U.S. officials say they do not know how the operation was compromised. But they are concerned that either the information was inadvertently leaked inside Pakistan or insurgents were warned directly by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI.
A senior Pakistani military official said Friday that the United States had also shared information about other sites, including weapons-storage facilities, that were similarly found empty. “There is a suspicion that perhaps there was a tip-off,” the official said. “It’s being looked into by our people, and certainly anybody involved will be taken to task.”
In the past, Pakistan has strenuously denied allegations that its security services are colluding with insurgents.
The incidents are expected to feature prominently in conversations between Pakistani officials and CIA Director Leon Panetta, who arrived in Pakistan on Friday. The U.S. argument, one official said, will be: “We are willing to share, but you have to prove you will act. Some of your people are no longer fully under your control.”
U.S. officials said Panetta would also carry a more positive message, reiterating that the United States wants to rebuild a trusting, constructive relationship with Pakistan. Immediately after bin Laden’s death, some administration officials and lawmakers argued that the al-Qaeda leader’s presence in a suburban Pakistani compound was reason enough to withhold U.S. assistance from Pakistan. But the prevailing view has been that the two countries need each other despite their problems.
Pakistan has frequently responded to U.S. entreaties to move against insurgent safe havens in the tribal areas by asking for proof of their presence. Officials said that video of the two installations indicated both were being used to manufacture improvised explosive devices, or IEDs — the roadside bombs that are the principal killers of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan.
One was located in a girls’ school in the city of Miram Shah, home to the Haqqani network’s North Waziristan headquarters. The other, in South Waziristan, was thought to be an al-Qaeda-run facility, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
While the United States has conducted an aggressive campaign of drone strikes in the tribal areas, both sites were considered poor drone targets because of the high potential for civilian casualties.