December 18, 2010


[The American officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the C.I.A. officer’s identity — possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. ]
Pakistani villagers protesting last Thursday against U.S. drone strikes.
WASHINGTON — The Central Intelligence Agency’s top clandestine officer in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, was removed from the country on Thursday amid an escalating war of recriminations between American and Pakistani spies, with some American officials convinced that the officer’s cover was deliberately blown by Pakistan’s military intelligence agency.
The American spy’s hurried departure is the latest evidence of mounting tensions between two uneasy allies, with the Obama administration’s strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan hinging on the cooperation of Pakistan in the hunt for militants in the mountains that border those two countries. The tensions could intensify in the coming months with the prospect of more American pressure on Pakistan.   

As the cloak-and-dagger drama was playing out in Islamabad, 100 miles to the west the C.I.A. was expanding its covert war using armed drones against militants. Since Thursday, C.I.A. missile strikes have killed dozens of suspects in Khyber Agency, a part of the tribal areas in Pakistan that the spy agency had largely spared until now because of its proximity to the sprawling market city of Peshawar. 

American officials said the C.I.A. station chief had received a number of death threats since being publicly identified in a legal complaint sent to the Pakistani police this week by the family of victims of earlier drone campaigns. 

The American officials said they strongly suspected that operatives of Pakistan’s powerful spy service, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, had a hand in revealing the C.I.A. officer’s identity — possibly in retaliation for a civil lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month implicating the ISI chief in the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008. 

The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, did not immediately provide details to support their suspicions. 

The mistrust between the C.I.A. and ISI, two uneasy but co-dependent allies, could hardly come at a worse time. The Obama administration’s Afghan war strategy depends on greater cooperation from Pakistan to hunt militants in the country’s western mountains, and yet if Pakistan considers Washington’s demands excessive, it could order an end to the C.I.A. drone campaign. 

“We will continue to help strengthen Pakistani capacity to root out terrorists,” President Obama said Thursday in a briefing on the war strategy. “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.” 

The job of the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad is perhaps the spy agency’s most important overseas post, one that requires helping oversee the agency’s covert war and massaging its often testy relationship with the ISI. 

That relationship has often frayed in recent years. American officials believe that ISI officers helped plan the deadly July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, as well as provided support to Lashkar-e-Taiba militants who carried out the Mumbai attacks later that year. 

Michael J. Morell, the C.I.A.’s deputy director, met Thursday with Pakistani officials in Islamabad, but American officials said his visit was not the result of the station chief’s case. 

The lawsuit filed in Brooklyn last month, brought by families of American victims of the Mumbai attacks, names the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, as being complicit in the attacks. The suit asserts that General Pasha and other ISI officers were “purposefully engaged in the direct provision of material support or resources” to the planners of the Mumbai attacks. 

A senior Pakistani official, also speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that the Pakistani government “believes that the suit in New York does not have a sound legal basis, and is based on conjecture.” 

“We did not need to retaliate,” he said. “As far as the government of Pakistan and the ISI are concerned, we look forward to working with the Americans in securing the world from transnational threats, especially the shared threat of terrorism.” 

The legal complaint in Pakistan that identified the station chief was filed Monday over drone attacks that killed at least four Pakistanis. The complaint sought police help in keeping the station chief in the country until a lawsuit could be filed. The C.I.A.’s decision to remove the station chief from Islamabad was first reported Friday morning by The Associated Press. 

The C.I.A. officer’s name was revealed last month in a news conference by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, the lawyer who filed the complaint this week. 

Soon afterward, the name began appearing on a number of Pakistani Web sites generally believed to have a close association with the ISI. One Web site mentioned the C.I.A. officer on Dec. 14 and asked readers to track down pictures of him. 

The New York Times generally does not identify American intelligence operatives working undercover. 

Mr. Akbar, the lawyer who brought the case against the C.I.A., said it would continue despite the station chief’s absence. He is representing Kareem Khan, a resident of North Waziristan who said that his son and brother were killed in a drone strike. 

A vast majority of C.I.A. drone strikes in the tribal areas have occurred in North Waziristan. Mr. Khan is seeking $500 million in compensation, and accusing the C.I.A. officer of running a clandestine spying operation out of the United States Embassy in Islamabad. 

“My brother and son were innocent,” Mr. Khan said in a recent interview. “There were no Taliban hiding in my house.” 

Western and Pakistani intelligence officials said, however, that the drone attack also killed Haji Omer, a senior commander allied with the Haqqani militant network and Al Qaeda

Mr. Akbar said that he did not believe that the station chief had been removed from Islamabad for his security. “Obviously, his name had come out in the open, and maybe he feared police action or an action by the Supreme Court,” Mr. Akbar said in an interview. 

