News / Asia

How Much Did Pakistanis Know About bin Laden?

Vehicles parked inside the compound where Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 2, 2011
Vehicles parked inside the compound where Osama bin Laden lived in Abbottabad, Pakistan, May 2, 2011
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The mansion in Abbottabad, Pakistan where Osama bin Laden was found and killed is at least six times the size of the typical house near it.  Abbottabad is a military town, where many from the Pakistani military retire - raising questions about how Pakistani authorities could not locate and capture bin Laden themselves.  

Osama bin Laden lived inside this million dollar mansion for at least nine months.  Some counterterrorism experts think he was there six years, since the compound was built.  The 5-meter-high privacy wall is topped with razor wire.  A TV satellite dish sits atop a sunroom.  The mansion dwarfs neighboring houses.  And it is within walking distance of a Pakistan military academy.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice:

"It raises some important questions, questions that really the Pakistanis need to answer, not only for us, but for themselves," she said.

Lawmakers in Washington have their own questions.

"I think Americans are asking how they could have gone undetected - some kind of divided loyalty or complicity in some part," said Republican Representative Patrick Meehan.

"For all the money we've spent, how can we develop a relationship trust with the Pakistani government's weak president and an ISI [intelligence service], that is rogue," asked Democratic Representative Jackie Speier.

Much money was spent.  The United States has given Pakistan $20 billion dollars since the terrorist attacks of 2001.  Some analysts say Pakistan thought that money would evaporate if bin Laden were caught.  Others say giving up bin Laden was a political risk for Pakistan.

A government statement says Paksitan gave the CIA leads that helped the U.S. identify and reach bin Laden.  The Pakistan high commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan:

"We pointed them out to the American intelligence and we did not allow him to run away from the place," said Wajid Shamsul Hasan.

"I think the word ally needs to not be used anymore," said Lisa Curtis.

Lisa Curtis is with The Heritage Foundation.  She says Pakistan did not search hard enough for  the world’s most wanted terrorist.  

"This should strengthen Obama’s hand in convincing Pakistan to take stronger action against the terrorists that we know are still there," she said.

Pakistan-U.S. relations were strained earlier this year when Pakistan demanded the U.S. reduce  the number of drone strikes and CIA operatives in the country.  But without them, bin Laden might have not been caught.


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an award-winning television reporter who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.  She has won an Emmy, many Associated Press awards, and a Clarion for her coverage of Haiti,  national politics, the southern economy, and the 9/11 bombing anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Syrian medical crisis and the Asiana plane crash, and was VOA’s chief reporter from the Boston Marathon bombing.

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