After getting rid of Osama bin Laden, the US finds itself facing a new enemy: Pakistan. No one here believes the Pakistanis didn’t know the world’s most wanted terrorist lived a short distance from their premier military academy.
US President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism chief John Brennan refused to give his country’s top anti-terror ally a clean chit, despite statements emerging out of Pakistan claiming they — as a trusted partner — knew of the raid.
“We are looking right now at how he (bin Laden) was able to hold out there (in Pakistan) for so long, and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there,” Brennan said at a briefing.
US lawmakers are raising questions, too. Republican senator Bob Corker has written to secretary of state Hillary Clinton, asking for details — “whether or not the Pakistanis had knowledge that he was there and did not share that knowledge”. Two other senators — Republican Ted Poe and Democrat Frank Lautenberg — want further aid to Pakistan linked to its role.
There seemed no takers here for Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari’s claim that Islamabad wasn’t aware of bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad, 60 km from Islamabad.
“Some in the US press have suggested that Pakistan lacked vitality in its pursuit of terrorism, or worse yet, that we were disingenuous and actually protected the terrorists we claimed to be pursuing. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn't reflect facts,” Zardari said in Abbottabad on Tuesday.”
Bin Laden was killed with his son and his two protectors on Sunday by a team of 79 US Navy Seals in Abbottabad. Americans are convinced Pakistan knew.
Relations between the two countries have been edgy already, over the CIA’s drone attacks and one of its operatives killing two Pakistanis. And now, the revelation that Bin Laden was not hiding in the caves of the ungovernable Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan.
“It’s worth bearing in mind that he was more or less hiding in plain sight,” said an intelligence officer at the department of defence.
Experts and administration officials mention previous instances in which intelligence shared with Pakistan was found to have travelled to the Taliban and even Bin Laden. Pakistan has few friends here today. In fact, it is the new enemy.