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Pakistan Will Allow Interrogation of Bin Laden’s Wives; CIA Station Chief Staying in Islamabad

In the continuing saga of public belligerence between the US and Pakistan, a senior Administration official told a story about how the President authorized a big Navy SEAL force in case the team had to “fight their way out” of Pakistan. This is a threat of war, as Scarecrow calls it, although I’d just say it’s more of a declaration of an undeclared war.

But at the same time as both sides lob charges and recriminations, here’s what’s actually been happening. Pakistan has agreed to allow US interrogation of Osama bin Laden’s wives, according to multiple published reports. In addition, that station chief in Islamabad whose name was revealed by someone in Pakistani intelligence won’t be withdrawn (I thought there was an initial report that he was ALREADY withdrawn):

The US has said it will not withdraw the CIA station chief in Pakistan, despite his name being leaked to local media last week.

But officials quoted by US media said the name published in Pakistani news outlets was spelt incorrectly […]

Some unnamed US officials are reported to have said that the latest leak was a deliberate move by the authorities in Pakistan, which they say was intended to divert attention from questions over Bin Laden’s presence in their country.

Asad Munir, a former intelligence chief with responsibility for Pakistan’s tribal areas, where a number of militants find sanctuary, said the release of the name would not necessarily put the official at risk.

“Normally people in intelligence have cover names. Only if there is a photograph to identify him could it put his life in danger,” Mr Munir told AP.

So US intelligence isn’t treating that as much of a hindrance. And they’re getting access to key intelligence sources. And drones continue to bomb targets inside Pakistan. And for the moment, the foreign aid keeps flowing.

Does this sound to you like a permanently shattered relationship? It sounds to me like a relationship where both sides are engaging in a lot of pre-rehearsed sound and fury, but business as usual predominates.

There is a sense that Pakistan is the AIG of foreign countries, “too big to fail” and too dangerous to abandon. So that explains the reaction on the US side – huffing and puffing and threats of investigations but really nothing of consequence. But if Pakistan – or at least, the vast majority of their powerful officials – has backed up their anger with the United States with a single specific action, I’m not seeing it. The party line from the government is “better not do this again.” The one possible action of retaliation by someone at a high level, the release of the station chief’s name, was seen as so trifling that the station chief isn’t even leaving. The denial of intelligence isn’t happening either.

I wouldn’t trust the words being lobbed back and forth – look at the actions.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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