Monitoring developments in international security

Bin Laden’s death forces awkward questions about US relationship with Pakistan

Osama bin Laden is dead, killed at the hands of a US Navy SEAL team in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Despite initial claims to the contrary, Pakistani officials had no prior knowledge of the operation and they are undoubtedly going to face tough questions over the upcoming days and weeks. Abbottabad is a city of 100,000 people only 80 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The complex Bin Laden had been living in was several times larger than any of the neighboring properties and, despite the apparent affluence of its inhabitants, lacked both telephone and internet connections. The outside walls are up to 18 feet tall in some places and covered in barbed wire and the residents burned their trash instead of leaving it outside for pickup.

It seems impossible that the Pakistani government could not have known of Bin Laden’s presence here. While President Obama did give a shout-out to Pakistan for its ‘cooperation’ in his announcement last night, the revelation that Osama bin Laden had been hiding out in a Pakistani city less than two hours away from Islamabad – and not some tribal region cave along the border – could not have come at a worse time for US-Pakistan relations. The ongoing drone strikes targeted at militants along the border with Afghanistan, the recent arrest of admitted CIA contractor Raymond Davis, and the ever-present American sentiment that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency, is actively aiding the insurgency in Afghanistan have all led to a massive cooling of relations between the two nations. It will be interesting to see what effect the raid on Bin Laden’s compound has on the US-Pakistan partnership and, indeed, the war on terror.

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