Pakistani spy "games" are hurting relations with the United States, which is toughening its response to the second outing of an intelligence agent in five months, an official told NBC News on Tuesday. "There is reason to think this is intentional — and it is unacceptable," the official said.
U.S. officials plan to make their objections known, the official told NBC News.
"The U.S. seeks a strong relationship with the Pakistanis, but playing games doesn't help," the official said. "If they spent more time fighting militants on their own soil than framing rhetoric, criticizing the United States, that would be a welcome development."
Tensions between Washington and Islamabad appear to be worsening after the U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil May 2. Lawmakers are questioning Pakistan's counterterrorism cooperation and calling for cuts in U.S. aid as suspicion of that nation's complicity in hiding bin Laden grows.
House Speaker John Boehner said on NBC's "TODAY" show Tuesday that U.S.-Pakistani relations were at a make-or-break moment.
"If we're really going to be allies, if we're going to fight this war together, we need to be in it together all the time," the Ohio Republican said.
He said he still trusts the Pakistani government but concedes that questions linger over "what they knew or didn't know about bin Laden being in their country — their willingness to pursue some terrorists but not others."
Boehner said he thinks that Pakistan on balance "has been a real asset" in the war on terror.
Many Pakistanis view the pre-dawn raid as a national humiliation delivered by a deeply unpopular America that infringed on their sovereignty. Some called for scaling back U.S. counterterrorism efforts in their country.
Sen. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, plans to travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan in the coming days in what would be the first such trip by a senior lawmaker since the bin Laden operation. The Massachusetts Democrat has been a champion of U.S. aid to Pakistan, and the Obama administration has in the past asked him to smooth tensions with Islamabad.
American and Pakistan officials see a developing rift between the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, known as the ISI, with the leaking of the CIA's station chief in Islamabad to the news media, .
Cooperation continuesHowever, both sides say they intend to continue security cooperation.
Another senior U.S. official said the United States was "committed to having this relationship continue and grow" and noted that despite some harsh words, Pakistani officials had not yet taken any steps to curb security cooperation.
But he added: "It's going to be more difficult.... Some of this may be bombast for public consumption, but they certainly feel aggrieved by what's happening and are struggling to figure out what's next." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.
Army Maj. Gen. John Campbelll, who commands the especially volatile area on the Afghan-Pakistan border, speaking by videolink to reporters at the Pentagon in Washington, said the spike in tensions between Islamabad and Washington has not affected the cooperation or joint operations with the Pakistani military.
Campbell said communications were cutoff for a couple days immediately following the surprise raid on bin Laden's compound, but that operations and cooperation are back up and running.
The Pakistani military has been effective in helping reduce the flow of militants from safe havens in Pakistan into Afghanistan, he said.
A State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said Tuesday that the U.S. is "making progress" on its request for contact with three bin Laden widows in Pakistani custody, NBC News reported.
The U.S. is "optimistic ... not on just on this issue, but a range of issues" dealing with bin Laden, said Toner, without offering specifics.
U.S. officials suspect the Islamabad chief's name was provided to Pakistani media by a government official. A U.S. official said the name might be a phonetically correct but misspelled version of the name, which is classified information.
The CIA's Islamabad station chief plays a key role in the country because of the agency's use of drone aircraft to fire missiles at militants in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
A U.S. official said there was "no current plan to bring the CIA station chief home." In the previous case, in December, an intelligence official was brought back to the U.S. from Pakistan after his name was revealed.
Deal deniedAlso , Tuesday, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denied a Thursday account in The Guardian of London Newspaper that his administration struck an agreement with then President George W. Bush year ago to let American special forces kill or capture Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan.
"Pervez Musharraf has seen a media report, and let me make it clear that no such agreement had been signed during his tenure," said Musharraf's spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry. He said there was no oral agreement either.
"The Guardian report is baseless," Chaudhry said.
In an Associated Press interview in January 2002, Gen. Tommy Franks, who headed the U.S. Central Command at the time, disclosed a deal with Pakistan allowing U.S. troops in Afghanistan to cross the border in pursuit of fugitive extremist leaders, including bin Laden. Pakistan denied such a deal existed.
"If there is any such agreement, the Pakistan government should place it in the parliament, and if there was any agreement, the American government should make it public," Chaudhry told the AP from Dubai, where the country's former military ruler is staying.
Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Monday that bin Laden's death in the American raid was "indeed justice done" and rejected allegations that national authorities were either complicit in hiding the al-Qaida chief or incompetent in tracking him down.
The operation took place in Abbottabad, an army town only two and half hour's drive outside the capital. The location of bin Laden's hide-out has sparked suspicion that Pakistani officials knew where the al-Qaida leader was hiding and may have been helping him.
Pakistani-U.S. relations were already fragile after a string of diplomatic disputes over other issues, including an attack by a U.S. drone aircraft in March and controversy over CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who shot dead two Pakistanis in January.
U.S. officials confirmed a claim by Gen. Ashfaq Kayani before the Pakistani parliament Monday that ISI provided the U.S. information that ultimately led to bin Laden, NBC News reported. The officials say, however, the tips from ISI came "very early in the process," and helped track down bin Laden's trusted courier. But the officials emphasize the ISI nor anyone else in the Pakistani government gave the U.S. any information that bin Laden was holed up in a compound in Abbotabad.
President Barack Obama that bin Laden likely had "some sort" of a support network inside Pakistan, but added it would take investigations by Pakistan and the United States to find out just what the nature of that support was.
"We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don't know who or what that support network was," Obama said.