U.S. Forces Were Ordered to Fight Their Way Out of Pakistan If Necessary

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Photo: Aamir Qureshi/Getty Images

Despite what Pakistani and American officials claim, U.S. forces were ordered to do battle with local Pakistani police during the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound if necessary, said senior U.S. military officials on Monday. In addition, two special forces teams were on call if needed — one to possibly bury Bin Laden, and another team of lawyers, interrogators, and translators in case he was captured alive. Officers were told to avoid confrontation, "but if they had to return fire to get out, they were authorized to do it," said one senior military official.

The orders reflect both the administration's level of commitment to the operation and their relative distrust of their Pakistani allies. “Some people may have assumed we could talk our way out of a jam, but given our difficult relationship with Pakistan right now, the president did not want to leave anything to chance,” said one senior administration official who wished to remain anonymous. “He wanted extra forces if they were necessary.” Meanwhile, the official word from the Obama administration remained coolly diplomatic. “We believe that it is very important to maintain the cooperative relationship with Pakistan precisely because it’s in our national security interest to do so,” said White House spokesman Jay Carney.

U.S. Braced for Fights With Pakistanis in Bin Laden Raid [NYT]