WASHINGTON – A Pakistani political party revealed on Wednesday what it said was the name of the CIA’s highest-ranking officer in the country in protest of a CIA drone strike last week that killed as many as six people and prompted allegations that the agency had attacked a religious school.
The disclosure follows two previous instances in which the identity of a CIA station chief in Islamabad has been exposed, underscoring the constant friction that has come to characterize the two countries’ counterterrorism partnership.
The purported name of the current station chief was included in a letter urging Pakistani police in the district where the latest drone strike occurred to pursue charges against CIA officers in the country as well as the agency’s director, John Brennan.
The letter accuses the agency of “committing murder and waging war against Pakistan,” and of carrying out a drone attack in the town of Tal that “killed and injured a large number of those present including children.”
The letter was signed by a senior official of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the leading political party in the nation’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. As part of its opposition to U.S. drone strikes, the party also is involved in an effort to block NATO supply routes through Khyber to U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party is led by cricket star Imran Khan, who has been an especially vocal critic of drone strikes.
A CIA spokesman declined to comment on the letter or address whether the name the party cited was accurate. The Washington Post generally does not publish the names of clandestine CIA officers, who use false or “cover” identities in part to protect themselves and their families.
U.S. officials acknowledged last week that a U.S. drone strike had targeted militants associated with the so-called Haqqani network, which has launched dozens of attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The strike was one of only a handful over the past decade that have taken place outside Pakistan’s tribal belt, a largely self-governed region along the border with Afghanistan. U.S. officials insisted that the missile attack last week struck a militant compound, not a nearby madrassa, and that no civilians were harmed.
The pace of the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan has slowed considerably this year, but the intermittent strikes continue to inflame anti-American sentiment across the country. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif renewed his push for an end to drone strikes during a visit to Washington last month.
The names of two previous CIA station chiefs in Islamabad were exposed during a six-month stretch three years ago. In one case, the officer became a target of death threats after his cover was blown, forcing the agency to rush him out of the country.
As the top CIA representative in Pakistan’s capital, the station chief has significant sway over drone strikes and serves as the main point of contact with Pakistan’s spy service, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
Senior Pakistani officials have secretly approved the CIA’s drone program for years, and the ISI at times has been closely involved in identifying targets. But CIA officials also have accused elements of the ISI of seeking to undermine that partnership and of secretly providing the names of CIA officers to opposition groups.