The new undercover Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Islamabad station chief has arrived in Pakistan in a move that indicates the latest push by the two sides to repair troubled intelligence cooperation efforts.
The new CIA Islamabad chief assumed charge a few days back after his predecessor’s sudden departure from Pakistan last month – ostensibly on medical grounds – confirmed a Pakistani official, requesting anonymity.
However, the main reason behind the previous CIA chief’s exit from the country was attributed to his ‘extremely tense’ relations with Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s top spy agency the Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI).
He was also believed to have developed serious differences with US Ambassador Cameron Munter on the CIA-led drone campaign in the country’s tribal belt.
The new CIA station chief is the third in the last seven months that the US top spy agency has appointed in Pakistan.
Sources claim that the new CIA chief has already met senior Pakistani intelligence officials, including Pasha, in an effort to mend deteriorating ties. However, neither the Pakistani authorities nor the US Embassy have confirmed the meeting.
A US Embassy spokesperson even refused to confirm or deny the arrival of the new CIA station chief, saying he was not authorised to speak regarding intelligence matters.
The CIA Islamabad station chief is considered to be one of the US agency’s most important positions in the world.
In December last year, the CIA pulled its then station chief Jonathan Banks out of Pakistan after his cover was blown up in a lawsuit filed by relatives of drone attack victims.
His successor, who recently left the post, oversaw the intelligence operation that led to the May 2 raid by US Special Forces in Abbottabad that killed al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
However, over the past few months, his relations with the ISI deteriorated. The country’s security establishment has repeatedly expressed reservations over what it called ‘the private CIA network.’
Following the Abbottabad raid, security agencies rounded up several Pakistanis, who were believed to be working for the CIA.
“The CIA’s decision to pull out its Islamabad station chief is a confidence-building measure to rebuild ties with the ISI,” said a security official.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.