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The Monitor's View

Osama bin Laden's hideout and the Pakistan question

What did Pakistan know about bin Laden's whereabouts? Lawmakers in Congress demand an answer, and threaten aid restrictions. But for better or for worse, America must support Pakistan.

By the Monitor's Editorial Board / May 3, 2011

How could at least some Pakistani officials not have known about the hiding place of Osama bin Laden, right under the nose of that country’s military establishment?

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It’s the question ricocheting in Washington, as incredulous lawmakers again point to a “double game” by Islamabad over terrorism. Members of Congress now threaten to restrict billions of dollars in US aid to Pakistan – a move that would worsen one of America’s most troubled, yet important, relationships.

The United States is probing to find out what kind of support system Mr. bin Laden had at his compound deep in Pakistan before he was killed by US Navy SEALs in a raid on May 1.

The Pakistani government said it was surprised – and embarrassed – to find out this week about bin Laden’s compound – near the nation’s capital.

But it’s also important not to let the US-Pakistan relationship sink further. The stakes for America are tremendous. Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and Islamic terrorists seek to overthrow the weak democratic government. That’s a direct threat to the US, as well as Pakistan’s neighbors.

At the same time, Pakistan is still the center of global jihad, despite the geographic dispersal of Al Qaeda and the rise of individual terrorists acting on their own. Other terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, hide out in Pakistan. So do some members and leaders of the Afghan Taliban, who kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, terrorists have killed some 30,000 Pakistani civilians and 2,000 police.

The terrorist threat should have Washington and Islamabad walking in lock step, but the two are at their worst relations in years. Even the word “frenemies” may no longer apply.


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