Pakistan is allowing CIA operatives free access to the bin Laden “villa”:
U.S. officials said that a CIA team is expected to arrive at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, within days and that the objective is to scrub the site for items that were not recovered by American commandos during the raid early this month or by Pakistani security forces who secured the facility afterward.
“The assault team was there for only 40 minutes,” a U.S. official said. The aim is to return to the site “to do another, more thorough look.” The official, like others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters.
CIA Deputy Director Michael J. Morell negotiated access to the Abbottabad site during a trip to Islamabad last week, when he met with Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the head of Pakistan’s main intelligence service, officials said.
Pakistan’s agreement is considered an encouraging sign that the two spy services will continue cooperating despite anger in Islamabad about the American operation to kill bin Laden and a series of recent ruptures between the CIA and its Pakistani counterpart.
Pakistan has also agreed to allow the CIA to examine materials that Pakistan’s security forces hauled away from the compound in the days after the raid, officials said.
I am uncharacteristically surprised. The Pakistani street is understood to still be seething over the release of CIA contractor Ray Davis, too long imprisoned for having defended himself against an armed attack. And although the CIA and ISI have worked closely together in the past, the focus always seemed to be on gathering intelligence on mutual threats – on those terrorist groups, in other words, over which the ISI had no control. When “good” Taliban – those who only threatened American and Afghan forces – came back to Pakistan’s frontier to rest and refit, the ISI and Pakistani military seemed to shrug them off, nothing to be done, busy at the moment, regrets. India, you know. And in the wake of the bin Laden raid, the Pakistani government “outed” the CIA’s Islamabad station chief, which I understand is considered an un-collegial thing to do amongst the intel types.
Still, Pakistan treats al Qaeda as a mutual threat, and a recent spate of revenge bombings after the bin Laden raid have claimed the lives of over 130 Pakistanis, including a humiliating assault against a naval base in Karachi. And Pakistan’s warm relationship with China, which it uses strategically as a lever against American withdrawal from the region, seems to lately have hit a bit of a bump. So perhaps this is an acknowledgement that the US and Pakistan still have common enemies, even if we do not share the same circle of friends.
Still, if it was me, I’d go in strapped.