Confidence Gap Chafes U.S.-Pakistan Relations

The raid that killed Osama bin Laden has raised new questions about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Bin laden was found in a Pakistani city — not hiding in the mountains out of the control of Pakistan's government.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

And I'm Linda Wertheimer.

The U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden also raised many questions about the nature of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship. The U.S. said it carried out the operation deep inside Pakistan without informing anyone in the Pakistan government or military. And afterwards, Pakistan claimed it was completely unaware that bin Laden was living in a large Pakistani city. Now, some American lawmakers are wondering whether U.S. aid to Pakistan is really paying off.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat, says Pakistanis have some explaining to do.

Senator CARL LEVIN (Democrat, Michigan): The Pakistani army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer, given the location, the length of time and the apparent fact that this facility was actually built for bin Laden.

KELEMEN: Obama administration officials seem to be going out of their way, though, not to embarrass the Pakistani government in order to maintain whatever intelligence cooperation they still have. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stressed the positive when she spoke with reporters yesterday.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): Our counterterrorism cooperation over a number of years now with Pakistan has contributed greatly to our efforts to dismantle al-Qaida. And, in fact, cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound in which he was hiding.

KELEMEN: But privately, U.S. officials say they did not share intelligence with Pakistan before the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. And it's not clear that Pakistanis even knew bin Laden was there, as White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan points out.

Mr. JOHN BRENNAN (White House Counterterrorism Advisor): They, at least in our discussions with them, seem as surprised as we were initially that bin Laden was holding out in that area.

KELEMEN: That's not a very comforting thought for Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations. He was a top State Department official during the Bush administration and remembers having heart-to-heart talks with Pakistanis after 9/11.

Dr. RICHARD HAASS (President, Council on Foreign Relations): I think in some ways you'll end up with another moment of truth with U.S.-Pakistani relations. It'll be very hard to justify aid flows that are generous unless there is confidence that, again, Pakistan is a partner.

KELEMEN: Haass told reporters in a conference call that the Pakistanis have a choice: either deal with the terrorist threat at home or accept the fact that the U.S. will intervene. He doesn't expect relations ever to get to the point where there is full confidence and trust.

Mr. HAASS: It has been, is and will remain one of the most fraught, complicated and difficult relationships, literally, that exists in the world today.

KELEMEN: Brennan, the White House advisor, says he and his colleagues are working through many of these issues with Pakistan now. And he says Pakistanis understood why the U.S. took action and appreciated the fact that the U.S. kept casualties to a minimum.

Mr. BRENNAN: We don't always agree on some of the things that we want to do, but through that continued dialogue and communication, I think we get where we need to be. This is one more incident that we're going to have to deal with, and we look forward to continuing to work with our Pakistani colleagues, because they are as much, if not more, on the front lines of the battle against terrorism.

KELEMEN: As Secretary of State Clinton tries to manage this complicated relationship, she's also trying to make a larger point to the Arab and Muslim world.

Sec. CLINTON: History will record that bin Laden's death came at a time of great movements toward freedom and democracy, at a time when the people across the Middle East and North Africa are rejecting the extremist narratives and charting a path of peaceful progress based on universal rights and aspirations. There is no better rebuke to al-Qaida and its heinous ideology.

KELEMEN: She's hoping now that Taliban fighters in Afghanistan will get that message, abandon al-Qaida and negotiate peace.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.