The Biden administration is looking for ways to prevent terrorist threats from Afghanistan. It will likely turn to Pakistan. Pakistan remains crucial to U.S intelligence because of its close proximity to Afghanistan and connections with the Taliban leaders.
After two decades of war, American officials accused Pakistani officials of playing a double-game by promising to fight terror and work with Washington while supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups who attacked U.S. forces. Islamabad, however, blamed the failed promises made by Kabul's government following the fall of the Taliban. The Taliban fled to eastern Afghanistan where they launched devastating attacks on Pakistan.
The U.S. would like Pakistani cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts. They could request permission to fly surveillance planes into Afghanistan, or any other intelligence cooperation. Pakistan also wants good relations with Washington and U.S. military assistance, even though its leaders openly praise the rise of the Taliban to power.
"Over the past 20 years, Pakistan has been crucial for many logistics purposes for U.S. military. "Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a lot trust," stated U.S. Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (an Illinois Democrat) who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee. "I believe the question is how we can move past that history and reach a new understanding."
Former diplomats and intelligence officers representing both countries claim that the opportunities for cooperation are severely restricted by the recent events and Pakistan's ongoing competition with India. New Delhi supported the Afghan government in its previous years and routinely accused Pakistan of supporting the Taliban. American officials believe that the new Taliban government is linked to Pakistan's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence.
Husain Haqqani was a former ambassador of Pakistan to the U.S. He said that he understood the temptation for officials from both countries to "take advantage of the situation" to find common ground. Haqqani stated that he expected Pakistan "to give all possible cooperation to Taliban."
"This is the moment Pakistan has been waiting 20 years for," Haqqani, now at Hudson Institute think tank said. They now feel like they have a satellite nation.
Officials from the United States are working to rapidly build what President Joe Biden called an "over-the-horizon" capability to stop terrorist threats and monitor them.
The U.S. cannot fly surveillance drones over long distances without a partner country that borders Afghanistan. This limits the time they can use to monitor targets. In addition to losing most of its intelligence partners and network of informants in the deposed Afghan government, it is crucial that the U.S. find common ground with other countries that have greater resources.
Pakistan could help in this effort by allowing American spy planes to fly "overflight" from the Persian Gulf, or allowing the U.S. surveillance and counterterrorism teams to be stationed along its border with Afghanistan. There are no other options for Afghanistan's neighbours. Iran is an adversary of the United States. All of the Central Asian countries north Afghanistan are subject to varying degrees Russian influence.
So far, there are no agreements. According to a Pakistani government statement, CIA Director William Burns traveled to Islamabad to meet with Gen. Qamar Javed Bjwa, Pakistan's army chief and Lt. General Faiz Hameed who heads the ISI. Burns and Hameed also visited Kabul in recent week to meet with Taliban leaders. The CIA declined comment.
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's Foreign Minister, noted this week that Islamabad had complied with U.S. requests for peace negotiations before the Taliban takeover. It also acknowledged U.S. military requests during the war.
Qureshi stated Wednesday that "we have been criticized for often not doing enough." "But we have not been recognized enough for what we did."
Qureshi did not answer directly if Pakistan would allow surveillance equipment to be based there or if Pakistan would allow drone overflight.
He said that the U.S. doesn't need to be present physically to share intelligence.
Both the ISI and CIA have a long history with Afghanistan. It all started back when they shared the goal of arming mujahedeen (freedom fighters) against Soviet Union occupation in 1980s. Through Pakistan, the CIA sent weapons to Afghanistan.
Osama Bin Laden was one of those fighters. Other leaders would go on to become leaders of Taliban, who won a civil war in 1996. They also took control of large swathes of the country. Bin Laden and other al-Qaida leaders were given refuge by the Taliban, who launched devastating attacks against Americans abroad in 1998. The Taliban then attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.
The United States demanded Pakistan's cooperation immediately after 9/11 to fight al-Qaida, and other terrorist organizations. The National Security Archive at George Washington University has released declassified cables that show how officials from President George W. Bush's government made many demands of Pakistan. These included intercepting arms shipments headed to al-Qaida and providing intelligence to the U.S. and permission to fly military and intelligence aircrafts over Pakistan.
The CIA would launch hundreds of drone strikes from Pakistan against al-Qaida leaders, and other terrorist suspects. According to outside observers, hundreds of civilians were killed in the strikes. This led to protests and anger in Pakistan.
After the U.S.-backed coalition defeated the Taliban in Kabul, Pakistan was still accused of supporting the Taliban. In 2011, U.S. special forces executed a secret raid against a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, which was home to the country’s military academy. Many Americans questioned whether Pakistan harbored bin Laden, and the raid on Abbottabad angered Pakistanis who felt it violated their sovereignty.
Douglas London, who was responsible for the CIA's counterterrorism operations throughout South Asia, stated that CIA officials attempted to confront their Pakistani counterparts for years. He had more evidence of Pakistani intelligence officers aiding the Taliban in moving money and fighters into a growing insurgency in Afghanistan.
He said, "They would just say, 'You just came to my office, tell us where it is.'" "They would usually just give lip service and tell us they couldn't confirm the information."
London, the author of "The Recruiter", said that he believed American intelligence would seek limited partnerships with Pakistan to combat mutual enemies like al-Qaeda and Islamic State-Khorasan. This latter group took responsibility for the fatal suicide attack at Kabul's airport last month, during the last days of U.S. evacuate.
London stated that sometimes "your partner is as dangerous to you as the enemy you are pursuing."