Islamabad: Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) chief Leon Panetta has left Islamabad without a deal on resetting the relationship between the spy agencies of the United States and Pakistan.
Panetta, who arrived on Friday evening, did not meet anyone other than Pakistan Army chief General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who he met at the Army House over dinner and discussed what was described by the Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) as “framework for future intelligence sharing.”
Panetta’s departure without routine calls on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was seen by observers in Islamabad as a sign of stalemate in his discussions with the military leadership, the Dawn reported.
According to sources, Panetta was surprised by the rigidity shown by the military, which went to the extent of even declining an offer of security assistance by Washington.
But government officials insisted that unlike in the past, the CIA chief was not scheduled to meet anyone else this time.
While General Kayani had made it clear even before Panetta’s visit that the military would not allow the CIA to carry out independent operations, and that any future intelligence cooperation would be reciprocal and transparent, the CIA Director did little to pacify Pakistani generals, and instead confronted them with “evidence of collusion with Taliban militants”.
This would further sour the relationship which had already been under strain since the start of this year and got worse after the May 2 Abbottabad raid on Osama bin Laden’s hideout by US troops, a source said.
A defence source said the CIA chief, who is nominated to succeed US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, reportedly used this as an instance to tell the army and intelligence chiefs why America distrusted Pakistani military establishment and needed to have its own independent operations inside the country to deal with al Qaeda and Taliban.
Panetta reportedly tried to convince the Pakistanis to allow some critical CIA operations to continue after the agency was asked to cut down its footprint in the country. He also asked for some CIA operatives to be given visas to enable them to enter the country and work independently.
General Kayani and General Pasha are reported to have insisted on joint operations and intelligence sharing, but no independent operations. They said that a recently-constituted joint task force for coordination of intelligence activities should be the nerve centre of any future ISI-CIA collaboration.