ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's government will extend the term of the country's powerful spy chief, the CIA's main partner in the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban and a major player in the country's policies toward Afghanistan, an official said Saturday.
Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha has headed the Inter Services Intelligence, or the ISI, since 2008.
The ISI and the army — rather than the civilian government — formulate Pakistan's foreign and defense policies, especially concerning Afghanistan and India. The agency has significant influence over domestic political developments.
Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar told reporters Pasha would stay on as ISI chief when his term expires March 18, but he did not say how long the extension would be. Media reports in recent days suggested he will get a one or two-year extension.
Pasha is believed to have a good relationship with the CIA, and under his leadership the country has taken the fight to Islamist militants linked to al-Qaida and the Taliban. But Pakistan's perceived differing strategic interests, especially over the future of Afghanistan, cause frequent tensions between the two spy agencies.
Ties have hit a low since the arrest of a CIA contractor in eastern Pakistan in January after he shot and killed two Pakistanis. The contractor remains in jail despite Washington's insistence he must be freed. The ISI has criticized alleged CIA covert operations in the country.
Last year, Pakistan gave an unprecedented three-year extension to army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, an ally of Pasha.
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