- Agency struggling to maintain its intelligence-gathering operations, says report
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is under pressure to find new bases for its counterterrorism and surveillance operations in the wake of the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, reported The New York Times on Sunday.
"The CIA is seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering, war-fighting, and counterterrorism operations in the country," says the report, adding that the agency’s analysts are warning of the ever-growing risks.
It further says that American officials have been trying to negotiate a deal with Pakistan.
The report claims that 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."
Citing "several people familiar with the assessments," the report said that recent CIA and military intelligence reports on Afghanistan have been "increasingly pessimistic" and have "highlighted gains by the Taliban and other groups in the south and east, and warned that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within years and return to becoming a safe haven for militants bent on striking the west."
William J. Burns, the CIA director, told US senators in April that “When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish,” adding “That is simply a fact.”
Pakistan’s foreign minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said last month that the government would not allow the US military to operate bases on its soil.
“Forget the past, but I want to tell the Pakistanis that no US base will be allowed by Prime Minister Imran Khan so long as he is in power," Qureshi said.
Some American officials, cited in the report, believe that negotiations between Pakistan and the US have reached an impasse for now while others have said the option remains on the table and a deal is possible.
In May, the Afghan Taliban warned its neighbors against allowing the US military to operate bases on their soil.
"We urge neighboring countries not to allow anyone to do so," the Taliban said.
“If such a step is taken again, it will be a great and historic mistake and disgrace,” the group said, adding that they would “not remain silent in the face of such heinous and provocative acts.”