Gen. Musharraf 'Can't Believe There Was Complicity'

Former Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf tells Steve Inskeep he can't imagine that Pakistanis helped Osama bin Laden hide. Musharraf says he believes it was incompetence that kept bin Laden from being found earlier by Pakistanis.

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LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Linda Wertheimer.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Pakistan seems conflicted about how to respond to the death of Osama bin Laden. The countrys prime minister called it a great victory earlier this week. But yesterday the Pakistani military lashed out at the United States for conducting the raid without Pakistan's permission. And the military suggested that U.S. military personnel in Pakistan should be cut back.

We're going to talk about all this with Pakistans former president, General Pervez Musharraf, who resigned as president under threat of impeachment three years ago. Hes now considering a return to Pakistan and a run for political office.

General, welcome back to the program.

Mr. PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Former Pakistani President): Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: How do you think it was that Osama bin Laden was able to live for something like five years so close to a military academy and relatively close to Islamabad?

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, I mean one can draw only two conclusions. One is complicity from our intelligence agencies. The second is incompetence. And I strongly believe in the later. It is their incompetence, I think. One would blame them for failing in their duties. But I cannot imagine that there was complicity.

INSKEEP: You cannot image there was complicity.

Mr. MUSHARRAF: No. No, I cannot. For many reasons. (Unintelligible) its possible. I mean after all, 9/11 also took place. After all, Bombay also took place, and there was failure of intelligence and it does take place. The other issue also, may I share, even President Obama has thanked our intelligence agency, or Pakistan, for contributing to leading to the operation. Now, what is it that he has thanked them for, one has to ask. My indirect information is that probably there was some intercepts that were passed on to CIA by our intelligence, which led to this homing on to this place. Now, if there was complicity, why would anyone pass such intelligence to the CIA?

INSKEEP: Well, as best I'm able to determine what U.S. officials are saying, there was some cooperation with Pakistani intelligence agencies that...

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Right.

INSKEEP: ...did lead to information that helped. But in the end, U.S. officials did not even inform Pakistan anyone in Pakistan...

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yeah. Yes.

INSKEEP: ...the raid was coming because they feared there would be a leak of information of some kind.

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. Now that is unfortunately a lack of trust, which is continuing especially in the last one year - an absolute lack of trust and confidence in each other, which needs to be resolved. Otherwise in the past, during my time, I remember, it was always (unintelligible) intelligence sharing, whoever acquired the intelligence, CIA or ISI sharing with each other, homing on to the target. And there were dozens of al-Qaida operatives whom we caught in Pakistan, but the operation always conducted by Pakistan law enforcement agencies. Now this has been violated here. It goes against Pakistan's sovereignty, and also it shows total lack of trust and confidence in our intelligence agencies by the CIA, which is, again, bad. I think this needs to be restored.

INSKEEP: The military academy at Abbottabad - are we saying it correctly, by the way? Is it Abbottabad?

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. Actually, I think you are the one whose program is saying it the best.

INSKEEP: Thats great. Thank you. Abbottabad is a place that you attended, if I'm not mistaken. Youre very familiar with that as a military...

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes, I am. Any officer of Pakistan has gone through that military academy.

INSKEEP: Isn't that...

Mr. MUSHARRAF: I will there for two and a half years.

INSKEEP: Isn't that a district in an area that is filled with military presence well beyond the military academy? Aren't there soldiers everywhere?

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Yes. The military academy is in a place called Kakul, which is a few miles away from Abbottabad. It's in the it's the suburbs of Abbottabad. But Abbottabad itself has a number of recruit training centers, we call them, so they are there. So its a garrison of training centers, cadets as well as recruits.

INSKEEP: President Musharraf, one other thing, if the American information is correct, if the timeline is correct, Osama bin Laden was actually in that house during a period when you were president of Pakistan. Since learning this news the other day, have you had a moment of saying to yourself, I really should have known that?

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, if this is correct. I mean a lot of theories are going around the place. One of them is that he was there for six years. Now, frankly, yes, what youve said is absolutely correct. Why didn't I know? I mean it is terrible and I would like to inquire from all the - our intelligence agencies, why the hell did you not know when I was there? Now, having said that, I personally, without any intelligence, I can't imagine a person inside a house for six years and people around not knowing. Leave the intelligence aside. I've seen many interviews of people around on Pakistan's television channels. Now, I am sure all of them knew Osama bin Laden. I'm sure. He was a household name and his face was also a household - everyone knew. I would like anyone to ask them, did you know Osama bin Laden is inside? I don't think they knew.

Now, was this man hiding in a room for six years? I have my doubts. Maybe I'm wrong, but it doesn't appeal to my reasoning and rationality(ph).

INSKEEP: You don't think he was in that house for that long?

Mr. MUSHARRAF: As I said, not backed by any intelligence information, my common sense gut feeling.

INSKEEP: General Pervez Musharraf, former president of Pakistan. Thank you very much.

Mr. MUSHARRAF: Thank you, Steve.

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