American officials disagreed. The threats to the station chief “were of such a serious nature that it would be imprudent not to act,” according to a United States intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. 

George Little, a C.I.A. spokesman, would not confirm that the station chief had to leave Pakistan, but did say that “station chiefs routinely encounter major risk as they work to keep America safe,” and that “their security is obviously a top priority for the C.I.A., especially when there’s an imminent threat.” 

Meanwhile, the C.I.A. has continued to pummel parts of the tribal areas with missiles. On Thursday, a C.I.A. drone launched a strike in the Tirah Valley of the Khyber Agency, where Pakistani militants are believed to have fled to escape military operations in other parts of the tribal belt. Three more strikes followed on Friday, a Pakistani government official said, killing dozens of militant suspects. 

Attacks in Khyber are uncommon. Pakistani officials have tried to dissuade the Americans from attacking Khyber and Mohmand Agency, fearing that strikes in those areas could fuel violence in Peshawar. The Khyber Agency is home to Lashkar-e-Islami, a militant organization sometimes allied with the Pakistani Taliban. 

Discussing the conclusions of the latest review of the Afghan war strategy, Obama administration officials said this week that the United States would be more aggressive in going after militants in the tribal areas — with or without Pakistan’s help. 

Mark Mazzetti reported from Washington, and Salman Masood from Islamabad, Pakistan. Ismail Khan contributed reporting from Peshawar, Pakistan, and Pir Zubair Shah from New York.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 17, 2010

An earlier version of this article referred incorrectly to the actions of a lawyer representing a Pakistani man over deaths allegedly connected with a drone attack. The lawyer filed a complaint with police in Islamabad on Monday and had threatened to file a lawsuit last month; he has not yet filed the suit.

@ The New York Times



[Boosting trade and investment have been the main focus of the first visit in five years by a Chinese premier to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.]

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – China and Pakistan are set to conclude another 10 billion dollars' worth of deals on Saturday, the latest signings on a trade-focused trip to South Asia by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Business leaders are scheduled to formalise the deals -- adding to the 20 billion dollars' worth of deals inked Friday -- at Islamabad's five-star Marriott Hotel, where a huge suicide truck bomb killed 60 people in 2008.

Boosting trade and investment have been the main focus of the first visit in five years by a Chinese premier to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan regards China as its closest ally and the deals are seen locally as incredibly important to a moribund economy, which was dealt a massive blow by catastrophic flooding this year and suffers from sluggish foreign investment.

The Islamabad city administration declared Saturday a public holiday, apparently for security reasons with the country on full-time alert for suicide attacks and bombings blamed on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

Wen inaugurated a cultural centre built as a monument to Pakistani-Chinese friendship, and was to hold talks with the country's opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and senior figures in the military, which depends on China for hardware.

The 35-million-dollar Pakistan-China Friendship Centre offers the Pakistani capital a conference venue, theatre, cinema and space for multiple events.

Young Pakistani girls dressed traditionally and waving the flags of both countries danced for Wen and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, before Wen kissed one of them on the cheek and posed for photographs.

Wen said Chinese medics will provide 1,000 Pakistani patients with free cataract surgery next year to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

"China-Pakistan friendship will last forever," he told a ceremony commemorating Chinese workers who died in the 1970s while building the Karakoram Highway, the main road to the Chinese border through the Himalayas.

After the business leaders' meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari is to host a state banquet late Saturday. Wen addresses a special joint session of parliament early Sunday before leaving.

Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the countries signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding on Friday in fields ranging from energy to railways, from reconstruction to agriculture and culture.

Kaira said China had promised to fund "all the energy projects of Pakistan," which he termed a "major breakthrough". Pakistan suffers from a debilitating energy crisis and produces only 80 percent of the electricity it needs.
"China will provide assistance in 36 projects in Pakistan to be completed in five years," he said. "Basically this is a five-year development plan."

Although not specifically mentioned, behind-the-scenes talks are expected on China building a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant as part of Pakistani plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity by 2025 to make up its energy shortfall.

"The outcome of the visit is beyond our expectations. It is an historic day," Pakistan's ambassador to Beijing Masood Khan said Friday.

Pakistan depends on China's financial and political clout to offset the perceived threat from rival India and rescue its economy from the doldrums of catastrophic flooding, a severe energy crisis and poor foreign investment.

Pakistan's prime minister has expressed hope that trade will rise to between 15 and 18 billion dollars over the next five years.

China, meanwhile, has been concerned about the threat of Islamist militants infiltrating its territory from Pakistan.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Wen visited India, where he and his 400-strong delegation inked deals that will see bilateral trade double to 100 billion dollars a year by 2015.