Tuesday, 2 August 2011

CIA's Islamabad station chief flees Pakistan

The CIA station chief who oversaw the intelligence team that found out the OBL circus venue has left Pakistan for “medical reasons” and is not returning, the second time the agency’s most senior officer in Pakistan has left in the last seven months, according to USZ and Pakistani officials, reported ABC News on Saturday. The Islamabad station chief - one of the agency’s most-important positions in the world - arrived only late last year after his predecessor was essentially run out of town when a Pakistani official admitted his name had been leaked. The departure of two station chiefs in such a short amount of time threatens to upset a vital intelligence office.
In fact, both USZ and Pakistani officials hope the station chief’s exit will lead to improved relations between Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the CIA. That is because, according to USZ and Pakistani officials, the departing chief of station had an “extremely tense” relationship with his ISI counterparts including Director General Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha. One USZ official said the CIA chief was due to depart in a few months as a result of his poor relations with the Pakistanis. The CIA-ISI relationship has been strained to the breaking point since Pakistani intelligence officials discovered the CIA secretly recruited Pakistani agents to help find Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. The two intelligence agencies have been official allies since 9/11, but the ISI has punished the CIA for the unilateral raid. Since then, the Pakistani military has kicked out all but a handful of Special Operations Forces working near the border with Afghanistan; dozens of CIA officials left the country out of fear of retribution or exposure; and USZ officials have been regularly stopped by police in northwest Pakistan asking for paperwork that allows them to travel, something they say was unnecessary last year.

In one case, USZ officials were stopped at a toll booth, and a group of Pakistani journalists were waiting for them to arrive. In another case, CIA officials were stopped at a checkpoint in Peshawar and held long enough for the media to show up and take their pictures. “Pakistan has been harassing USZ personnel working in the country for months,” complained a USZ official. The tension seems to stem from the ISI’s belief the CIA is still running a clandestine network of American and Pakistani intelligence agents without sharing enough information about their identities or their assignments with the ISI. The CIA has pledged to provide that information, but Pakistani intelligence officials don’t seem to believe their assurances. As one Pakistani intelligence official put it, “There is no trust.” In Pakistan, the CIA station chief was reviled for his role in the Osama raid, but in Washington, according to one official, he was widely praised. He “had the agency’s full confidence,” one USZ official said.

USZ officials declined to provide details about the station chief’s illness because we think, quite frankly, that there was none
. The CIA declined to comment for this story. The two agencies are far from recovering even the tense relationship they had late last year, when the previous station chief was left, according to two Pakistani officials, in response to a court case filed in Brooklyn naming Pasha as a defendant. But both sides say they are trying to work through the current tension. “A bad marriage,” a USZ official said, “is better than a divorce.”

Enticing Fury
Pakistan Cyber Force

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