Saturday, 19 June 2021

US, Pakistan hold ‘constructive discussions’ amid base speculations

Mark Makela/Getty Images/AFP

NEW YORK – The US has had “constructive discussions” with Pakistan through military, intelligence and diplomatic channels for the future of its capabilities to stop Afghanistan from becoming the base of any terrorist group, said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.

“I am not going to get into the details of our negotiations with Pakistan,” said NSA Sullivan while responding to a question whether the US would like to have a drone base in Pakistan.

“I will only say this: 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 or ISIS or any other terrorist group can attack the United States.”

He declined to give specific details about what is being discussed with Pakistan.

The US NSA said that the officials were in talks with “wide range of countries” about building an “effective, over-the-horizon capacity, both from intelligence and from a defense perspective” to counter the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.

Top Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, President Arif Alvi and the ministers, have made it clear that the country won’t be offering a military base to the US for action in Afghanistan.

“I am not aware and I don’t think Pakistan will be in a position to offer that,” President Alvi had said in an interview with VoA in April. Pakistan provided bases to the US to operate drones at one time, but President Alvi had said he was not aware if Washington had made any such request again.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi told Senators last week that Prime Minister Imran Khan won’t allow a US base in Pakistan as long as he is in power.

Amid denials by the Pakistani government, the New York Times reported Sunday that CIA Chief William J Burns recently made an unannounced visit to Islamabad and held meetings with Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and ISI DG Faiz Hameed.

The report said US Defence Secretary Lloyd J Austin has had frequent calls with the Pakistani military chief about getting the country’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.

Quoting the American officials, the Times reported that “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 the report, the CIA used Balochistan’s Shamsi base to carry out hundreds of drone strikes that began in 2008.

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