WASHINGTON: Indicating a new, careful approach towards Pakistan, the White House and the State Department on Friday refused to offer off-the-cuff remarks on the appointment of a new ISI chief in Pakistan, saying that they would comment on it later.
“I’ll have to get back to you on that,” said Principal Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, when asked to comment on Lt-Gen Zaheer ul Islam’s appointment as the new ISI chief announced in Islamabad on Friday.,
At the State Department, spokesperson Victoria Nuland was even more careful when asked for comments. “I will send you to our colleagues in the intelligence agencies,” she said.
“How will this appointment impact US-Pakistan relations?” asked another journalist.
The United States, she said, was looking forward to a parliamentary review Pakistan was holding to reassess the relationship between the two countries.
When journalists said they were more interested in knowing how this appointment may affect the relationship, the State Department official said she could not speak about this particular individual. “We always want our relationship with Pakistan to be on an upward trajectory,” she added.
US ambassador to Pakistan Cameron Munter told a gathering at the Harvard University last month that the CIA-ISI relationship was “still cooperative” despite tensions between the two countries.
Both governments realised that “we have a lot in common on counter-terrorism and we still have a decent relationship with the intelligence”, he said, adding this might change if Gen Pasha announced his retirement.
Commenting on Gen Islam’s appointment, the US media noted on Friday that Mr Pasha’s departure would be “a relief to the American intelligence community which had a working, if frosty, relationship with him”.
The media noted that the relationship between US and Pakistani intelligence agencies got worse after US special forces found and killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad on May 2 last year.
Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan raised suspicions in Washington that the country’s main spy agency had been doing business with, or sheltering, America’s number one enemy, the US media noted.