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2 May 2011

All eyes on Pakistan

Almost no one believes that the ISI could not have known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

By George Eaton

Now that Bin Laden has gone to a watery grave, attention is focused on the role of Pakistan. Almost no one believes that he could have rented a mansion in Abbottabad, within a mile of “Pakistan’s Sandhurst”, without the knowledge of the Pakistani secret service (the notorious ISI).

Ming Campbell and Rory Stewart are among the British politicians who have argued that it is not credible for Pakistan to claim it did know where Bin Laden was hiding.

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Elsewhere, Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan’s national security directorate, has declared: “Does Pakistan want the whole world to believe that the intelligence agency of a nuclear state did not know OBL was there?”

In an apparent attempt to deter suspicion, the ISI claimed joint responsibility for the operation but, as Barack Obama said in his statement, it was carried out by a “small team of Americans”. He did, however, state that “our counterterrorism co-operation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding”.

But, during a White House press briefing on the raid, a senior administration official pointedly noted that “we shared our intelligence on this Bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan”. He added: “That was for one reason and one reason alone: we believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel. In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance.”

In other words, the US simply did not trust Pakistan with the information.

UPDATE: Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s main opposition leader, tells the Guardian: “It is very worrying that after ten years this man could only be captured in an operation that was kept secret from the Pakistani intelligence service. Just a few weeks ago, the Pakistanis were insisting that the US military and intelligence operations should be stopped in Pakistan and their agents should leave the country.”