3:00pm

Thu May 5, 2011
National Security

Pakistan Address Questions About Bin Laden Raid

Originally published on Thu May 5, 2011 8:41 pm

Pakistan's army says it wants the United States to reduce its military footprint in that country. The decision is an apparent protest of the American raid that killed Osama bin Laden.

The U.S. operation on the al-Qaida chief's compound in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad is now the subject of a Pakistani army investigation.

Thursday's statement was the first by Pakistan's army since revelations that bin Laden had lived down the road from the country's elite military academy in a town filled with retired officers. How he could have gone undetected for years is the embarrassing question reverberating from Islamabad to Washington.

The decision that the Americans were to reduce the strength of their military personnel to the "minimum essential" came after a daylong emergency meeting of the corps commanders, convened by the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani.

The general, whom no visiting American dignitary dares miss, heads the army in a country that has revered its armed forces. But Pakistan's most prestigious and powerful institution became an object of ridicule this week.

In a written statement Thursday, the army admitted "shortcomings" in developing intelligence on the presence of bin Laden.

Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir also told a news conference that speculation that elements within Pakistan's CIA counterpart, the ISI, were providing cover to bin Laden was "absolutely wrong."

"In fact — and this is what has been admitted even by the U.S. government — that some of the leaks that led to the identification of this particular place resulted from the information-sharing with the ISI by CIA," Bashir said.

The army has also come under sharp criticism at home for not preventing the American raid. Many Pakistanis view the U.S. commando operation on their soil as a flagrant violation of their sovereignty.

Washington has reserved the right to act again against high-value terrorist targets, but Pakistan's army said Thursday that "any similar action will warrant a review" of its military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.

It also warned archrival India, which may take a page from the U.S. action, "that any misadventure" would meet a strong response.

"Make no mistake: The nation as a whole and our state institutions are determined to uphold the sovereignty of the country and safeguard our security," Bashir says.

The army felt compelled to state that "the nation's strategic assets" — a reference presumably to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal — are "well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place."

Former Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry says the Pakistani army is deeply frustrated by the way the Americans have disregarded what he says has been the understanding — that operations on Pakistan's territory must be done by Pakistani forces.

"Here, the U.S. military violates that particular red line or the understanding that has existed and perhaps ends up embarrassing Pakistan to the utmost," Chaudhry says.

Chaudhry says politics may be a motive for the U.S. going it alone. That way, he says, the Americans would not have to share any trophy with Pakistan. But, he asks, if it comes at the price of severely damaged relations with a key ally, "Was it worth it?"

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Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

Pakistan's army says it wants the U.S. to reduce its military footprint in that country. That comes as an apparent protest of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and that raid is now the subject of a Pakistan army investigation.

From Islamabad, NPR's Julie McCarthy reports.

JULIE McCARTHY: Today's statement was the first by the Pakistan army since revelations that Osama bin Laden had lived down the road from the country's elite military academy in a town filled with retired officers. How he could have gone undetected for years is the embarrassing question reverberating from Islamabad to Washington.

The decision that the Americans must reduce the strength of their military personnel to the minimum essential came after a day-long emergency meeting of corps commanders, convened by the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani.

The general, whom no visiting American dignitary dares miss, heads the army in a country that has revered its armed forces. But Pakistan's most prestigious and powerful institution became an object of ridicule this week.

In a written statement today, the army admitted shortcomings in developing intelligence on the presence of bin Laden in Pakistan. Pakistan's foreign secretary, Salman Bashir, also told a news conference speculation that elements within Pakistan's CIA counterpart, the ISI, were providing cover to bin Laden was absolutely wrong.

Secretary SALMAN BASHIR (Foreign Secretary, Pakistan): In fact - and this is what has been admitted even by the United States government -that some of the leaks that led to the identification of this particular place resulted from the information-sharing between the ISI by CIA.

McCARTHY: The army has also come under sharp criticism at home for not preventing the American raid. Many Pakistanis view the U.S. commando operation on their soil as a flagrant violation of their sovereignty.

Washington has reserved the right to act again against high-value terror targets, but Pakistan's army said today any similar action will warrant a review of its military and intelligence cooperation with the United States.

It also warned archrival India, which might be tempted to emulate the U.S., that any misadventure would meet a strong response. Again Foreign Secretary Bashir.

Sec. BASHIR: Make no mistake: The nation as a whole and our state institutions are determined to uphold our sovereignty and to safeguard our security.

McCARTHY: The army felt compelled to say that the nation's strategic assets, a reference presumably to Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, are well-protected, and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place.

Former Air Vice Marshal Shahzad Chaudhry says the Pakistan army is deeply frustrated by the way the Americans have disregarded what he says is a clear understanding that operations on Pakistan's territory must be done by Pakistani forces.

Mr. SHAHZAD CHAUDHRY (Former Air Vice Marshal): Here, the U.S. military violates that particular red line, so to say, or the understanding that has existed and perhaps ends up embarrassing Pakistan to the utmost.

McCARTHY: Chaudhry says politics may be a motive for the U.S. going it alone. That way, he says, the Americans would not have to share any trophy with Pakistan. But, he asks, if it comes at the price of severely damaged relations with a key ally: Was it worth it?

Julie McCarthy, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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