CIA'S STATION CHIEF EXITS AMID TENSE TIES WITH ISI HEAD
REZAUL H LASKAR
Islamabad, July 31: The CIA station chief in Islamabad, who oversaw the team that spotted Osama bin Laden, has left Pakistanfor medical reasons amid "extremely tense" ties with the ISI head, the second time in seven months that the US agency's senior-most officer has exited the country.
The CIA station chief in Islamabad – one of the agency's most important positions in the world – arrived late last year after his predecessor left when a Pakistani official admitted his name had been leaked.
The recently departed station chief oversaw the intelligence gathering that led to the May 2 raid by US special forces in Abbottabad that killed bin Laden.
The intelligence gathering included a network of "undeclared Pakistani agents" and this created a "lack of trust" with the Inter-Services Intelligence, ABC News reported.
The top CIA officer in Islamabad, who was supervising the team that tracked down bin Laden, left Pakistan due to medical reasons and is not returning, it said.
The CIA station chief had an "extremely tense" relationship with his Pakistani counterparts, including ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
One US official said the CIA chief was "due to depart in a few months as a result of his poor relations with the Pakistanis," the news channel reported.
Both US and Pakistani officials now hope that the CIA station chief's exit will lead to improved relations between the intelligence agencies of the two countries.
However, the departure of two CIA station chiefs in such a short span of time "threatens to upset a vital intelligence office," the report said.
US officials insisted the quick turnover would not harm American intelligence efforts in Pakistan.
The CIA-ISI relationship was "strained to the breaking point" since the Pakistanis discovered that the Americans secretly recruited Pakistani agents to help find bin Laden in Abbottabad.
The ISI "punished" the CIA for the unilateral raid.
The Pakistani military sent back all but a handful of special operations forces working near the border with Afghanistan.
Dozens of CIA officials too left Pakistan out of fear of retribution or exposure.
In the past few days, US officials have been regularly stopped by police in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and sent back to Islamabad on the grounds that they did not papers allowing them to travel in the country's northwest.
In one case, US officials were stopped at a toll booth and a group of Pakistani journalists were waiting for them to arrive, ABC News reported.
Much of the tension arose from the ISI's belief that the CIA was still running a clandestine network of American and Pakistani intelligence agents without sharing enough information about their identities or their assignments.
The CIA has pledged to provide that information but Pakistani intelligence officials do not seem to believe their assurances.
"There is no trust," one Pakistani intelligence official said.
Pakistani officials rounded up at least five Pakistanis accused of helping the CIA launch the raid against bin Laden though only one remains in custody.
The tension between the CIA and the ISI began shortly after the recently departed station chief arrived.
He helped try to release Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who shot dead two men who Pakistani officials admit were working for the ISI.
However, there have been some signs of a thaw between the CIA and the ISI, which recently granted 87 visas for CIA officers, bringing the agency back to full strength in Pakistan.
But a US official complained the visas were not good enough as they were single-entry and valid for only a few months.
Lastupdate on : Sun, 31 Jul 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Sun, 31 Jul 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Mon, 1 Aug 2011 00:00:00 IST
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