Afghan officials say Pakistan should have known about bin Laden

By Hamid Shalizi

Pakistan’s spy agency should have known Osama bin Laden was hiding not far from its capital, Afghan officials said on Wednesday, the first direct comments from Kabul about its neighbour’s apparent inability to track the al Qaeda leader.

The case also raised questions about Pakistan’s ability to protect its nuclear weapons adequately, said Afghan Defence Ministry spokesman Zaher Azimy.

Bin Laden, the architect of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, was killed by a U.S. strike team in a military garrison town about 60 km (35 miles) north of Islamabad on Monday.

U.S. legislators have demanded a review of aid to Pakistan after the disclosure that bin Laden could have been living in the house, which is not far from Pakistan’s main military academy, for five or six years.

“When we talk about the location of the house and a military academy nearby … at the very least it should be known about the activities inside the house and who is living there,” Azimy told a news conference.

“If Pakistan’s spy agency was not aware of the house near the academy, it brings the agency under question. If I was a security analyst, I would raise these very important questions.”

Afghan and U.S. officials have expressed concern that bin Laden’s killing might cause a short-term spike in violence as militants make retaliatory attacks.

But there has been no major violence in Afghanistan since Monday, although at least two rocket attacks were reported in and around the capital, Kabul, overnight. There were no major casualties, officials said.


Pakistan’s powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency and the army have been conspicuously silent about the raid, which has raised questions about whether they knew all along where bin Laden has been hiding.

The ISI has also been accused of maintaining ties with fighters targeting U.S. troops across the border in Afghanistan. Kabul and Islamabad have long had a difficult relationship.

Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s former foreign minister and a presidential candidate in 2009, also said it was no surprise bin Laden had been killed in Pakistan.

“I would say that some groups in the establishment definitely knew that they were there,” Abdullah told BBC television.

“A few hundred metres from the military academy? That’s unbelievable that this could happen without anybody knowing in the establishment,” he said.

Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani defended the failure to spot bin Laden saying fighting terrorism was the whole world’s responsibility.

“There is an intelligence failure of the whole world, not just Pakistan alone,” Gilani told reporters in Paris where he was due to meet French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Azimy said the killing of bin Laden also raised broader questions about the ISI and the Pakistan military, including its ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal.

“If the agency was not aware that the biggest terrorist had been living there for six long years, how can it protect its strategic weapons?” he said.

“How can the world be assured that the strategic and atomic weapons would not be in danger in the future?”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai was far less direct in his first comments about bin Laden’s killing on Monday, saying that it proved the global fight against Islamist militants was “not in Afghan villages.”

(Additional reporting by Rob Taylor and Jonathon Burch; Editing by Paul Tait and Robert Birsel)


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