CIA and Pakistan locked in aggressive spy battles
The News, July 07, 2010
WASHINGTON: Publicly, the US credits Pakistan with helping kill and capture many al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Privately, the relationship is often marked by mistrust and double-dealing as Pakistan runs double agents against the CIA and the agency tries to penetrate Pakistan’s closely guarded nuclear programme.
Spying among friends is old news in the intelligence business, but the US-Pakistan relationship is at the heart of Washington’s counterterrorism efforts. Any behind-the-scenes trickery could undermine those efforts as well as the long-standing hunt for Osama bin Laden.
One recent incident underscores the schizophrenic relationship between the two countries. Last year, a Pakistani man approached CIA officers in Islamabad, offering to give up secrets of the country’s nuclear programme. To prove he was a trustworthy source, the man claimed he had spent nuclear fuel rods. But suspicious CIA officers quickly concluded that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was trying to run a double agent against them.
CIA officers alerted their Pakistani counterparts. Pakistan promised to look into the matter and, with neither side acknowledging the man was a double agent, the affair came to a polite, quiet end.
Bumping up against the ISI is a way of life for the CIA in Pakistan, the agency’s command centre for recruiting spies in Fata. Officers there also coordinate Predator drone airstrikes, the CIA’s most successful and lethal counterterrorism programme. The armed, unmanned planes take off from a base inside Balochistan known as “Rhine.” “Pakistan would be exceptionally uncomfortable and even hostile to American efforts to muck about in their home turf,” said Graham Fuller, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism who spent 25 years with the CIA, including a stint as Kabul station chief.
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