Tough US question for Pakistan: How did Osama bin Laden hide in plain sight?
The positive spin emanating from Pakistan and the US after Osama bin Laden's death barely masks the recent lack of cooperation and deep mistrust between the countries.
But only the days and months ahead will tell if the mutual praise was simply a temporary glow in a deeply troubled relationship between the US and the country that remains, even with the terror figure’s death, the epicenter of Islamist extremism.
One particularly gnawing question for the US, some analysts say, will be: How is it that Pakistani officials insisted for years that Mr. bin Laden was not on their territory, even as he built and inhabited a huge, walled compound in a city outside the country’s capital that is home to the Army’s military academy and many high-ranking Pakistani military officials?
“Why was Osama bin Laden able to live, and apparently for some time, in a mansion so close to a military garrison in a major city?” says Lisa Curtis, senior research fellow for South Asia at the Heritage Foundation in Washington. “That’s the type of question the Pakistanis are going to have to face as the two countries assess all the implications of this operation.”
Still, on Monday the immediate official statements on the bilateral relationship were glowing. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lauded “our close cooperation with Pakistan” and concluded by asserting that “we are committed to our partnership.” That followed President Obama’s positive remarks Sunday night about Pakistan’s cooperation in the run-up to the day’s secret mission.
In remarks via telephone with Obama after the operation’s successful conclusion, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said the demise of the Al Qaeda leader marked a good day for both countries, according to the White House.
Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a long statement praising the operation and reaffirming Pakistan’s commitment to assisting the international battle to “eliminate terrorism.”
Al Qaeda at war with Pakistan
The statement fleshes out Obama’s observation Sunday that Al Qaeda is as much at war with Pakistan as it is with the US, noting that nearly 30,000 Pakistani civilians (almost 10 times the number of lives lost in the 9/11 attacks) have died in Al Qaeda-sponsored terrorist attacks in the country in recent years.