Skip to content Skip to footer

Pakistan Tells US It Must Sharply Cut CIA Activities

CIA Director Leon Panetta during a hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on February 16, 2011. Pakistan's demand that the US scale back its CIA presence in the country is the immediate fallout of the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis. (Photo: Stephen Crowley / The New York Times)

Islamabad, Pakistan – 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 put on hold C.I.A. drone strikes aimed at militants in northwest Pakistan, a sign of the near collapse of cooperation between the two testy allies.

The demand that the United States scale back its presence is the immediate fallout of the arrest in Pakistan of Raymond A. Davis, a C.I.A. security officer who killed two men in broad daylight during a mugging incident in January, Pakistani and American officials said in interviews.

In all, about 335 American personnel — C.I.A. officers and contractors and Special Operations forces — were being asked to leave the country, said a Pakistani official closely involved in the decision. The cuts threatened to badly hamper American efforts — either through drone strikes or Pakistani military training — to combat militants who use Pakistan as a base to fight American forces in Afghanistan and plot terror attacks abroad.

The reductions were personally demanded by the chief of the Pakistan army, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, said Pakistani and American officials, who requested anonymity while discussing the sensitive issue.

The scale of the Pakistani demands emerged as Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s chief spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, was headed to Washington on Monday to meet with the director of the C.I.A., Leon Panetta.

The Davis episode has plunged relations between the two spy agencies, always tentative and distrustful, to a new low, and further exposed the divergent interests of the United States and Pakistan, ostensible allies in the war on terrorism, as the endgame in Afghanistan draws closer.

The Pakistani army firmly believes that Washington’s real aim in Pakistan is to neutralize the nation’s prized nuclear arsenal, which is now on a path to becoming the world’s fifth largest, said the Pakistani official closely involved in the decision on reducing the American presence.

On the American side, frustration has built over the Pakistani army’s seeming inability to defeat a host of militant groups, including the Talibanand Al Qaeda, which have thrived in Pakistan’s tribal areas despite more than $1 billion in American assistance a year to the Pakistani military.

In a rare public rebuke, a White House report to Congress last week described the Pakistani efforts against the militants as disappointing.

At the time of his arrest, Mr. Davis was involved in a covert C.I.A. effort to penetrate one militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which has long ties to Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment, has made deepening inroads in Afghanistan, and is perceived as a global threat.

The C.I.A. had demanded that Mr. Davis be freed immediately, on the grounds that he had diplomatic immunity. Instead, he was held for 47 days of detention and, the officials said, questioned for 14 days by ISI agents during his imprisonment in Lahore, infuriating American officials. He was finally freed after his victims’ families agreed to take some $2.3 million in compensation.

Another apparent price, however, is the list of reductions in American personnel demanded by General Kayani, according to the Pakistan and American officials. These include a 25 to 40 percent cutback in the number of United States Special Operations soldiers, most of them involved in training the paramilitary Frontier Corps in northwest Pakistan.

American officials said last year that the Pakistanis had allowed a maximum of 120 Special Forces soldiers to operate in Pakistan. The Americans had reached that quota, the Pakistani official said.

Pakistan is also demanding the removal of all American contractors used by the C.I.A. in Pakistan and C.I.A. operatives who were involved in “unilateral” assignments — like that of Mr. Davis — that the Pakistani intelligence agency did not know about, the Pakistani official said.

On top of reducing American personnel on the ground, General Kayani has told the Obama administration that its expanded drone campaign had gotten out of control, a Pakistani official said. Given the reluctance or inability of the Pakistani military to root out Qaeda and Taliban militants from the tribal areas, American officials have turned more and more to drone strikes, drastically increasing the number of strikes last year.

The drone campaign, which is immensely unpopular among the Pakistani public, had morphed into the sole preserve of the United States, the Pakistani official said, since the Americans were no longer sharing intelligence on how they were choosing their targets. The Americans had also extended the strikes to new parts of the tribal region, like the Khyber area near the city of Peshawar.

“Kayani would like the drones stopped,” said another Pakistani official who met with the military chief recently. “He believes they are used too frequently as a weapon of choice, rather than as a strategic weapon.” Short of that, General Kayani was demanding that the campaign return to its original, more limited scope and remain focused narrowly on North Waziristan, the prime militant stronghold.

A drone attack last month, one day after Mr. Davis was released, hit Taliban fighters in North Waziristan, but also killed tribal leaders allied to the Pakistani military, an apparent mishap that infuriated General Kayani, who issued an unusually strong statement of condemnation afterward.

American officials defended the drone attack, saying that it had achieved its goal of killing militants. But there have been no drone attacks since then.

The request by General Kayani to cut back the number of Special Operations forces by up to 40 percent would result in the closure of the training program begun last year at Warsak, close to Peshawar, , an American official said.

The United States spent $23 million on a building at Warsak, and $30 million on equipment and training there.

Informed by American officials that the Special Operations training would end even with the partial reduction of 40 percent, General Kayani remained unmoved, the American official said.

The program to upgrade the paramilitary Frontier Corps and get them to focus on counterinsurgency warfare began in earnest last year; American officials believed it was essential to improve the capacity of the nearly 150,000 Pakistani soldiers deployed to fight the Taliban in the tribal region.

But the Pakistanis were always leery of the training, in part because the United States is regarded with suspicion by many of the Frontier Corps soldiers, and because Pakistani officials said they were never sure if training, rather than spying, was the real purpose of the Special Operations soldiers.

The C.I.A. quietly withdrew all contractors after Mr. Davis’s arrest, the Pakistani official said. Armed American men in civilian clothes believed to be C.I.A. contractors were often seen around the United States consulate in Peshawar, where Mr. Davis worked at the beginning of his stint in Pakistan, but are no longer in evidence.

Another category of American intelligence agents, declared operatives whose purpose was not clear, were also being asked to leave, the Pakistani official said.

In an illustration of the severity of the breach between the C.I.A. and the ISI, two intelligence agencies that were supposed to have been cooperating since the Sept. 11 attack in the United States but that have rarely trusted each other, the Pakistani official said: “We’re telling the Americans: ‘You have to trust the ISI or you don’t. There is nothing in between.’ ”

This article “Pakistan Tells U.S. It Must Sharply Cut C.I.A. Activities” originally appeared at The New York Times.

Join us in defending the truth before it’s too late

The future of independent journalism is uncertain, and the consequences of losing it are too grave to ignore. To ensure Truthout remains safe, strong, and free, we need to raise $29,000 in the next 36 hours. Every dollar raised goes directly toward the costs of producing news you can trust.

Please give what you can — because by supporting us with a tax-deductible donation, you’re not just preserving a source of news, you’re helping to safeguard what’s left of our democracy.