Categorized | Pakistan & Kashmir

Pakistan-U.S. Rift Widens



Pakistani media aired the name of a man they said is the Central Intelligence Agency’s station chief, prompting questions about whether the Pakistani government tried to out a CIA operative in the wake of the killing of Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. is looking into the matter. There are no plans at this time to withdraw the station chief. If the government had attempted to publicize the name, that would be the second such outing in the past six months, a sign of how deeply U.S.-Pakistan relations have soured.

The CIA declined to comment. Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Tensions, which have been building between the two countries for months, exploded after the bin Laden strike, which sharply embarrassed the Pakistani government. In another source of strain, the U.S. is pressing the Pakistanis for access to bin Laden’s three wives, who are being held in Pakistani custody. The Pakistani government isn’t complying with the request, a U.S. official said.

The Islamabad station chief is one of the CIA’s most critical and sensitive assignments. The position oversees the agency’s covert programs, including the drone campaign that targets al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, as well as fighters who cross the border into Afghanistan.

The purported name of the CIA’s station chief was first reported Friday by ARY, a private Pakistani television channel. The station was reporting on a meeting between the director of Pakistan’s spy service—the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence—and the station chief.

“If we did not mention the man’s name, the credibility of the story would have been reduced,” said ARY’s Islamabad bureau chief, Sabir Shakir.
Supporters of a Pakistani religious party rally in Quetta Sunday to condemn Osama bin Laden’s killing, holding flags that read ‘Holy War.’
.Mr. Shakir wouldn’t discuss who had provided the name, but said he had “one-plus” sources.

The story was picked up by the Nation, a right-wing newspaper that has often accused American diplomats and private citizens in Pakistan of working for the CIA. The Nation’s editor, Salim Bokhari, said he didn’t know how the name became public.

“It has to have been released by some government agency,” said Mr. Bokhari. “Who else would know such information?”

While President Obama has decided not to release photographs of Osama bin Laden taken after the al Qaeda leader was shot to death Sunday by U.S. forces, other photos taken at the compound have been released by Reuters.

U.S. forces found Osama bin Laden at this compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, about 40 miles outside Islamabad.

A former senior U.S. intelligence official said any outing of agents would be Pakistan’s “own little way of retaliating,” given how “very, very upset and embarrassed” the government remains over the raid and its aftermath.

The chief’s name printed Saturday in the Nation wasn’t accurate. Mr. Shakir, of the ARY television station said, “I believe we have the right name.”

The strain between the CIA and ISI first became public in December when a lawsuit filed in Pakistan blew the cover of the then-station chief and forced the CIA to pull him out of the country.

Some U.S. officials suspected the move was ISI retaliation for the naming of its chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, in a U.S. lawsuit relating to the Mumbai terrorist attacks. Since then, Pakistan and the CIA have tussled over a CIA contractor’s shooting of two armed Pakistanis under disputed circumstances.

The U.S. has given Pakistan billions of dollars in aid since 2001 and has repeatedly expressed frustration that Pakistanis are sometimes reluctant partners in counterterrorism—going after some militants and not others.

Speaking on CBS’s “60 Minutes” Sunday night, President Barack Obama said, “We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan.… [T]hat’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”

The Pakistanis, for their part, suggested the U.S. should ease up. “Could the pattern of bullying and then trying to give a lot of honey after having served a lot of vinegar, is that partly the reason why the patient is unwell?” said Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S., on a separate CNN show.

Speaking on ABC News, Mr. Haqqani sidestepped a question about U.S. access to the bin Laden wives. “This is a moment for me to be very diplomatic,” he said. “What we do, Mr. Donilon will know.”

On Saturday, the U.S. government released five never-before-seen video clips of bin Laden seized by Navy SEALs during the raid, providing the first visual evidence of what officials described as the al Qaeda leader’s “active command-and-control center” in Pakistan. The U.S. said the evidence so far shows bin Laden at the center of al Qaeda planning, not the peripheral figure some had assumed he had become.

The videos were part of what a senior U.S. intelligence official called “the single-largest collection of senior terrorist materials ever” obtained by the U.S.

Materials discovered so far by analysts include internal communications between al Qaeda’s leadership in Pakistan and its far-flung affiliates. Al Qaeda has branches in Yemen and North Africa.

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