Spooks Haunted By Spooks

It's been a rocky relationship for the Pakistanis and the Americans these past few years. And it's been an even rockier one for the CIA and the ISI, plagued by drone strikes, Raymond Davis, and the Abbottabad raid on Osama Bin Laden -- and those are only the episodes we know about. On Thursday, a remarkable story in Washington Post laid out new CIA accusations against the ISI, backdated all the way from the days of Raymond Davis and the Osama Bin Laden raid. The story alleges that CIA officials suspected the head of the CIA in Pakistan to be the victim of poisoning by the ISI. According to the report the CIA official, Mark Kelton, was pulled out of the country at the same time as the US raid, because he was too sick. Except the Post suspects foul play.

The story was remarkable because of the absolute lack of proof, total reliance on conjecture, and hearsay, and the insistence that despite treatment and medication, the cause of the CIA chief in Pakistan's illness could only be explained away as an assassination attempt. The accusation is preposterous and the report reads like a badly written plot for a Hollywood movie. The claim is this far unsubstantiated, and in fact, Kelton even refused to be interviewed for the story. Why the ISI had been the object of such misdirected scrutiny and not other countless anti-state and anti-American elements remains vague and smacks of lethargy and stereotyping. The news report was obviously written as the timing was right for its publication, coinciding with the anniversary.

Tensions have risen in recent weeks, with the deal on the F-16s to be sold to Pakistan, hitting a wall in Congress. While blocking the F-16 bill is still comprehensible considering the lack of support Pakistan enjoys in the Congress, the hype and controversy surrounding the fifth anniversary of the Bin Laden Raid and CIA’s actions surrounding it are an unwelcome addition to an incident that frayed US-Pakistan diplomatic ties. The news report just adds fuel to the fire, and it is not the only such piece of shoddy reporting and analysis to radiate from the US.

The CIA station chief’s colleagues, including several who were based in Pakistan, remain skeptical that the ISI would ever be involved in poisoning a high-ranking US official. As the embassy of Pakistan in Washington said, the story was “fictional and not worthy of comment”.

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