Rep. Rogers: Pakistan A Fair-Weather, But Vital, Ally
RACHEL MARTIN, host:
So that's the military view from Afghanistan. Now for the intelligence perspective, we turn to Republican Congressman Mike Rogers of Michigan. He's the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. I sat down with Rogers in his Capitol Hill office, and he told me the intelligence found at bin Laden's compound has put al-Qaida off balance, at least for now.
Representative MIKE ROGERS (Republican, Michigan; Chairman, House Intelligence Committee): The days and months, weeks ahead are critical, because that's when they'll make the mistakes. They have to regroup. They have to talk to each other a lot. They have to meet with each other a lot. They have to work through their differences, and all of that's happening right now.
That's an opportunity for the United States because someone's going to make an operational security mistake. And when they do, we're going to be there to greet them.
MARTIN: I want to ask you about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan. Just recently, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said he had to believe someone in Pakistan knew, that bin Laden had some kind of support network in Pakistan that made it possible for him to live there for so long undetected. What does that mean for U.S.-Pakistani relations going forward?
Rep. ROGERS: Well, I'll say it's very clear to me that we cannot say for certain that the senior leadership knew that Osama bin Laden was in that compound in Abbottabad.
MARTIN: So that's still - you still don't have any evidence to that?
Rep. ROGERS: I still, today, could not say that senior leadership knew it and protected him. And I feel - I have a high level of confidence to say that. Do I believe that someone that may have been in ISI or their intelligence service agent knew or was cooperating? Clearly, that's something that we all believe is possible and if not likely.
MARTIN: But this is still fluid.
Rep. MARTIN: It's still fluid. It would not surprise me if sometime, somewhere in the future, somebody came back and said, hey, this very senior person knew about it. I wouldn't say I would be shocked.
You know, Pakistan is a, boy, it's the hardest partner you'll ever have in any endeavor and they are clearly a fair-weather friend. But they have done some good things for us, and they continue to do some good things for us. And we should walk very slowly down the path. I hear a lot of calls for cutting off aid and not dealing with them, and sanctions. And we should be careful. They're important players in the logistical supplies to our soldiers in Afghanistan. They have put troops in the tribal areas, to their own peril; they've had thousands of their own casualties, and we requested them to do that. They have helped us arrest hundreds of al-Qaida and Taliban, medium and low-level affiliates, in the settled areas of Pakistan.
MARTIN: You mentioned the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, and what a difficult partner they can be. Many in this building, on Capitol Hill, say that they're actually part of the problem. How do you go forward trying to prosecute this war against al-Qaida when your most important ally raises suspicions?
Rep. ROGERS: Well, elements of the ISI are clearly part of the problem. There are Taliban sympathizers within the ranks of their intelligence services. There are al-Qaida sympathizers clearly in the ranks of their intelligence services. You...
MARTIN: Just - you know who's who and you work with who you can work with?
Rep. ROGERS: You work with who you can trust. And so we are getting better about understanding who our friends are. And I also believe that we can use this as an opportunity to shame Pakistan.
I mean, this was an embarrassing event. Think if you didn't know - and today, I don't believe their senior leadership did know - that just 30 miles from your capital was the world's number one most wanted terrorist. That is a pretty tough thing to swallow.
And, of course, they're embarrassed and hurt and we are seeing some friction from that right now. But this may be the United States' best opportunity to say, we want more transparency and this is a great opportunity for the things that you do know and have not been sharing to share with us so that we can continue to build on this relationship.
MARTIN: Congressman Mike Rogers is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.
Thanks so much, congressman.
Rep. ROGERS: Hey, thank you for having me. I've enjoyed it.
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.