Pakistan’s army and intelligence officials must explain whether they knew of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts before he was killed in a U.S. mission, said Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin.
Levin, a Michigan Democrat, said Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari must question his own military and intelligence officials about whether they knew bin Laden was staying at a fortified villa near Islamabad.
“I hope that he will follow through and ask some very tough questions of his own military and his own intelligence,” Levin said at a news conference with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. “They’ve got a lot of explaining to do.”
Bin Laden was killed yesterday almost a decade after orchestrating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that killed almost 3,000 people at the World Trade Center in New York, the Pentagon in suburban Washington and a field in Pennsylvania where hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed. The al-Qaeda leader was killed, after a decade on the run, in a firefight with a team of U.S. operatives who raided the compound where he had been hiding.
The three-story compound had security measures, including walls as high as 18 feet topped with barbed wire, U.S. officials said. Officials said they didn’t know for certain how long bin Laden had been living there.
Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby, in an interview today on Bloomberg Television, said he believed some Pakistani officials knew where bin Laden was hiding.
“Pakistan is what I would call a reluctant ally,” Shelby said. “They’ve got one foot in the camp with the Taliban and one foot with us.”
Reid of Nevada said he was notified about the attack last night by the White House and spoke with the president about it. Reid, the Senate’s top Democrat, said Obama doesn’t have plans to change the schedule for drawing down troop levels in Afghanistan as a result of yesterday’s developments.
“I think that’s appropriate,” Reid said.
Both Reid and Levin hailed bin Laden’s death as a significant step forward in efforts to curb the threat of terrorism.
“Today Americans across the country are welcoming the news that this awful man, this man who epitomized evil, has been brought to justice by American forces,” Reid said. “His death is the most significant victory in our fight against al-Qaeda and sends a strong message to terrorists around the world.”