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What Did Pakistan Know About Bin Laden's Whereabouts?


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden in that compound not far from the Pakistani capital Islamabad raises all kinds of questions about what Pakistan knew about his presence there. And we're going to put some of those questions now to Pakistan's ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani.

Ambassador Haqqani, welcome to the program.

Ambassador HUSSAIN HAQQANI (Pakistan): Pleasure being here.

BLOCK: We heard the White House Counterterrorism advisor John Brennan today raised some of these issues. He said: Certainly, the compounds location there outside of the capital raises questions.

Doesn't it just strain credulity that Pakistan could not know that Osama bin Laden was there deep inside the country?

Amb. HAQQANI: Let's just face the fact. Pakistani is a country of 118 million people. There are a lot of people who have been discovered there, who have been connected to terrorist groups in the past as well. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was caught there, and on many an occasion, these arrests have been the result of cooperation between Pakistani intelligence services and the United States.

There are people in Pakistan who have philosophical and ideological sympathies with the extremists. We have never denied that. Did the government of Pakistan know, and did the state of Pakistan know? No, it did not. Had we known, we would have got him ourselves. And that said, very happy to enter into a discussion with our American allies and look at whatever questions Mr. Brennan or others in the U.S. intelligence or our community or the diplomatic corps have for us.

BLOCK: You're saying definitively, the Pakistani government did not know Osama bin Laden was there. This city, though, Abbottabad, is home to numerous military installations. It's very near a military academy. It just doesn't look good.

Amb. HAQQANI: I'm not saying anything about whether it looks good or bad. All I'm saying is that is the fact. If we had known that Osama bin Laden was there, we would have got him. And that is something that we have been committed to for awhile.

Let us be very clear. Pakistan itself has been a victim of the terrorism of al-Qaida and its allied groups. Our president's wife, Benazir Bhutto, became a victim of terrorism by a group that is linked to al-Qaida. But, yes, it is a large country. Most of our cities are now just sprawling metropolises, and I know I've seen a reporting that this particular town is not very far from the capital. But the fact of the matter is that why did, sort of, Bulger could hide in Boston with the FBI and the Boston Police on his trail for a long time?

All I'm saying is it's not necessarily two plus two adding to four in this particular case that the government must have known, Pakistan must have known. No. Sometimes, things do happen without the authorities knowing. That said, we are very happy that Osama bin Laden is no longer there, and we are very happy that al Qaida has been dealt a very severe blow.

BLOCK: Ambassador Haqqani, when you say that Pakistan didn't know, does that extend categorically to Pakistan's spy agency, the ISI, which is known to have ties to the Haqqani Network, to branches of the Taliban?

Amb. HAQQANI: I will just say that the ISI itself has been targeted, especially in the last two years, by the terrorists. Several ISI officials have been killed, several offices have been bombed. So quite clearly, the terrorists recognize and realize the ISI was working to eliminate them all, to undermine them.

Now, in this particular instance, I know that concerns have been expressed, but we will deal with those concerns. The important thing remains to us that we and the United States are allies in fighting terrorism. President Obama acknowledged that in his speech last night. He called President Zardari. President Zardari welcomed the fact that Osama bin Laden had been eliminated, and that should give everybody some comfort that even if there are elements in Pakistan who are tolerant of extremism, the mission as a whole will fight those elements alongside our American allies and partners.

BLOCK: We talked on the program today with Senator John Kerry, who also expressed a lot of concern about the questions that he says your country needs to answer and what he called misdirection on the part of your government. Let's take a listen.

Senator JOHN KERRY (Democrat, Massachusetts): Getting out the truth has been very, very difficult. And I think hopefully now, they will feel compelled by the - just facts here to step up and try to help provide the better sense of the answers.

BLOCK: Ambassador Haqqani, what would you say to Senator Kerry?

Amb. HAQQANI: I think that Senator Kerry is a friend of Pakistan who knows Pakistan very well. And among the concerns that he has expressed are concerns that are shared by Pakistan's own leaders. We are concerned about the presence of people with extremist tendencies within our society and possibly within our various elements of our government apparatus in the provinces, in the police force, et cetera.

You knew that there was a police god who killed our own government based on his extreme religious sentiment. So all I'm saying is that this is something that we look forward to working out. But today is not the moment for that. Today is the moment to express a kind of satisfaction over the fact that we have been able to put out the head of the biggest terrorist organization that has threatened global security for several years.

BLOCK: You say there should be satisfaction. I mean, the line from Pakistani officials for years now has been, Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan. Look for him in Afghanistan. Is this an embarrassment?

Amb. HAQQANI: I think that intelligence failures are always an embarrassment for every government. The United States has had its set of intelligence failures - its share of intelligence failures. Other governments have had those. And I know that it is something that we will certainly examine and look at. But to say that that is somehow complicity is unfair and unjustified.

Pakistan remains an ally in fighting terrorism, and Pakistan will double its efforts in doing so. We are very grateful to God and to the United States Navy SEALs who participated in this operation that they have achieved a major milestone in the struggle against terrorism, but there's a lot more to do. And that includes improving our own intelligence operations within Pakistan. And all the statements that were made in the past about Osama bin Laden not being based in Pakistan were based on faulty intelligence at best.

BLOCK: Ambassador Haqqani, was there any advance knowledge within the Pakistani government about the U.S. raid on that compound?

Amb. HAQQANI: I think that that is a question that we choose at this point not to discuss. I think that the Pakistani and the U.S. governments have both decided that President Obama has said what he told the American people last night, that President Zardari's spokesperson and the government of Pakistan have issued a statement. This is not, in our opinion, the time to discuss the details of how and what happened, what is. This is the time to reflect and to pay tribute to all those who have fought terrorism so tenaciously over the last decades since 9/11.

BLOCK: Ambassador Haqqani, thank you for talking with us.

Amb. HAQQANI: Pleasure being here. Bye.

BLOCK: That's Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.