Foreign Policy Blogs

Pakistan And The Bin Laden Killing

One of the most important dimensions of this development is the extent to which Pakistan was involved, both in harboring bin Laden and in executing the operation that killed him.  The Pakistan section of Obama’s Sunday night speech jumped out at me:

But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates.

The bin Laden killing comes at a time of great U.S.-Pakistani tension.  As I wrote a couple weeks ago, Pakistan has demanded that the United States halt drone attacks in Pakistani territory.  Also, as Morgan Roach of the FPA U.S. Diplomacy blog noted last week, Pakistan has pressed Karzai to turn away from the United States and move toward Pakistan and China.  And yet, Pakistani officials have been claiming that Pakistani cooperation was essential in the bin Laden operation.  From Reuters:

“Without our involvement, this operation would not have succeeded,” one Pakistani official source said.

“Was it possible without our help? No,” another Pakistani security official said. “It was a joint intelligence operation.”

Strange, then, as noted in the same Reuters article, that a senior U.S. official stated:

We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan. That was for one reason and one reason alone: We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel.

To what extent was Pakistan involved in the operation?  To what extent was Pakistan involved in harboring bin Laden?  He was, after all, living in a massive compound in the same city as a Pakistani military base and a third of a mile from the military academy.  The United States should re-evaluate its Pakistan relationship says FPA India blogger, Manasi Kakatkar-Kulkarni.  Certainly true but certainly not new (see here, here, here, here, and here, for example).