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"Ally" Watch: Pakistan Detains Five CIA Informants

Pakistan shares a long, mountainous border with Afghanistan, its leaders are at least nominally committed to fighting terrorism, and its military controls an arsenal of nuclear weapons.  These three factors have cemented Pakistan's near-inviolate US ally status.  But since the bin Laden raid, relations between the two countries have been strained, at best.  Pakistani officials were embarrassed that the United States carried out a secret mission on its sovereign soil -- and that the mission exposed compelling evidence that bin Laden was receiving at least tacit support from elements within Pakistan's ruling class.  Islamabad responded by sounding several bellicose notes and ordering a series of reprisals -- from outing a CIA station chief, to (temporarily) balking at giving American investigators access to bin Laden's compound and wives, to hinting that it might give China a peak at the wreckage of a downed US chopper lost during the raid.  It's time to add another hostile act to the troubling list:


Pakistan’s top military spy agency has arrested some of the Pakistani informants who fed information to the Central Intelligence Agency in the months leading up to the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden, according to American officials.

Pakistan’s detention of five C.I.A. informants, including a Pakistani Army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, in the weeks before the raid, is the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the United States and Pakistan. It comes at a time when the Obama administration is seeking Pakistan’s support in brokering an endgame in the war in neighboring Afghanistan.

The fate of the C.I.A. informants arrested in Pakistan is unclear, but American officials said that the C.I.A. director, Leon E. Panetta, raised the issue when he travelled to Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers. 

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.


Some US officials reportedly hold a rather dim view of Pakistan's counter-terrorism efforts.  Considering the evidence outlined above, it's hard to argue there isn't ample cause for a healthy dose of cynicism:

At a closed briefing last week, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael J. 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.  “Three,” Mr. Morell replied, according to officials familiar with the exchange. 

The US has funneled billions of dollars in military and foreign aid to Islamabad over the last decade -- a fact that has prompted more than a few American lawmakers to ask whether Uncle Sam is reaping an acceptable return on investment for his generosity.

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