ISLAMABAD: Cooperation between the American and Pakistani spy agencies has been scaled back because of an incident involving a CIA contractor shooting two Pakistanis, Pakistani intelligence officials said on Thursday.
A senior Pakistani intelligence official in Islamabad said the case of Raymond Davis had strained but not broken relations between the CIA and the Inter-Services Intelligences (ISI) because the ISI didn’t know about Davis before he shot and killed two Pakistanis on Jan 27 in Lahore.
“It’s not business as usual; it’s not open war,” the official told Reuters. “Cooperation and operations together will continue at a lesser scale.”
Another intelligence official denied rumours that the two agencies were not working together. “We are not ready to split,” he said. “There has been a patch up because we have both realised that in the larger interest of the region and the war on terrorism, CIA and ISI must work together.”
An Associated Press story, however, construes that Pakistan’s premier spy agency is ready to split with the CIA because of frustration over what it calls heavy-handed pressure and its anger over what it believes is a covert US operation involving hundreds of contract spies. The AP cites a document it has obtained as the basis of its conclusion.
The case of 36-year-old Davis, a former US special forces officer, has strained the already-uneasy alliance between the US and Pakistan, who are supposed to be united in the face of militants waging a war in Afghanistan.
The possible presence of more CIA contractors like Davis worries the ISI because they don’t know how many there are, their identities or their duties. Officials say there could be “hundreds”.
“We are concerned,” the first official told Reuters. “We don’t know how many and we have asked them (CIA) to give this information to us. But they haven’t done that yet.”
It is widely thought the CIA is running a network of spies in Pakistan for a number of reasons: identifying militant targets for a campaign of strikes by unmanned drone aircraft, gathering intelligence on militant groups and on Pakistan’s nuclear programme.
Signs of strain were evident in a letter the ISI sent to the Wall Street Journal in response to an article the newspaper published on the tension between the agencies.
“It is regrettable that CIA leadership on many occasions has failed to show respect to the relationship of the two agencies and has acted with arrogance towards ISI which has resulted in weakening the relationship on which it is entirely dependent,” the ISI said, according to a copy seen by Reuters.
“Involvement of CIA with Raymond Davis is beyond any shadow of doubt. Post incident conduct of CIA has virtually put the partnership into question. Irrespective of the commonality of objectives in this war on terror, it is hard to predict if the relationship will ever reach the level at which it was prior to the Davis episode.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2011.