US was prepared for a fight with Pakistan during bin Laden raid
President Obama authorized US troops to fight Pakistani forces if they interfered during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound, highlighting the poor state of the US-Pakistan relationship.
[This story was updated at 9:15 a.m. EST.]
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The American forces who raided Osama bin Laden's compound were authorized and equipped to fight Pakistani forces and police if they interfered with the operation that killed the terrorist leader.
The disclosure that the US was willing to risk a military confrontation with its ally is yet another sign of the low trust between the US and Pakistan. Last week American officials said that the US opted not to tell Pakistan about the mission or Mr. bin Laden's whereabouts beforehand because it could not be sure that Pakistan would not leak the information.
The US increased the number of forces involved in the mission about 10 days before the operation, after President Obama questioned whether the US would be able to fight its way out if Pakistani forces showed up and tried to block American forces from carrying out the operation, The New York Times reports.
“Some people may have assumed we could talk our way out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave anything to chance,” a senior administration official told the Times. “He wanted extra forces if they were necessary.”
The Guardian reported yesterday that according to unnamed Pakistani and American officials, former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf and former US President George W. Bush signed an agreement in 2001 that authorized a unilateral American operation to capture bin Laden, much like the one that actually happened – and that afterward, Pakistan would "vociferously protest the incursion."
Indeed, Pakistan has lashed out at the US for acting unilaterally in Pakistani territory – already a source of tension because of US drone attacks in Pakistan and the presence of covert US operatives in the country – and warned of consequences if the US did anything similar in the future. The US has expressed doubts that Pakistani intelligence could have been oblivious to bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad, just half a mile away from the Pakistan Military Academy.
Exacerbating the tension, the CIA station chief in Islamabad was outed in national media Friday and Saturday. US officials say they believe his identity was deliberately leaked by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's intelligence agency, the Washington Post reported.
American officials said they had no hard proof, but that "past history" supported their suspicions. Paul Pillar, a CIA veteran, told the Los Angeles Times that the leak of the station chief's name would "have limited effect on the agency's operations, but it would affect 'the overall tone of a relationship that has gotten pretty bad.' "
However, US-Pakistan cooperation is so far continuing amid all the accusations. A US official told Reuters that it looks likely that Pakistan will give US intelligence officials access to bin Laden's three wives, who were taken into Pakistani custody following the raid. The US has also requested access to ISI officials to investigate potential links to Al Qaeda.