Pakistan May Have Outed Chief of CIA’s Islamibad StationPosted: December 17, 2010
Things seem to be getting pretty dicey for the U.S. in Pakistan. The Guardian UK reports that:
The CIA has pulled its station chief from Islamabad, one of America’s most important spy posts, after his cover was blown in a legal action brought by victims of US drone strikes in the tribal belt.
The officer, named in Pakistan as Jonathan Banks, left the country yesterday, after a tribesman publicly accused him of being responsible for the death of his brother and son in a CIA drone strike in December 2009. Karim Khan, a journalist from North Waziristan, called for Banks to be charged with murder and executed.
In a rare move, the CIA called Banks home yesterday, citing “security concerns” and saying he had received death threats, Washington officials told Associated Press. Khan’s lawyer said he was fleeing the possibility of prosecution.
Banks may have only a business visa, and so wouldn’t have diplomatic immunity if he were required to testify in the trial. According to the article, recalling a station chief is extremely rare. Although the Pakistani government supposedly supports U.S. drone strikes, many Pakistanis are understandably outraged by them.
The recall comes at a sensitive moment for Washington. This week’s Afghanistan policy review brought fresh focus on Taliban safe havens in Pakistan’s tribal belt. Meanwhile CIA drone attacks – which are co-ordinated from the Islamabad embassy – have reached a new peak. Three drones struck targets in Khyber, a previously untouched tribal agency, on Friday, reportedly killing 24 people and signalling a widening of the CIA covert campaign….There have been over 100 strikes so this year, twice as many as in 2009.
The Guardian says there are rumors that Banks may have been outed by someone in the Pakistani intelligence agency (the ISI), because “several senior ISI officials were named in a New York legal action brought by relatives of the 2008 Mumbai attacks.”
On Thursday and Friday, the United States appeared to make good on promises to expand its own efforts to attack the militants, with drone strikes for the first time hitting Khyber agency in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas. Most drone strikes this year have targeted North Waziristan. Pakistani government officials said at least 26 militants were killed in the most recent attacks.
The outing of the C.I.A. station chief is tied to the spy agency’s campaign of drone strikes, which are very unpopular in Pakistan, although the government has given its tacit approval for them.
Gee, no kidding. I mean who wants to have their house blown up unexpectedly by agents of a foreign power? Interestingly, the Times avoided telling its readers the outed agent’s name, even though the Guardian had already published it. The Times is truly the Obama administration’s house organ. According article,
The intensifying mistrust between the C.I.A. and I.S.I., two uneasy but co-dependent allies, could hardly come at a worse time. The Obama administration relies on Pakistan’s support for the armed drone program, which this year has launched a record number of strikes in North Waziristan against terror suspects.
“We will continue to help strengthen Pakistani capacity to root out terrorists,” President Obama said on Thursday. “Nevertheless, progress has not come fast enough. So we will continue to insist to Pakistani leaders that terrorist safe havens within their borders must be dealt with.”
Not being an expert on foreign affairs, I’m not sure if this statement triggered anger in Pakistan or not. Maybe President Obama should leave diplomacy to his Secretary of State.