Slain al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden lived in a small village close to the Abbotabad highway for more than two years before moving into a larger compound in the Pakistani garrison town in 2005, according to the dreaded terrorist's Yemeni wife who is now in custody.
The woman told investigators that bin Laden lived with his family for nearly two-and-a-half years in the village of Chak Shah Mohammad, a little more than a mile southeast of the town of Haripur, on the main Abbottabad highway, the New York Times reported quoting two unnamed Pakistani officials.
One of the officials pointed out that this meant that bin Laden had moved from the rugged terrains of tribal villages to the relatively urban settings sometime in 2003. The presence of Pakistan's military academy in Abbottabad made several observers to suggest that it was impossible for the army or intelligence officials not to know that bin Laden was hiding in the vicinity.
"If he was there since 2005, that is too long a time for local police and intelligence not to know," Hassan Abbas, a former Pakistani official now teaching at Columbia University, told NYT. The newspaper pointed out that the Obama administration had stopped short of formally accusing Pakistan of some form of complicity in bin Laden's concealment for over a decade. The Times reported that the Obama administration has demanded the names of some of the top intelligence operatives in Pakistan to determine whether they had contact with bin Laden or his agents.
"At best, it was willful blindness on the part of the ISI," said Art Keller a former CIA official. "Willful blindness is a survival mechanism in Pakistan." In particular, American officials have demanded information on what is known as the ISI's directorate, which has worked closely with militants since the days of the fight against the Soviet army in Afghanistan. "It's hard to believe that (Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Parvez) Kayani and (ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja) Pasha actually knew that bin Laden was there," a senior administration official said.
The official, however, said "there are degrees of knowing, and it wouldn't surprise me if we find out that someone close to Pasha knew."