Pakistan’s Link to Bin Laden Prompts U.S. Concern Over ISI’s ‘Double Game on Terrorism’

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Photo: AFP/Getty Images

As the U.S. starts its investigation of Pakistan's role in hiding Osama bin Laden, American and European intelligence officials seem increasingly convinced that Al Qaeda's leader must have been aided by active or retired officials from Pakistan's military or intelligence. The Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), Pakistan's intelligence agency, has come under the harshest scrutiny. Just as the White House's narrative on the raid in Abbottabad has shifted drastically this week, so, it seems, has the ISI's claims that it was looking into Al Qaeda's presence there as far back as 2004.

Earlier this week, ISI officials said they raided a house in Abbottabad years ago in search of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the man who succeeded Khalid Sheik Muhammad. In his memoirs, former President Pervez Musharraf said interrogations showed al-Libbi used three houses in Abbottabad, including the same compound where the U.S found bin Laden. However, Reuters says DOD satellite photos show that in 2004, that site was an empty field. A U.S. official said he hadn't heard any evidence to indicate an earlier raid. According to Reuters, "Washington has long believed that Islamabad, and especially the ISI, play a double game on terrorism, saying one thing but doing another.

U.S. and European intelligence officials point to the ISI's past aid to militant groups within Pakistan, like the Haqqani militant network and Lashkar-e-Taiba. Although no direct evidence has yet come to light, a European official told The Wall Street Journal, "There's no doubt [bin Laden] was protected by some in the ISI." The U.S. is still struggling with why Pakistani officials would shelter bin Laden. If it's a rogue element within the military and intelligence community, they may just be sympathizers to the Al Qaeda cause. But the paper notes, "If more senior officials are implicated, that would suggest a desire to pacify radical elements who might otherwise turn their attention on Pakistani ruling elites."

The reputation of Pakistan's army has likewise taken a beating over the fact that the U.S. could have performed such a high-stakes covert operation so close to its military academy and remain undetected. Much of the distrust toward the military is coming from Pakistanis themselves, who are challenging the leadership of the one institution that held the country together amid militancy and weak civilian governments. The military also happens to be the one that holds the button to Pakistan's nukes.

Signs Point to Pakistan Link [WSJ]
Special report: Why the U.S. mistrusts Pakistan's spy agency [Reuters]
Pakistani Army, Shaken by Raid, Faces New Scrutiny [NYT]
Osama bin Laden's wife recovering in hospital [Telegraph UK]
Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda May Rethink Ties Now That Osama Bin Laden Is Dead, Say Analysts [AP via HuffPo]
Pakistan Warns Against Sovereignty Violations [NYT]