Reports: Pakistan Wants CIA To Reduce Its Presence



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A visit this week by Pakistan's spy chief, the head of that country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, to CIA headquarters in Virginia has produced some interesting media reports about relations between the two countries' intelligence agencies.

According to The New York Times:

"Pakistan has demanded that the United States steeply reduce the number of Central Intelligence Agency operatives and Special Operations forces working in Pakistan, and that it halt C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan. The request was a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies."

It says its sources are "Pakistani and American officials."

The Associated Press has a slightly different take:

"The Pakistanis want the American agency to identify all its employees in Pakistan and shrink its overall agency staff, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss matters of intelligence. Pakistani officials also want advance notice of CIA drone strikes aimed at militants in its tribal areas, and fewer strikes overall."

That's also what NPR's Rachel Martin is reporting. She says that U.S. officials are considering ways to cooperate more closely with Pakistan's ISI, which wants more transparency from the CIA and a reduced presence by the American agency. As she reports, "tensions between the CIA and Pakistan's spy agency the ISI reached new lows earlier this year after CIA contractor Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistani men on the streets of Lahore. Davis was released last month after the families of the victims were paid more than $2 million."

Rachel is scheduled to be on All Things Considered later today with more on this. Click here to find an NPR station that broadcasts or streams the show.

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Now, efforts to mend relations with another American ally. The relationship between the CIA and Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, is at a low point. The latest episode: a CIA contractor named Raymond Davis shot and killed two Pakistani men on the streets of Lahore in January. This week, the leaders of both spy agencies met face to face in Washington to try to mend the relationship.

NPR's national security correspondent Rachel Martin joins me now to talk about that meeting.

And, Rachel, I understand the Pakistani spy chief came in with some demands. What is he asking for?

RACHEL MARTIN: That's right, Robert. The head of the ISI is a man named Lieutenant General Ahmad Pasha, and he met with CIA director Leon Panetta yesterday.

And U.S. officials say that Pasha asked for what they described as more visibility when it comes to CIA operations in Pakistan. And what that means is that Pakistan is asking that the U.S. identify all of the CIA and Special Operations Forces who are currently working in Pakistan. They also want the overall CIA presence reduced in the country, and they want more collaboration when it comes to U.S. drone strikes.

U.S. officials say that the drone-strike campaign in Pakistan has proved to be the most successful way to disrupt terrorist networks operating in the northwestern part of the country. There were more than a hundred last year alone, and the ISI is not necessarily given a heads-up before these things happen.

SIEGEL: Rachel, how much of this dispute between the CIA and the ISI is all about the killings committed by the CIA contractor Raymond Davis?

MARTIN: This has really had a huge impact.

Just to remind everyone, Raymond Davis was held for several weeks after shooting two men in Lahore, Pakistan. He was ultimately released after the families of the victims were paid more than $2 million. But the whole thing really left relations between the ISI and the CIA even worse than they were before.

Davis was reportedly in the country as part of this secret U.S. taskforce assigned to track members of a terrorist group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, or LET. And when the Pakistani officials found out, they were furious because they didn't know the U.S. was running this kind of unilateral operation inside of Pakistan.

And to make matters worse, a day after Davis was released, a U.S. drone strike in the northwestern part of Pakistan killed some 40 people, and Pakistan claims some civilians were among the dead.

So Pakistanis are essentially saying enough is enough. If the U.S. is going to continue its intelligence operations in Pakistan, the CIA has to include the ISI.

SIEGEL: And how is the CIA treating these requests?

MARTIN: They're treating them very delicately. There is a major trust problem here. And increasingly, the CIA and the ISI are seen to have divergent interests, and that makes it awfully difficult to cooperate with each other.

And it's interesting that the dispute has become public at all. Officials think that Pakistan is really feeling that it needs to show its public back home that it's standing up to the CIA. And for its part, the U.S. has really been sending mixed messages.

On the one hand, a CIA official called the talks this week productive and said that the CIA-ISI relationship remains on, quote, "solid footing." But on the other hand, a U.S. official familiar with the talks said - and I'm quoting here - "it would be unfortunate if the Pakistanis somehow stepped back from counterterrorism efforts that protect Americans and their citizens alike."

So, Robert, the suggestion there is that Pakistan isn't pulling its weight when it comes to fighting terrorist networks operating on its own soil, or that the Pakistanis have perhaps threatened to pull back on counterterrorism if the CIA doesn't come clean about all of their operations.

SIEGEL: Well, how likely is it that the CIA would be so open with the Pakistanis?

MARTIN: Well, former intelligence officials say it's very unlikely that the CIA is going to bend to Pakistani pressure to reduce their overall presence in the country.

And one former CIA official told me that all this just means that the CIA is going to have to work even harder at getting its people into Pakistan on the ground there and then keeping their missions a secret.

SIEGEL: OK. Thank you, Rachel.

MARTIN: You're welcome.

SIEGEL: That's NPR national security correspondent Rachel Martin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.