In a new high level interview given to Axios' Jonathan Swan, Pakistani Premier Imran Khan issued a blunt message to Washington as it struggles with the deteriorating security situation amid the Afghan draw down, which Biden has vowed to accomplish before Sept.11.
Khan has definitively ruled out allowing the United States to set up CIA bases on Pakistani soil to conduct cross-border operations. "Will you allow the American government to have CIA here in Pakistan to conduct cross-border counterterrorism missions against Al-Qaeda, ISIS or the Taliban?" Swan asked the longtime Pakistani leader in the interview first published days ago.
"Absolutely not. There's no way we're going to allow it," Khan said, before repeating resolutely, "Absolutely not."
Earlier this month, US intelligence and defense officials acknowledged they are in a "last-minute" scramble to find regional bases to operate from - for example to conduct drone operations - after the Pentagon fully exits by the upcoming Fall per the White House's timeline.
Driving these efforts are not only fears that the Taliban could quickly take Kabul in the days and weeks after Western forces exit the country, but according to Axios, it's to prevent increased Russian influence in Central Asia: "The Biden administration also is exploring options in Central Asia to maintain intelligence on terrorist networks inside Afghanistan, but that is complicated for a different reason: Those countries are in Vladimir Putin's sphere of influence," the report states.
Throughout much of the two decade long US war in Afghanistan, Pakistan has served as a crucial base of US counterterror operations; however during Khan's 2018 election as prime minister, he vowed to "never again" allow US intelligence or special forces such a role on Pakistani soil.
Swan writes that, "Close observers say it would be political suicide for Khan to embrace the presence of the CIA or special forces on Pakistani soil."
Assuming that any kind of near future deal with US intelligence is ever actually reached, for the above reasons the public will certainly never know about it.
Historically, especially into the 1980's, Pakistan has been host of major and far-reaching US intelligence campaigns in Central Asia - so despite Khan's public denials of entertaining the possibility of an agreement for covert ops being reach - it always remains a a distinct possibility.