ISLAMABAD — The CIA yanked its top spy out of Pakistan after his cover was blown and his life threatened, and 54 suspected militants were killed in a US drone missile attack Friday in stark new signs of the troubled relationship between mistrustful allies locked in a war on terror groups.
The CIA's decision to remove its Islamabad station chief comes at a pivotal moment. The Obama administration is pressing Pakistan to rid its lawless northwest frontier of militants, even as public outcry in the country has intensified against the US spy agency's unacknowledged drone war.
The station chief's outing has spurred questions whether Pakistan's spy service might have leaked the information. The name emerged publicly from a Pakistani man who has threatened to sue the CIA over the deaths of his son and brother in a 2009 drone missile strike. A lawsuit filed last month in New York City in connection with the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, India, also may have raised tensions, by naming Pakistan's intelligence chief as a defendant.
A Pakistani intelligence officer said the country's intelligence service knew the identity of the station chief, but had "no clue" how the name was leaked. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity because his agency, like many around the world, does not allow its operatives to be named in the media.
CIA airstrikes in Pakistan from unmanned aircraft have eliminated terrorist leaders but also have led to accusations that the strikes kill innocent civilians. The US does not acknowledge the missile attacks, but there have been more than 110 this year — more than double last year's total.