9 May 2011

US ups pressure on Pakistan over bin Laden investigation

US President Barack Obama has said he suspects al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had support within Pakistan, but the nature of that support is not yet known.

bin laden - reuters

“We think that there had to be some sort of support network for Bin Laden inside of Pakistan. But we don’t know who or what that support network was,” the US President said in an interview on Sunday.

Mr Obama said the Pakistani government had indicated that it had “a profound interest in finding out what kinds of support networks bin Laden might have had”.

He called on Pakistan to investigate the network that sustained bin Laden in the Abbottabad hideout where he was killed last week.

A White House official said the US wanted to speak to bin Laden’s widows, who are in Pakistani custody. Islamabad has denied knowing Bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad.

And depite the fact that the intelligence material seized from bin Laden’s compound was the size of a “small college library”, according to a US national security adviser, nothing retrieved points to Pakistani complicity.

Tom Donilon, an adviser to mr Obama, said the material amounts to the largest cache of intelligence ever gathered from a senior militant.

He added that the US cannot consider al-Qaeda to be strategically defeated, but that the US has reached an important milestone in the struggle against the organisation.

Asked if the US had any evidence to show Pakistani complicity, Mr Donilon said Washington had seen nothing to suggest the Pakistani government or elements within it colluded to shield the al-Qaeda leader.

Later, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US sought to underscore that point and downplay any increased tension between the US and Pakistan.

Ambassador Husain Haqqani insisted Pakistan is committed to a thorough investigation of the al-Qaida leader’s presence in that country.

Asked what will happen once the investigation is completed, Haqqani said “heads will roll”, adding that if any complicity is discovered as a result of the investigation, “there will be zero tolerance for that”.

Mr Haqqani’s comments come after a former member of Pakistan’s intelligence agency told Channel 4 News that the US has been humiliating the Pakistani Government since the death of bin Laden.

Asad Munir, who used to hunt Osama bin Laden, said that “inefficiency and incompetence” alone were to blame for Pakistan’s failure to know that the terror chief was living in their country.

Mr Munir also had critical words for the US: “For the last week, because of American statements, we all feel humiliated and disgraced.”

He said there was an agreement that US special forces could act alone on bin Laden: “There was an understanding at high level and if there was actionable intelligence the Americans could react and use their force.”

Meanwhile, former Vice-President Dick Cheney, usually a harsh critic of Barack Obama, said the president deserved praise for the killing of Osama bin Laden.

“I think you’ve got to give him a lot of credit for making the decision to have the Seal team and conduct the raid that got bin Laden,” Mr Cheney said.