Sources told The Associated Press that CIA Director William Burns made a recent unannounced visit to Afghanistan as the US is preparing to withdraw combat troops from the country.
The report did not say who Burns met with but did say that the CIA chief reassured the Afghan government that the US will remain “engaged in counterterrorism efforts.” A former Afghan security official said two out of six units that the CIA trains in the country have been transferred to Afghan government control.
Groups the CIA backs in the country have a history of slaughtering civilians. Last December, the Intercept reported on a series of massacres that an elite CIA-trained unit was responsible for in Afghanistan. The report documented 10 incidents that took place in 2019 where a total of 51 civilians were killed.
The Associated Press report said a CIA-trained unit was accused of gunning down a group of civilians earlier this year in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province in a “counterterrorism” mission.
After President Biden announced his plan to withdraw troops by September 11th, Burns voiced his concern. “When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish,” Burns said at a Senate hearing last week.
Since CIA operations are so secretive, the agency will undoubtedly continue to have a presence in Afghanistan. The CIA might not be the only US presence after September 11th. The Pentagon plans to keep supporting the Afghan military through financing and is signaling that it might leave some contractors behind.
The US military is also hoping to maintain the ability to bomb Afghanistan after the withdrawal and is looking to reposition forces possibly in neighboring Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, or Uzbekistan, although the US currently has no basing agreements with these countries.