Pakistan: Bin Laden Raid Must Not Serve As Precedent

Pakistan has indicated it was never asked and never gave permission for the U.S. assault that killed Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani leadership told the United States that the raid must not "serve as a future precedent," saying it would undermine international peace.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

Pakistan has indicated it was never asked and never gave permission for the U.S. assault that killed Osama bin Laden. The Pakistani leadership told the United States that the raid must not serve as a future precedent, saying it would undermine international peace.

To talk more about this, NPR's Julie McCarthy joins us from our bureau in Islamabad.

Julie, welcome.

JULIE MCCARTHY: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: These were stern words from Pakistan. They sound as though they might have been harsher. I wonder what else the government is saying about the American operation that killed bin Laden on their soil.

MCCARTHY: Well, that's an interesting point you make, Linda. It could have been harsher. They have to walk a fine line, here. There's a constituency in Pakistan that sympathized with Osama bin Laden, so they can't be seen as being so far out on front in drawing him out and eliminating him. That causes huge problems at home. But at the same time, they are a member of the international community. They want to be seen as a stalwart partner in this fight against global terror.

What you see here, Linda, I think, is the government here developing its own narrative about how bin Laden was tracked down and eventually eliminated. The foreign affairs ministry issued an unusually long statement last night saying, look, our ISI - the country's premier spy agency - has been sharing intelligence on the bin Laden compound with the CIA since 2009, up to mid-April. So they want to be seen as being a partner in this whole thing.

But, you know, whether or not the Pakistanis have been playing a double game, you know, acting in complicity with certain militant forces, is the perennial question that's on the minds of Washington, increasingly, with aid on the line. So the fallout from this bin Laden raid that they didn't know about and weren't deliberately told about has potentially huge implications for Pakistan.

WERTHEIMER: So, what about the raid? Is the - having those helicopters arrive, the Navy SEALs go into the compound was a surprise or a shock and must have been embarrassing.

MCCARTHY: Terribly embarrassing, and there's blowback for the Pakistan military over what's perceived to be a U.S. violation of Pakistani sovereignty. You know, there are these red lines that have been conveyed to the United States, and they include no boots on the ground. But Pakistan is trying to cast this latest U.S. operation a little bit differently, saying, look. The government recognizes that the death of Osama bin Laden is an important milestone.

But the army told me that last night, that there's deep anger over how it was conducted - telling no one, using stealth to evade radar, forcing the Pakistanis to scramble jets when they learned about what had happened. You know, but despite all that outrage, Linda, you know, the revelation that bin Laden was living in a compound under the nose of the Pakistan military for years is, as you point out, a stinging embarrassment.

WERTHEIMER: What about that compound? You spent two days in the area of the bin Laden compound in Abbottabad. Is anything new on who lived there? Do we know where the family members who were left behind have gone?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. The family members, we're told, are together. Some of them are receiving medical care. They're going to be handed over, we're told, to the country of origin. But sources in the Revenue Office in Abbottabad told us that a man named Arshad Khan owns the house. We're told he was a Pakistani Pashtun from the district of Charsadda in Pakistan's northwest frontier. And he was a trusted courier for bin Laden, and he was also believed to have been killed in that American operation Monday.

Just coming out now are reports that the man who built that house has also been detained.

WERTHEIMER: What about the people of Pakistan? What is the public reaction?

MCCARTHY: Well, interestingly, Linda, even talk show hosts here who are nationalistic are now asking: How can Osama bin Laden have lived in a city where the army sprawls across the landscape and not have the army know about it? Many Pakistanis find it hard to believe that their vaunted ISI and military did not know.

WERTHEIMER: We've been talking to NPR's Julie McCarthy in Islamabad. Julie, thank you very much.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, Linda.

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