Did Pakistan poison a senior CIA official?

The CIA station chief — the agency’s top operative in Pakistan — was abruptly pulled from the country in 2011 amid suspicions that he has been poisoned by the Pakistani ISI.

Current and former US officials believe that CIA station chief, Mark Kelton, may have been poisoned by the Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) after the 2011 raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, the Washington Post reports.

Following the US military raid on a Pakistani compound, a raid that local officials neither knew of nor signed off on, now-retired Pakistan station chief, Mark Kelton became seriously ill. Within two months and after several unsuccessful treatment-seeking trips outside of Pakistan, Kelton’s illness had become so severe that he was pulled from the country.

Following retirement and surgery, Mr. Kelton recovered. But some CIA officials continue to believe his sudden and still-unexplained illness may have been the result of an ISI-orchestrated poisoning, reports Greg Miller of the Washington Post

While US officials acknowledged that the alleged poisoning was never proven, other intelligence representatives confirmed that connections have been found between the ISI and multiple plots against individuals considered opponents to the Pakistani agency; including journalists and diplomats.

Officials also acknowledge that the ISI harbored strong animosity towards Kelton. The ISI chief at the time, Ahmed Shuja Pasha, consistently refused to speak with the CIA station chief and routinely referred to him as “the cadaver” as opposed to his actual name, the Post reported.

While Pakistan has officially been considered an ally in US operations in the Middle East, US officials have emphasized that for years leading to Kelton’s tenure in Islamabad, diplomatic relations had been deteriorating with connections found between the ISI and terrorist attacks, disguised executions, and the tipping off of individuals targeted in US drone strikes.

In May 2011 when 24 US Navy SEALs descended upon the highly-fortified compound in Abbottabad Pakistan, local officials had not been notified. By the time the Pakistani air force had scrambled jets to respond to the situation, the SEALs had found and executed Bin Laden, combed the site for intelligence material and DNA samples, and had exited, safely crossing the border back into Afghanistan.

In Pakistan, as the midnight raid approached, military and CIA officials — including Kelton — gathered in a secure room within the US embassy to follow transmissions from a stealth drone over the compound under assault. 

Within two months of the covert operation, Kelton had been removed from Pakistan under questionable circumstances.

The alleged poisoning of a station chief is by no means an isolated incident between the ISI and the CIA. Recently declassified documents published in April appear to imply that ISI personnel paid a designated terrorist organization $200,000 for the execution of one of the deadliest attacks against the CIA in agency history — the 2009 suicide bombing at Camp Chapman in Khost, Afghanistan. Nine died, including seven Americans. 

A document from January 2010 showed that the head of the Haqqani network – a group allied with the Taliban – had met with ISI officials twice prior to the bombing and the network leader and another individual were paid $200,000. 

Though a US intelligence official claims the information is not consistent with other knowledge of the attack at Camp Chapman, Pakistan’s embassy in Washington had no immediate comment on the released cables, reported Bradley Klapper of the Associated Press in April.

Similarly, regarding the poisoning allegations brought up through the new report, the Pakistani Embassy Spokesman Nadeem Hotiana stated, “Obviously the story is fictional, not worthy of comment. We reject the insinuations implied in the allegations.”

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