U.S. lawmakers have said it defied logic that bin Laden was able to hide in plain sight without some level of official Pakistani knowledge or complicity. Some have suggested that $3 billion in annual U.S. military and economic assistance be reconsidered, while others joined with House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who said Tuesday that “this is no time to back away from Pakistan.”
How Pakistan responds will determine the future of the long-brittle relationship between the two countries, as well as the endgame in the Afghanistan war, according to U.S. and Pakistani officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk candidly about what they called a pivotal moment.
On Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani said the failure to discover bin Laden’s refuge earlier must be shared by intelligence agencies around the globe--not just his nation’s.
“Certainly we have intelligence-sharing with the rest of the world, including the United States,” Gillani told reporters in Paris. “So if somebody points out that there are . . . lapses from the Pakistan side, that means there are lapses from the whole world.”
In Pakistan, authorities told local media that on Wednesday they arrested, then released, a contractor who had worked on the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad.
No details were released, but it appeared that the contractor likely worked on the residence as it was being built. The Associated Press, citing property records, said the compound was purchased by a man named Mohammad Arshad for $48,000, in four stages between 2004 and 2005.
In the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, the stakes of the international blame game could not be higher--for both Pakistan and the United States. A final breach of the relationship could put at risk administration hopes of continuing military progress against Afghan Taliban insurgents and bringing reconcilable insurgent leaders, lodged in Pakistani sanctuaries, to the negotiating table this year. It could make the CIA’s drone missile strikes against insurgent targets in Pakistan, conducted with tacit Pakistani cooperation and some intelligence assistance, much more difficult.
But the moment of crisis was also seen by some administration officials as an unprecedented opportunity to solidify the relationship, assuming wholehearted Pakistani cooperation. “At this point, it’s very important that Pakistan demonstrate its commitment to work with America in the war on terror,” one U.S. official said. After weeks of tight focus on the operation itself, the White House will hold high-level national security meetings this week on how to leverage the post-raid situation to gain more, rather than less, cooperation.