Americans query Pakistan's role in war on terror
WASHINGTON (PAN): Vindicating President Hamid Karzai’s assertion that Pakistan is the nerve centre of terrorism, top US officials, congressional leaders and think tanks said it was hard to believe the ISI or the Pakistan Army did not know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden.
"I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for an extended period of time. I am not going to speculate about what type of support he might have had on an official basis inside of Pakistan," Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism John Brennan said on Monday.
He told reporters the US was talking to the Pakistanis in this regard. "And, again, we are leaving open opportunities to continue to pursue whatever leads might be out there," Brennan said, responding to questions how the most wanted terrorist was found living in one of the most affluent neighbourhoods.
"People have been referring to this as hiding in plain sight. Clearly, this was something that was considered as a possibility. Pakistan is a large country. We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system that allowed him to stay there," he said.
Brennan’s immediate predecessor, Gen (R) James Jones said he had a feeling that Pakistan knew about it. "My personal view is that they certainly were aware of it. For whatever reasons, they chose not to disclose it until recently. I don't know because I left the White House about six months ago. But it does raise a lot of questions," Jones said in an interview.
It was Jones who had shaped the Pakistan policy of the Obama administration from the White House and he himself had travelled to Islamabad several times to deliver letters from Obama to President Asif Ali Zardari.
Some US lawmakers have even demanded a cut in US aid to Pakistan. Senator Frank Lautenberg, a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations and Vice Chair of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, said he wanted more information about Pakistan’s commitment to the fight against terrorism before the country received up to $3 billion in US aid.
"I think that the Pakistan Army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer, given the location, the length of time and the apparent fact that this facility was actually built for bin Laden, and its closeness to the central location of the Pakistan Army," Senator Carl Levin told a joint news conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the powerful House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said lawmakers would be seeking answers from Pakistan if they had any information about Osama bin Laden living so close to the capital.
"I don't want to speculate if they did or they did not. I mean, we're going to ask those questions. I think Americans have the right to know that. I would like to know what they knew," Rogers said. "Of the 20 senior leaders in Al-Qaeda, at least a dozen of them, we believe to be traveling around Pakistan someplace," he claimed.
Senator Susan Collins said it was difficult to understand how the huge compound could be built in a city just an hour north of Islamabad, in a city that contained military installations, including the Pakistani military academy.
According to Senator Joe Lieberman, the US has a lot of reason to believe that elements of the Pakistani intelligence community continue to be closely in touch with and perhaps supportive of terrorist groups fighting in Afghanistan.
An influential US think tank said the American tolerance for Pakistani hedging or having it both ways would soon dry up, if Islamabad did not change its policy with regard to terrorism.
"I really believe that Pakistan essentially has a choice -- either partner with the United States much more completely or be prepared for the United States, again, to act independently. It's far preferable, to say the least, that Pakistan partners with the US, but the decision is there," said Richard Hass of the Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington-based eminent think tank.
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