NEW DELHI: Former Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is apparently taking advice from a former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) number two on how to mend his ties with the United States.

In March, Khan, in the run-up to the no-confidence motion against him, had stated that Washington DC was behind the domestic efforts to remove him. However, in an interview published in the Financial Times on 12 November, Khan announced that he no longer blamed the US for his removal and was willing to work towards a “dignified” relationship with Washington if elected as PM again.

This U-turn by Khan has likely come because of advice by Robert Grenier, a former high-ranking officer of the CIA, who is now retired. Grenier spent 27 years in the CIA.

During these nearly three decades, he headed CIA’s Pakistan and Afghanistan station in Islamabad, a period which coincided with the tumultuous time of 1999-2002. He was later posted as deputy national intelligence officer for “Near East” and South Asia.

Grenier then led the CIA’s basic training facility, “The Farm”. He rose to become the director of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, which handles all of CIA counter-terrorism operations around the globe. Grenier was, earlier, the CIA’s White House representative during the Iraq campaign. He was relieved of his post after a year in the job in February 2006 by then CIA chief Porter Goss, reportedly for not being “aggressive” enough while pursuing Al-Qaeda leaders and its networks.

The Sunday Guardian reached out to Grenier, over a period of two weeks, seeking his views and responses on these Khan related developments, but he chose not to respond. Imran Khan, on 26 November, in another surprising move, while speaking from Rawalpindi, announced that he was calling off the “long march” to Islamabad, which he started in end October, because of the “chaos” and “havoc” which was likely to take place. His decision came hours after Asim Munir, with whom Khan shares a strained relationship, was appointed the new Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army on 24 November, replacing Qamar Javed Bajwa.

The said march was undertaken by Khan to put pressure on the leadership of the ruling party and the men in uniform at General Headquarters, Rawalpindi to bring forward the August 2023 parliamentary elections. Both these big decisions by Khan, which would have been difficult to predict till very recently, and can be attributed to Grenier, are aimed at positioning Khan as a “stable” bankable leader in the eyes of the people who matter in Washington, rather than an eccentric individual as his past actions might have suggested.

Khan’s increasing popularity and the failed assassination attempt on him have increased his chance of coming back to power in August next year. Grenier, due to the change in the political dispensation in Washington, has now got more pull in the Hill, something which he is likely to put to use in the coming days to improve Khan’s perception. He is right now associated with a strategic advisory firm based in Westport, Connecticut.