WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD - The Obama administration took some heat off Pakistan on Sunday, saying it had no evidence that Islamabad knew Osama bin Laden was living in the country before he was killed by US commandos in a garrison town a short drive from the capital.
Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani is scheduled to "take the nation into confidence" in parliament on Monday, his first statement to the people more than a week after the attack embarrassed the country and raised fears of a new rift between Islamabad and Washington.
US: Bin Laden compound was al-Qaida command center
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Suspicion has deepened that Pakistan's pervasive Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, which has a long history of contacts with militant groups, may have had ties with the al-Qaida leader - or that some of its agents did.
Pakistan has dismissed such suggestions and says it has paid the highest
price in human life and money supporting the U.S. war on militancy
launched after bin Laden's followers staged the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks
on the United States.
The U.S. national security adviser said that while bin Laden's residence
for several years in a compound in Abbottabad, 30 miles (50 km) north
of Islamabad, "needs to be investigated," there was nothing to suggest
the government or security establishment knew he was there.
"I can tell you directly that I've not seen evidence that would tell us
that the political, the military, or the intelligence leadership had
foreknowledge of bin Laden," Tom Donilon told NBC's "Meet the Press"
when asked if Pakistan was guilty of harboring the al-Qaida leader.
"How could this have happened in Pakistan?" Donilon said. "We need to
investigate it. We need to work with the Pakistanis. And we're pressing
the Pakistanis on this investigation."
Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, told ABC's
"This Week" his government would act on the results of the
"And heads will roll, once the investigation has been completed. Now, if
those heads are rolled on account of incompetence, we will share that
information with you. And if, God forbid, somebody's complicity is
discovered, there will be zero tolerance for that, as well."
Donilon said Pakistani officials also needed to provide U.S authorities
with intelligence they had gathered from the compound where bin Laden
was killed, and access to his three wives who are in Pakistani custody.
But he added that despite difficulties in the U.S.-Pakistani
relationship, "We've also had to work very closely with Pakistan in our
counter-terror efforts. More terrorists and extremists have been
captured or killed in Pakistan than anyplace else."
Pakistani security officials reacted with skepticism to a U.S. assertion
that bin Laden was actively engaged in directing his far-flung network
from his compound in Abbottabad where he was killed on May 2.
Washington has said that, based on a trove of documents the size of a
small college library and computer equipment seized in the raid, bin
Laden's hideout was an "active command and control center" for al Qaeda
where he was involved in plotting future attacks on the United States.
Pakistani officials said the fact that there was no internet connection
or even telephone line into the compound where the world's most-wanted
man was hiding raised doubts about his centrality to al-Qaida.
"It sounds ridiculous," said a senior Pakistani intelligence official. "It doesn't sound like he was running a terror network."
Analysts have long maintained that, years before bin Laden's death,
al-Qaida had fragmented into a decentralized group that operated
tactically without him.
"It's bullshit," said a senior Pakistani security official, when quizzed
on a U.S. intelligence official's assertion that bin Laden had been
"active in operational planning and in driving tactical decisions" of
the Islamist militant group from his hideout.
On Saturday, the White House released five video clips of bin Laden
taken from the compound, most of them showing the al-Qaida leader, his
beard dyed black, evidently rehearsing the video-taped speeches he
sometimes distributed to his followers.
None of the videos was released with sound. A U.S. intelligence official
said it had been removed because the United States did not want to
transmit bin Laden's propaganda. But he said they contained the usual
criticism of the United States as well as capitalism.
While several video segments showed him rehearsing, one showed an aging
and gray-bearded bin Laden in a scruffy room, wrapped in a blanket and
wearing a ski cap while watching videotapes of himself.
"This compound in Abbottabad was an active command and control center
for al-Qaida's top leader and it's clear ... that he was not just a
strategic thinker for the group," the U.S. intelligence official said in
Washington. "He was active in operational planning and in driving
Donilon reiterated the assertion on Sunday talk shows, telling NBC:
"Osama bin Laden ...had an operational and strategic direction role," in
The dueling narratives of bin Laden reflect both Washington's and
Islamabad's interests in peddling their own versions of bin Laden's
hidden life behind the walls of his compound.
Stressing bin Laden's weakness makes his discovery just a few minutes'
walk from a military academy less embarrassing for Pakistan, but playing
up his importance makes the U.S. operation all the more victorious.
The competing claims came as senior Pakistani officials said bin Laden
may have lived in Pakistan for more than seven years before he was shot
One of bin Laden's widows, Amal Ahmed Abdulfattah, told investigators
bin Laden and his family had spent five years in Abbottabad.
Abdulfattah, along with two other wives and several children, were among
15 or 16 people detained by Pakistani authorities at the compound after
She said that before Abbottabad, bin Laden had stayed in a nearby village for nearly two-and-a-half years.
Residents of the village of Chak Shah Mohammad, at the end of a bumpy
road flanked by fields of wheat, were both puzzled and a little scared
to find themselves at the focus of the investigation.
"Everyone in the village knows when a cow has a calf so how could bin
Laden and his family hide here?" Mohammad Naseer, a 65-year-old retired
soldier, said as he took a break from working his fields. "I can say for
sure he wasn't here."
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