Washington: The US made secret preparations to evacuate its diplomats stationed in Pakistan to India on the night of the raid in May 2011 on the Abbottabad compound where Osama bin Laden was hiding, unnamed US officials have disclosed, while also suggesting that the then CIA station chief in Islamabad was poisoned by ISI in retaliation for the humiliating commando assault that killed the al-Qaida chief.
The startling revelation, reported first in the Washington Post, centers on the months around the Abbottabad raid, Pakistanis twice breached protocol by outing the serving CIA station chief in Islamabad. It was partly out of anger at the US for implicating the ISI and its chief in the Mumbai terrorist attack. The situation was so bad that the first of those station chiefs, Jonathan Bank, was actually spirited out the country by the US in complete violation of diplomatic norms, fearing Pakistani retaliation.
“As then-CIA deputy director Michael Morell finished a series of scheduled meetings in Islamabad, Bank escorted his boss to a waiting agency plane. Then, without any notice to Pakistani authorities and in violation of protocol, Bank stayed aboard as the flight crew closed the door,” the Post said, citing unnamed officials.
Bank was replaced by Mark Kelton, a Russia expert who decided Pakistan could not be trusted and began preaching “Moscow Rules” upon arrival, meaning that the “ISI should be treated as a determined foe rather than a problematic partner.”
He also signed off on many of the Drone attacks. The ISI disliked him so much that its chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha refused to meet him and referred to him as a cadaver.
“On the first night in May , as midnight approached in Pakistan, Kelton, Munter and a senior US military official gathered in a secure CIA room in the embassy to watch transmissions from a stealth drone circling over Abbottabad as the bin Laden raid began,” the Post reported. “The trio had made secret preparations for possible Pakistani reprisals, officials said, drafting evacuation plans that called for employees at scattered US diplomatic sites to flee across the border into India or be scooped up by the USS Carl Vinson from the Karachi shore.”
Soon after the raid, the Post said, Kelton began to experience severe stomach pains. It became so severe that he had to be evacuated after only seven months in his post even as the Pakistanis leaked his name in the media. Although Kelton recovered after he had abdominal surgery on this return to the U.S and is now retired from the CIA, “agency officials continue to think that it is plausible -if not provable -that Kelton’s sudden illness was somehow orchestrated by the ISI,” the paper wrote.