The revelation that Osama bin Laden was hiding in a oversized compound in a posh Islamabad suburb, and not some remote mountain cave, has sparked questions about whether Pakistani authorities knew of his sanctuary.
There was a telling clue just 10 days ago that the Obama administration was becoming increasingly frustrated with Pakistan’s lack of cooperation. And it looms even larger now that we know the U.S. military was in the advanced stages of planning a helicopter raid on the suspected bin Laden compound—one that was conducted Sunday without the knowledge of Pakistani officials.
During a visit to Islamabad in late April, Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dropped the usual diplomatic niceties. Perhaps mindful that his term as the nation’s top military officer will expire this fall, Mullen vented his frustration. He charged that Pakistan's spy agency, ISI, was supporting and aiding the Haqqani network, a militant group closely allied with the Taliban. U.S. officials have long blamed the Haqqani organization for many of the American deaths in Afghanistan but rarely say so publicly.
In an interview with a Pakistani newspaper, Mullen said Pakistan’s relationship with the Haqqani network was “at the core” of the difficulties between the two countries. He told another paper that “it is the Haqqani network which is killing Americans across the border.” And in a local television interview, Mullen said: “The ISI has a long-standing relationship with the Haqqani network, that doesn't mean everybody in the ISI but it's there ... I believe over time that has got to change.”
After the admiral held what was described as a tense meeting with Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s top Army officer, Kayani said in a statement that he "strongly rejects negative propaganda” about “Pakistan not doing enough."
Those denials now sound a bit hollow, considering that the bin Laden compound was a short distance from Pakistan’s military academy. In fact, CIA Director Leon Panetta tells Time magazine: “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets.”
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine told NBC that Pakistan is “playing a double game…It is very difficult for me to understand how this huge compound could be built in a city just an hour north of the capital of the Pakistan, in a city that contained military installations, including the Pakistani military academy, and that it did not arouse tremendous suspicions.”
Pakistan’s president, Asif Ali Zardari, has come up with a questionable strategy: blaming the media. The “baseless speculation” that his government knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts, he said, “may make exciting cable television” but is not true.
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