During his momentous address to the American people Sunday night, US President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama bin Laden. The al-Qaeda was killed by US Special Forces in the garrison city of Abbotabad, blocks away from the Pakistani military academy. Obama was careful not to put the blame on, or give credit to, Pakistan — the critical yet sometimes complicated US ally in the war against extremism. Instead he stopped at stressing the US-Pakistani relationship is vital to defeating al-Qaeda.
But as millions of people were glued to their TV sets, their Twitter accounts, and Facebook as the day’s events unfold, the big question on everyone’s minds remained unanswered: what was Pakistan’s involvement in the operation, if any? How could Osama Bin Laden live in a $1 million mansion adjacent to a Pakistani military academy? Where was Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the ISI? Or did the ISI know Osama bin Laden’s location, but keep it from Washington?
Such questions remained unsatisfactorily answered by John Brennan, Obama’s top counter-terrorism advisor. On Monday, Brennan discussed the ‘differences of opinion’ between the two governments over fighting Islamic militants, but added that ‘Pakistan has been responsible for capturing and killing more terrorists inside their country more than anyone else.’Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
Meanwhile, there were conflicting reports coming from the ISI. Earlier Monday, the organization had said the attack on bin Laden was a joint operation involving Pakistan forces and Pakistani helicopters, one of which crashed during the fire fight with bin Laden's bodyguards. Later on, an army official was reported saying, ‘it's unfortunate, but we didn’t know about the people resident in that compound.’ According to other accounts, military officials declined to comment, referring questions to the foreign ministry.
The foreign ministry for its part pointed out that numerous Pakistani lives were lost in the war against al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, including many along the Afghan border, going on for almost a decade.
‘Al-Qaeda had declared war on Pakistan,’ the ministry's statement said. ‘Scores of al-Qaeda-sponsored terrorist attacks resulted in the deaths of thousands of innocent Pakistani men, women and children. Almost 30,000 Pakistani civilians lost their lives in terrorist attacks in the last few years. More than 5,000 Pakistani security and armed forces officials have been martyred in Pakistan's campaign against al Qaeda, other terrorist organizations and affiliates.
‘It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country. Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism.’