Pakistan’s president yesterday denied suggestions that his government may have sheltered Osama bin Laden but admitted that his security forces were left out of a U.S. operation to kill the al Qaeda chief.
The revelation that bin Laden had holed up in the military garrison town of Abbottabad prompted U.S. lawmakers to demand a review of the billions of dollars in aid Washington gives to Pakistan.
“Some in the U.S. 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,” Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari wrote. “Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact.”
It was the first substantive public comment by any Pakistani leader on the airborne raid by U.S. special forces on bin Laden’s compound on Monday that brought to an end a long manhunt for bin Laden.
Pakistan has faced enormous international scrutiny since bin Laden was killed, with questions over whether its military and intelligence agencies were too incompetent to catch him, or knew all along where he was hiding and even whether they had been complicit.
Reflecting strained U.S.-Pakistani relations Islamabad was kept in the dark about the raid until after all U.S. aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace.
CIA chief: We didn’t trust the Pakistanis
WASHINGTON – U.S. officials were concerned that Pakistan could jeopardize the bin Laden operation and “might alert the targets,’” CIA Director Leon Panetta said.
Panetta said his aides had 60 to 80 percent confidence that bin Laden was in the compound.
The CIA ruled out working with Pakistan on the raid because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets,” Panetta said.
Panetta said he told President Barack Obama: “If I thought delaying this could in fact produce better intelligence that would be one thing. But because of the nature of the security at the compound, we’re probably at a point where we’ve got the best intelligence we can get.”