No sign Pakistan knew bin Laden whereabouts: U.S.

WASHINGTON Wed May 18, 2011 7:44pm EDT

1 of 2. A general view of houses from a hilltop in Abbottabad, May 16, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Akhtar Soomro

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Top U.S. defense officials said on Wednesday there was no evidence Pakistan's leadership was aware Osama bin Laden was in their country before a U.S. military raid killed him, and they cautioned against punitive action against Islamabad over the incident.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates told a Pentagon news conference he had seen "no evidence at all" that senior Pakistani leaders knew the al Qaeda chief's whereabouts before the raid and said "in fact, I've seen some evidence to the contrary."

Bin Laden was killed earlier this month in a compound in Abbottabad, a garrison town near the Pakistani capital. The incident deeply embarrassed Pakistan's military and spy agencies and led to calls by members of the U.S. Congress for a tougher approach toward the country.

But Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both said the raid had cost Pakistan dearly and cautioned against any action that could harm relations or interrupt the flow of U.S. aid.

"If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price. I've been humiliated. I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity," Gates said. "And I think we have to ... recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid."

"I don't think we should underestimate the humbling experience that this is," Mullen said, stressing the "internal soul-searching" underway in the Pakistani military. "Their image has been tarnished ... and they care a lot about that. They're a very proud military."

Gates said Pakistani officials indicated a willingness to go after al Qaeda and Afghan insurgent leaders themselves and had warned the United States against trying another raid on their territory similar to the bin Laden assault.


"I think this provides us an opportunity, and I think we ought to take them up on that," Gates said, adding that it would give Pakistan a chance to address the "frustration and the skepticism" over the relationship being expressed in the U.S. Congress.

"It is their desire now to do this themselves. And I think they certainly understand the importance of it," Mullen said.

But he added that "we all need to make sure that they understand very clearly that this priority isn't going to go away and that these safe havens ... for these leaders have to be eliminated."

Mullen said General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, Pakistan's chief of army staff, had committed in the past to going after leaders of the Haqqani network, one of the insurgent groups fighting in Afghanistan.

He said the raid had created difficulties for Pakistan's military, and while Kayani had indicated a desire to keep the relationship going "I think we both recognize it's going through a very difficult time right now."

"I think we need to give them some time and space to work on some of the internal challenges that came out of this," he said.

Mullen cautioned against the United States taking action that could worsen relations and interrupt the flow of U.S. aid to Pakistan, such as linking funding to the handover of specific leaders.

"I think the region continues to be critical and our relationship continues to be critical," he said. "I think it would be a really significantly negative outcome if the relationship got broken."

"If the senior leadership in Pakistan didn't know (about bin Laden)," Gates added, "it's hard to hold them accountable for it."

(Additional reporting by Tabassum Zakaria; Editing by Paul Simao and Todd Eastham)

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Comments (5)
wallydragon wrote:
Pakistan has American blood on its hands. How many more terror leaders are the Pakistan ISI hiding? Time to stop putting billions of American tax dollars into Pakistan for nothing. India should be America’s new best friend.

May 18, 2011 1:50pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
lezah2 wrote:
They knew he was dead…too bad our WH team didn’t know that other people in the world also knew he was dead. Busted. Of course Bush knew and refused to play along with the Obama-created farce. They were probably afraid someone like wikileaks would eventually find the info and publish it and they would have lost a PR opportunity. It will backfire on him despite the wonderful press he’s been getting from the msm. I don’t normally believe much that Russia has to say about the US but this does sound reasonable. I’m sure bin laden’s group knew but decided it was better press for them if the US killed him unfairly than dying alone as a result of a severe illness…they get PR also.

May 18, 2011 2:03pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
SportsCar39 wrote:
America knows that Pakistan knew exactly where Bin Laden was staying. America is just trying to keep it from Pakistan because they need the roads threw Pakistan for supplies and the Airspace to attack Al Qeada and the Taliban on the Pakistan side and also in Afganistan. Come on, If a world known terroist was staying right next to any other countries top Millitary trainning place (Simmlar to U.S. West Point)wouldn’t you think that countries Millitary base would know who there neighbor was, Bin Laden and the Pakistan army probably had coffee together each morning while watching TV about how America and NATO was trying to find Bin Laden. We are giving Pakistan billions of our tax dollars while they are allowing terrorist to trian on there soil in order to prepare to kill American,NATO,and Afgan soldiers. Some of those tax dollars could be going to India, a real friend of America. There must be other supply routes and ways for our jets and bomber to get into Afganistan. Once this was done then America could put Pakistan on there Black List as a country that trains terrorist.

May 18, 2011 5:09pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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