The so-called Zero Option in Afghanistan could put the intelligence collection programs of Al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan at risk, according to a report by the New York Times.
The growth of intelligence surveillance via drones has grown significantly, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, over the last decade. But it’s not just the military that depends on the drones stationed in Afghanistan. The CIA also flies drones out of U.S. bases in Afghanistan.
If a Bilateral Security Agreement is not signed and the U.S. military is forced to pull out all of its troops opposed to the proposed 10,000 that could be left behind to aid the Afghan National Security Forces, all of the U.S. airfields would also be shut down, according to the New York Times report.
The CIA bases the drones it often uses to fly over the Pakistan mountains to monitor Al Qaeda. The closure of these airfields means the drones will have to fly a longer distance to the target and thus have a shorter time on station.
The RQ-170 Sentinel played a key role in collecting data during the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Before the RQ-170 was publicly acknowledged by the military, photos of it kept popping up on blogs after people took pictures of it taking off from Kandahar. If all the bases get shut down, it’s unclear where the Sentinel would fly from to reach Pakistan.