close
Advertisement
Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
June 9, 2021

‘Airbases are absolute no-go’

CIA Chief William Burns made an unannounced visit to Islamabad in recent weeks to meet the chief of army staff and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence.

ISLAMABAD: “Airbases are an absolute no-go,” a key official defence source categorically stated while brushing aside speculation about the possible assent of Pakistan to giving any airbase to the US for future operations in Afghanistan.

“There is no such thing,” the source, who is privy to what has been discussed between the US and Pakistan’s defence and security officials in recent weeks and months, told The News here on Tuesday.

The source said that reports of even the consideration of Pakistani airbases being permitted to the US are “absolutely wrong”. The source added: “The CIA never even came up with this suggestion,” insisting that they (the Americans) knew what our answer would be.

Referring to the latest New York Times story on the subject, the source said that even that report said that the CIA chief during his recent trip to Pakistan did not bring up the base issue with the Pakistani defence and security authorities. To a question why the CIA chief’s visit was unannounced, the source said that such top security visits by officials are normally not announced.

The source explained that the US has two main concerns for which Washington needs Pakistan’s help. First, ensuring the safe withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Second, helping stakeholders in Afghanistan sign some sort of agreement so that Washington could tell the world that it is leaving Kabul in a triumphant manner. The US is more concerned about its reputation than anything else.

When asked why Pakistan’s defence and security establishment is not formally responding to the widespread speculation on the airbase issue, the source said that the Foreign Office has already spoken and clearly said that there is no such plan under consideration. “There should be one source of clarification,” he said.

He stressed that such a policy issue can only be decided by the policy-makers (government) and parliament. The New York Times had reported that CIA Chief William Burns made an unannounced visit to Islamabad in recent weeks to meet the chief of army staff and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence. It had added that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III had made frequent calls to the Pakistani military chief about getting the country’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.

The New York Times also reported, “Mr. Burns did not bring up the base issue during his trip to Pakistan, according to people briefed on the meeting; the visit focused on broader counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries. At least some of Mr. Austin’s discussions have been more direct, according to people briefed on them.

“Any deal now would have to work around the uncomfortable reality that Pakistan’s government has long supported the Taliban. 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.

“The Pakistani Foreign Office recently denied the presence of any US military or airbase in Pakistan, stating that any speculation is ‘baseless and irresponsible’ and should be avoided.” In a statement issued last week, the FO spokesman said: “There is no US military or airbase in Pakistan, nor was any such proposal envisaged. Any speculation on this count is baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided.”