIA used the Shamsi air base in Balochistan to carry out many drone strikes during a surge that began in 2008, the report said. Pakistan’s government refused to publicly acknowledge that it was allowing the CIA operations and will want to proceed cautiously with a new relationship.
The Times, however, acknowledges that “public opinion in the country has been strongly against any renewed presence by the United States.”
In May, a Pentagon official said Pakistan had allowed the US military to use its airspace and that it had given ground access so that the military could back up its presence in Afghanistan.
“Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan. They supported the Afghan peace process. Pakistan also has allowed us to have overflight and access to be able to support our military presence in Afghanistan,” David F Helvey, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Affairs, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee.
Zahid Hafeez Chaudri, the spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Office, said in an official statement on May 24 that any speculation in regard to the US military bases in Pakistan was “baseless and irresponsible.”
All US-led foreign troops were supposed to have been withdrawn from Afghanistan by May 1, as part of an agreement that the US had reached with the Taliban in Qatar in 2020. US President Joe Biden pushed that date back to September 11.