Pakistan’s premier spy agency – the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) – believes it deserves credit for helping US intelligence agencies locate the hideout of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad nearly a year ago, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
“The lead and information actually came from us,” a senior ISI official told The Post.
Washington and Islamabad are now working to repair their relationship, which was badly damaged by the revelation that the slain al Qaeda chief was living a stone’s throw from the Pakistan Military Academy (PMA).
“Any hit on al Qaeda anywhere in the world has happened with our help,” The Post quoted one of the Pakistani intelligence officials as saying.
The other official, who said he had been closely involved in the hunt for senior al Qaeda operatives, including bin Laden, said the ISI provided the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) with a cellphone number that eventually led to an al Qaeda courier using the nom de guerre of Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti, the paper said.
The officials said that in November 2010, they handed over the number to the CIA, along with information that it had last been detected in Abbottabad, the report said.
The ISI claimed it did not know then that the number was Kuwaiti’s, but the CIA analysts did, yet they did not relay that information back to the Pakistanis, The Post noted.
“They knew who the number belonged to,” the paper quoted one official as saying. “But after that, their cooperation with us ended.”
“It is the story of extreme trust deficit and betrayal,” complained the other ISI official, the paper pointed out.
However, a US official disputed the ISI version, The Post said. “The fact is, our knowledge of the number did not come from them telling us about it,” the paper quoted the US official as saying.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.