Pakistan Claims It Did Its Part To Catch Bin Laden

The question of how the world's most wanted man could've hidden in plain sight in Pakistan continues to be asked.

Pakistan’s government  is apparently a slightly upset that we nabbed Osama bin Laden while he was staying at his Abbottabad safe house:

Pakistan says it is deeply concerned over what it said was an “unauthorized” American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The government statement Tuesday said the raid should not serve as a precedent for future U.S. actions in the country.

Somewhat paradoxically, Pakistan’s President said today in The Washington Post that his country did all it could to bring bin Laden to justice:

Pakistan, perhaps the world’s greatest victim of terrorism, joins the other targets of al-Qaeda — the people of the United States, Britain, Spain, Indonesia, Afghanistan, Turkey, Yemen, Kenya, Tanzania, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Algeria — in our satisfaction that the source of the greatest evil of the new millennium has been silenced, and his victims given justice. He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone.

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life.

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. Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect fact. Pakistan had as much reason to despise al-Qaeda as any nation. The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan’s war as as it is America’s. And though it may have started with bin Laden, the forces of modernity and moderation remain under serious threat.

Despite Zadardi’s denials, it’s quite clear that this entire mission was executed in secrecy because the United States didn’t trust Pakistan:

In his first interview since commanding the mission to kill Osama bin Laden, CIA chief Leon Panetta tells TIME that U.S. officials feared that Pakistan could have undermined the operation by leaking word to its targets. Long before Panetta ordered Vice Admiral William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, to undertake the mission at 1:22 p.m. on Friday, the CIA had been gaming out how to structure the raid. Months prior, the U.S. had considered expanding the assault to include coordination with other countries, notably Pakistan. But the CIA ruled out participating with its nominal South Asian ally early on because “it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission. They might alert the targets,” Panetta says


The aftermath of the mission has been productive. The U.S. collected an “impressive amount” of material from bin Laden’s compound, including computers and other electronics, Panetta says. Panetta has set up a task force to act on the fresh intelligence. Intelligence reporting suggests that one of bin Laden’s wives who survived the attack has said the family had been living at the compound since 2005, a source tells TIME.

That will raise questions about the Pakistani government’s possible awareness of bin Laden’s location in recent years.

Indeed it will. There are already calls for investigations of Pakistan’s involvement or knowledge in bin Laden’s seclusion coming from the White House and all sides in Congress, which is likely one of the reasons that Pakistan’s government is looking to hire K Street lobbyists to plead its case on Capitol Hill.

As I noted yesterday the suggestion that someone of authority in Pakistan had no idea that Osama bin Laden was holed up in a house a half mile from the country’s premier military academy simply strains credulity. Is it possible they didn’t? Yes, I suppose so, but then that would make this observation by Dave Schuler pretty much spot-on:

To my eye the most benign explanation for an inability of Pakistan’s intelligence apparatus to locate Bin Laden there is that they weren’t looking very hard. Other possible explanations are incompetence or that the ISI was deliberately conniving to protect him. Questions are bound to be asked.

Which of course leads one to ask how you can consider a nation an ally when the only explanations for its behavior are incompetence, lack of concern over a terrorist in their midst, or active cooperation with that terrorist by some members of the government.



FILED UNDER: Asia, National Security, Terrorism, World Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Wiley Stoner says:

    Maybe, Doug, if you had a greater grasp of the nature of the goverment and the governed as well as who is not governed in Pakistan, you might gain a bit more understanding of complex problems that exist in that country. Maybe, had you listened to Donald Rumsfeld explain you would have had edification on this topic. But why would you listen to a man with the experience and knowledge Rumsfeld has? After all, his resume of service to this nation pails compared to yours.

  2. You mean the Donald Rumsfeld who ignored the advice of his generals about preparing for a post-war Iraq?

  3. legion says:

    No, the other Donald Rumsfeld – the one leading the Defense Department in an entire administration that didn’t know the difference between Sunni and Shia.

  4. Michael Reynolds says:

    The only way this could look worse for Pakistan is if they had found Bin Laden hiding in Zadardi’s ass. There is zero chance they didn’t know where OBL was.

  5. Much of the speculation and many of the accusations act as though Pakistan’s government is monolithic, as opposed to riven with tribal and political factions. I don’t doubt that someone at some level of authority knew all along, but it is really hard from this distance to believe that everyone in authority knew. If that was even remotely close to true then they collectively did the best job in the history of the universe of actually keeping a secret.

  6. peterh says:

    “Maybe, had you listened to Donald Rumsfeld explain you would have had edification on this topic”

    Here’s the short version of Rummy’s edification on any topic: there are knowns and there are unknowns……..

  7. legion says:

    Exactly. It’s not that Pakistan is working against our interests, or is some kind of enemy of the US, but all of those factions are much more invested in the well-being of their clan or tribe than “Pakistan” per se; there’s no way to gauge the actual motivation or loyalty of anyone in the Pakistan gov’t from day to day, and that’s from the top on down.

  8. John Burgess says:

    @Legion: I’ll agree with your second comment, but take exception to your first. I was part of that ‘Administration’–and all the others dating back to Carter. I certainly knew the difference between Sunni and Shi’a. I also know that US embassies in the Middle East–all representing the ‘Administration’–were screaming that plans for Iraq were incomplete if they didn’t include instant rebuilding on the tail of military actions. Let’s agree that certain parts of the Administration weren’t hearing what they didn’t want to hear; that they wanted success on the cheap.

  9. Davebo says:

    Good point Mr. Burgess.

    It’s why we say that elections have consequences.

    Despite the institutional knowledge of non political appointees, We have to deal with those pesky things we know, things we don’t know, and things we don’t know that we don’t know.

    You go to war with the political cronies you have, not those you’d like to have. And it appears given the past few days that shame is not an option.

  10. legion says:

    No argument here – I intended the term Administration to denote the senior political yahoos who were, sometimes by their own admission, deeply uninterested in understanding even the most basic concepts behind what they were doing. My indictment is that they actively ignored the advice, experience, and common sense of the actual professional gov’t employees you describe.

    If I had a dime for every blood vessel I’ve burst when someone has said “nobody could have predicted…” over the last decade…

  11. Of course they did their part to catch him. Think how much harder the operation would have been if ISI had built OBL’s mansion in a remote location instead of a convenienty accessible suburb!

  12. anjin-san says:

    Let’s agree that certain parts of the Administration weren’t hearing what they didn’t want to hear; that they wanted success on the cheap.

    Sounds about right. They bought into their own BS about creating reality as they went along – something we still see a lot of on the right.

  13. anjin-san says:

    In other news, Sarah Palin is still stupid:

  14. Rob in CT says:

    Seems to me that Pakistan is a very disfunctional state. My knowledge about Pakistan is very limited, but as I understand it the ISI is quite capable of doing its own thing, w/o others in the government knowing, approving, etc. The Military wields great power (I’m ignorant as to whether one should include “the Military” and “the ISI” as one group or consider them separate).

    So who know what? I have no idea. But this sure doesn’t look or smell right, does it?