In response to requests from Pakistan's premiere intelligence service, the Central Intelligence Agency is considering sharing more information about its operatives inside Pakistan but has refused to reveal drone targets before CIA can strike them, according to a U.S. official and two Pakistani officials.
The possible change to a complex, difficult relationship between the intelligence agencies would be designed to heal a rift that threatened operations inside Pakistan that are among the most important in the world to finding senior al Qaeda and Taliban commanders.
The give-and-take occurred during a two hour and 25 minute conversation between CIA Director Leon Panetta and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Ahmed Shuja Pasha in a rare meeting in CIA headquarters Monday, followed by a lunch with Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen.
In a sign the CIA has no intention of stopping the drone campaign, at least six CIA missiles slammed into a Taliban safe haven in Pakistan this morning, less than two days after the meeting.
The missiles, delivered by at least two unmanned drones piloted from the United States, killed Afghan and Arab fighters in the same house where a senior al Qaeda official was killed in 2003, according to local residents.
A Pakistani military official seemed put off by the strike, calling it a "show of strength" by the CIA. The prime minister criticized the strike in parliament, and in a press release, the Pakistani foreign ministry said the foreign secretary had "lodged a strong protest with the US ambassador."
Pakistani military officials said that in the meeting with Panetta, Pasha pushed for a formal "framework of engagement" that would restrict the operations CIA agents are allowed to pursue on the ground inside Pakistani borders.
That desire came to a head in January when CIA contractor Raymond Davis killed two people who, according to four Pakistani officials, were working for the ISI in Lahore. The ISI publicly claimed that it did not know who Davis was -- although three Pakistani government officials strongly deny that claim – and then used the incident as a way to try and convince the CIA to reveal all of its agents in Pakistan, some of whom the ISI in fact did not know, according to Pakistani officials.
The ISI was also angered by Davis' actions because the agency thought Davis had "crossed a red line," in the words of one Pakistani military official, who said Davis had been investigating the Punjab-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. (U.S. officials say the group, which translates to "Army of the Pure," was responsible for the attack on Mumbai in 2008 and has longstanding ties to the ISI.)
Pasha's request to create a new framework is seen as an attempt to solve both problems: make sure the ISI doesn't lose track of any more CIA agents, and make sure CIA agents don't cross any more "red lines," Pakistani officials said. One of the officials said the ISI is concerned with approximately three dozen U.S. agents.
But the U.S. hasn't agreed.
"The Pakistanis have put these ideas on the table, and the U.S. is considering them as part of efforts to work through their recent concerns," said a U.S. official.
The Pakistani military official said until the CIA agrees to a new framework, the two agencies' ability to work together on joint operations will be limited.