Do you think the Pakistani authorities knew where bin Laden was hiding?
AMERICA today said it is “inconceivable” that Osama bin Laden did not have a support system in Pakistan which enabled him to remain in the country for long periods.
White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan confirmed Washington did not inform the Pakistanis of the U.S. special forces raid which killed the al-Qaida leader until its troops were safely out of the country.
The disclosure that the world’s most notorious terrorist leader was tracked to a large mansion complex in a garrison town close to Pakistan’s leading defence academy again raised suspicions about the role played by the Pakistani intelligence services.
Speaking at a White House news conference, Mr Brennan said bin Laden must have enjoyed help from within Pakistan to have remained at large for so long, although he stopped short of accusing the Pakistanis of any official involvement.
“It is inconceivable that bin Laden did not have support system in the country that allowed him to remain there for extended period of time,” he said.
“We are going to pursue all leads to find out what kind of support system and benefactors that bin Laden might have had.”
However, many western intelligence experts believe he may have received protection from elements within the ISI intelligence agency - some of whom are suspected of pro-al-Qaida sympathies.
While it had long been thought that bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan, there was surprise that he was discovered in Abbottabad, a town with a large military presence 60 miles from the capital Islamabad, rather than the lawless tribal areas along the borders of Afghanistan.
The large, well-protected complex where he was living was said to be worth a million dollars but had no internet or telephone links which, analysts said, should have raised suspicions about who was there.
The extent of the American concerns was underlined by the disclosure that they even risked a potential clash with the Pakistan military rather than inform them in advance of the operation by the U.S. Navy Seals team, and risk seeing bin Laden tipped off.
Mr Brennan said the Pakistani air force - which at that time did not realise the Americans were involved - scrambled its warplanes in response to the raid.
“We did not contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft were out of Pakistani airspace,” he said.
David Cameron has spoken by telephone to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zadari and prime minister Yusuf Raza Gilani in an attempt to soothe tensions.
Downing Street said the Prime Minister, who also spoke to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, said Britain was committed to working “extremely closely” with both countries to counter the terrorist threat from al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Mr Cameron, who chaired a 45-minute meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, was due to update MPs on events in a Commons statement later today.
Meanwhile, it was disclosed that President Barack Obama had followed events in real-time from the White House situation room. One of bin Laden’s sons, two suspected al-Qaida couriers and a woman thought to be one of his wives also died in the attack on the compound.