ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – In signs of worsening relations with Washington, Pakistan’s prime minister angrily rejected suggestions that collusion or incompetence allowed Osama bin Laden to hide near the capital for years, and Pakistani media made public what they claim is the name of the top CIA agent in the country.
A private TV station and a right-wing newspaper with ties to the Pakistani spy agency each reported the name in recent days.
The U.S. and Pakistan have strongly criticized each other’s behavior in the week since a Navy SEAL team killed bin Laden on May 2, but say they intend to continue to cooperate on security matters.
U.S. officials have demanded an explanation of why Pakistan could not find bin Laden for more than five years in Abbottabad, a city with a heavy military presence close to the capital. The Pakistanis complained that the U.S. raid was an infringement of their sovereignty.
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani denied in a speech to parliament on Monday the American suggestions that the government harbored bin Laden or was incompetent in failing to track him down. He vowed to find out how bin Laden was able to hide so long, but also lashed out at the United States for the raid.
A senior U.S. official said that the United States “is committed to having this relationship continue, and grow,” and noted that despite some harsh words, Pakistani officials have not so far taken any steps to curb security cooperation.
However, the official added: “It’s going to be more difficult. … Some of this may be bombast for public consumption, but they certainly feel aggrieved by what’s happening, and are struggling to figure out what’s next.”
The CIA’s Islamabad station chief has an important role because of the agency’s use of armed drone aircraft to hit militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas along the Afghan border.
A U.S. official said the name might have been provided to Pakistani media by a government official. The official said the name may be a misspelled version of the correct name, which is classified information.
Officials of the Pakistani intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, work with CIA officials on joint missions, and are aware of the identities of senior officials, according to former CIA officials.
Another U.S. official said “there is no current plan to bring the CIA station chief home.”
Pakistan’s intelligence agency has nurtured strong ties with Pakistani journalists, who have published information intended to advance the agency’s interests.
Mazhar Abbas, news director of ARY television, which first carried the story, said in an interview that he did not ask his reporter what his source was “because I have confidence in him.”
“It was a juicy story, and all stories coming out about the CIA-ISI relationship are relevant,” Abbas said.
Gilani said an investigation into bin Laden’s hideout will be overseen by Lt. Gen. Javed Iqbal, the army’s adjutant general.