NEW YORK – Five CIA informants, who fed information to the U.S. spy agency in the months leading up to the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, have been arrested by Pakistani security forces, The New York Times reported Wednesday.
Citing American officials, the newspaper said those detained include a Pakistani army major who provided key details of cars visiting the bin Laden compound in the garrison town of Abbottabad. The Times cited the arrests as further evidence of the troubled nature of the US-Pakistan relationship in the struggle against terrorism. Tensions have increased since the bin Laden raid, which left Pakistani security embarrassed and prompted questions about how the al-Qaeda chief could have been based in a key military town without senior officials knowing.
US drone strikes on Pakistani Taliban hideouts have been another area of friction, with a strong degree of public opposition in Pakistan. Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States, told The New York Times that the C.I.A. and the ISI “are working out mutually agreeable terms for their cooperation in fighting the menace of terrorism. It is not appropriate for us to get into the details at this stage.”
The fate of the C.I.A. informants arrested in Pakistan is unclear, the Times said, but it cited American officials as saying that the C.I.A. director, Leon Panetta, raised the issue when he travelled to Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers. At a closed briefing last week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael Morell, the deputy C.I.A. director, to rate Pakistan’s cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations, on a scale of 1 to 10, according to the Times. “Three,” Morell replied, the paper said, citing officials familiar with the exchange.
However, American officials cautioned that Morell’s comments about Pakistani support was a snapshot of the current relationship, and did not represent the administration’s overall assessment. “We have a strong relationship with our Pakistani counterparts and work through issues when they arise,” said Marie Harf, a C.I.A. spokeswoman.
“Director Panetta had productive meetings last week in Islamabad. It’s a crucial partnership, and we will continue to work together in the fight against Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups who threaten our country and theirs.”
“Some in Washington see the arrests as illustrative of the disconnect between Pakistani and American priorities at a time when they are supposed to be allies in the fight against Al Qaeda — instead of hunting down the support network that allowed bin Laden to live comfortably for years, the Pakistani authorities are arresting those who assisted in the raid that killed the world’s most wanted man,” the dispatch said.
“Over the past several weeks the Pakistani military has been distancing itself from American intelligence and counterterrorism operations against militant groups in Pakistan. This has angered many in Washington who believe that Bin Laden’s death has shaken al Qaeda and that there is now an opportunity to further weaken the terrorist organization with more raids and armed drone strikes.”