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US divided over ties with Pakistan

Two weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration remains uncertain and divided over the future of its relationship with Pakistan, according to senior US officials. Karen DeYoung and Karin Brulliard report.

world Updated: May 16, 2011 00:15 IST

Two weeks after the death of Osama bin Laden, the Obama administration remains uncertain and divided over the future of its relationship with Pakistan, according to senior US officials.

The discovery of the al Qaeda leader in a city near Pakistan's capital has pushed many in the administration beyond any willingness to tolerate Pakistan's ambiguous connections with extremist groups. After years of ineffective American warnings, many US officials are concluding that a change in policy is long overdue.

Those warnings are detailed in a series of contemporaneous written accounts, obtained by The Washington Post, chronicling three years of often-contentious meetings involving top officials of both countries. Confirmed by US and Pakistani participants, the exchanges portray a circular debate in which the United States repeatedly said it had irrefutable proof of ties between Pakistani military and intelligence officials and the Afghan Taliban and other insurgents, and warned that Pakistani refusal to act against them would exact a cost.

US officials have said they have no evidence top Pakistani military or civilian leaders were aware of bin Laden's location or authorized any official support, but his residence within shouting distance of Pakistani military installations has brought relations to a crisis point.

Some officials, particularly in the White House, have advocated strong reprisals, especially if Pakistan continues to refuse access to materials left behind by US commandos who scooped up all the paper and computer drives they could carry during their deadly 40-minute raid on bin Laden's compound.

"You can't continue business as usual," said one of several senior administration officials who discussed the sensitive issue only on the condition of anonymity. "You have to somehow convey to the Pakistanis that they've arrived at a big choice."

(In Exclusive Partnership with The Washington Post)