U.S. Seeks Access to Osama Bin Laden’s Wives, Questions Pakistani Role
Pakistan hasn’t given the U.S. access to three of Osama bin Laden’s widows or other information collected following last week’s operation in Pakistan, creating more questions about the country’s role in hiding the late al- Qaeda leader.
National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said the U.S. has requested -- and not yet received -- access to three of bin Laden’s wives and additional materials recovered by the Pakistanis after the raid in which bin Laden was killed in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. The role, if any, of Pakistani government officials harboring bin Laden also remains a question, President Barack Obama said.
“We think that there had to be some sort of support network for bin Laden inside of Pakistan,” Obama said in an interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program. “But we don’t know who or what that support network was. We don’t know whether there might have been some people inside of government, people outside of government, and that’s something that we have to investigate and, more importantly, the Pakistani government has to investigate.”
The U.S. “would expect to have access to the things we need,” and “we’ll certainly press on this very hard,” Donilon said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
The lack of access to the wives and information seized by Pakistani officials adds fuel to questions from U.S. officials and lawmakers over Pakistan’s role in the sheltering of bin Laden. In the wake of bin Laden’s killing in a town 35 miles (56 kilometers) from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. lawmakers have urged the Obama administration to evaluate the nation’s relationship with the country.
Senator John Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, echoed concern voiced by lawmakers both political parties last week that Pakistan had knowingly harbored bin Laden. Democrat Kerry, on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program, said it was “very, very hard to believe that at some level there wasn’t somebody or some group in Pakistan who wasn’t aware of this.”
Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani said his country is investigating how bin Laden was hidden.
“Heads will roll” after the country finishes its investigation, Haqqani said on ABC’s “This Week.” The envoy to the U.S. said his nation intends to “put to rest any misgivings” about its role in harboring the al-Qaeda leader.
Donilon said he had “not seen any evidence to date” that the country’s military, intelligence or political leadership had knowledge of where bin Laden was hiding. Still, he said, the extent of the knowledge in the country’s ranks “needs to be investigated.”
The stakes are high for both countries. The U.S. relies on Pakistan as an ally in its fight against terrorist organizations, as well as the war in Afghanistan. Nuclear-armed Pakistan relies on U.S. financial and military support.
“Pakistan is a critical factor in the war against terror,” Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” program. “We are critical to them likewise.”
Praise for the Obama administration’s decision to send U.S. commandos into Pakistan to hunt down bin Laden has been bipartisan.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, a Republican critic of Obama’s foreign policy, said he gives the president “high marks” for ordering the operation that killed bin Laden.
“There’s no question that was his responsibility and I think he handled it well,” Cheney said in an interview on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “I give him high marks for making that decision.”
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, also a Republican, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program that Obama’s approval of the raid was “the right decision.” He said the coordination between intelligence officials and the special operations forces was “absolutely perfection.”
When U.S. Navy SEALs raided the compound and killed bin Laden, they capped a decade-long pursuit of the al-Qaeda leader. Obama in a May 6 speech called the raid “one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nation’s history.”
The U.S. lost track of bin Laden during an offensive in neighboring Afghanistan, where the militant Islamic Taliban harbored bin Laden at the time of the terror attacks on New York and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.
“Our efforts to pursue strategic defeat of al-Qaeda -- which is our national goal -- really was given a significant boost on Sunday in the operation against Osama bin Laden,” Donilon said on CNN.
Donilon said initial examination of the material recovered from the raid showed bin Laden had continued to have “an operational and strategic role” in al-Qaeda.
“Removing a leader of the significance of this man is extraordinary,” Rudy Giuliani, who was the mayor of New York City at the time of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program. “This is like removing a Hitler or a Stalin in the middle of those conflicts.”
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bloomberg moderates all comments. Comments that are abusive or off-topic will not be posted to the site. Excessively long comments may be moderated as well. Bloomberg cannot facilitate requests to remove comments or explain individual moderation decisions.