American secrecy lays bare deep distrust of its Pakistani 'allies'

US military commanders believe it is inconceivable that Bin Laden did not have friends in high places. By Omar Waraich

The mistrust could scarcely be more pronounced. The decision to find and eliminate Osama bin Laden was not just successful in its aims, but managed to achieve those results without even informing America's Pakistani "allies" until the Navy Seals had left Pakistan's airspace.

Pakistan's alliance with the United States, in its current form, was forged in the white heat of 9/11. Then military dictator General Pervez Musharraf claimed to have turned on his heel, abandoned his powerful institution's jihadist proxies and embraced Washington's "war on terror" with well-rewarded enthusiasm.

In recent months, that relationship has been strained to near-breaking point. At the White House last night, John Brennan, President Barack Obama's top counter-terrorism adviser, almost described Islamabad in terms one would reserve for an adversary.

Not only were the Pakistanis not involved in the operation, as some Islamabad officials have tried to suggest, but jets were belatedly dispatched to rebuff the Americans. Only after the commandos had left Pakistani airspace did Mr Obama inform his Pakistani counterpart, President Asif Ali Zardari.

It is "inconceivable", Mr Brennan said, that Bin Laden was without a support system inside Pakistan. It is a claim that the US has made for several months now. "I'm not saying that they're at the highest levels," Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on a visit to Pakistan in May 2010, "but I believe that somewhere in this government are people who know where Osama bin Laden, and al-Qa'ida, is."

Yesterday, Ms Clinton said that Pakistan had played a role in challenging al-Qa'ida. It is true of earlier years, when Pakistan helped scoop up leading members. But the top leaders have frustratingly proved elusive. And the strange Abbottabad compound, in the heart of Pakistan's army, built within the last six years, justifiably elevates eyebrows.

The decision to keep the Pakistanis out of the loop makes plain that the US either did not trust Islamabad enough, or worse, feared that Bin Laden would be tipped off and moved before the commandos could reach him.

Pakistan, a long-suffering victim of al-Qa'ida-inspired terrorism, has little reason to support Bin Laden's ambitions inside Pakistan. The terror group's affiliates have ritually attacked the Pakistani military and its installations.

But could a non-operational Bin Laden, whose head was prized chiefly for symbolic value, possibly been of use to Pakistan as a card to play later. As the Afghanistan endgame nears, the strategic divergences become plainer.

The Bin Laden operation is the third in a series of high-profile disputes just this year. The case of Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who killed two Pakistanis, saw a six-week standoff as the two countries' leading intelligence agencies clashed over diplomatic immunity and spying on local assets. For the past six weeks, the two have clashed over the CIA's use of drones.

For Pakistan, a role in the future of Afghanistan is crucial. It fears encirclement by India in the region. It would also like to see its allies among the Taliban-inspired Afghan factions, chiefly the Haqqani network, play a role. So far, Washington has ignored Pakistan's entreaties and is keen to press on with the surge in the hope of at least achieving a stalemate.

Paradoxically, Pakistan's powerful security establishment is also keen to maintain the US as an ally, keep it involved in the region and continue to receive much-needed largesse to maintain what is one of the world's largest armies. To that end, Bin Laden could have been useful. He could have been a card to play at the right time, for the right leverage. Now they have been denied that opportunity.

Criticisms of Pakistan

Hillary Clinton: I think that the Pakistani government is basically abdicating to the Taliban and to the extremists. (2009)

Robert Gates: There is a very real, and very understandable, trust deficit that has made it more difficult for us to work together.(2010)

David Cameron: We cannot tolerate... the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able to promote the export of terror (2010)

Admiral Mike Mullen: We have strong reservations over the relations of elements of their intelligence with the [terrorist] Haqqani network. (2011)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
fashionHealth concerns and 'pornified' perceptions have made women more conscious at the beach
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Sport
Ojo Onaolapo celebrates winning the bronze medal
commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
Rock band Led Zeppelin in the early 1970s
musicLed Zeppelin to release alternative Stairway To Heaven after 43 years
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmHe was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
footballA colourful discussion on tactics, the merits of the English footballer and rebuilding Manchester United
Life and Style
Sainsbury's could roll the lorries out across its whole fleet if they are successful
tech
Travel
The shipping news: a typical Snoozebox construction
travelSpending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Arts and Entertainment
'Old Fashioned' will be a different kind of love story to '50 Shades'
film
Arts and Entertainment
Tracey Emin's 'My Bed' is returning to the Tate more than 15 years after it first caused shockwaves at the gallery
artTracey Emin's bed returns to the Tate after record sale
Arts and Entertainment
Smart mover: Peter Bazalgette
filmHow live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences
Environment
Neil Young performing at Hyde Park, London, earlier this month
environment
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Coordinator

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: The Organisation: The Green Recrui...

Project Manager (HR)- Bristol - Upto £400 p/day

£350 - £400 per annum + competitive: Orgtel: Project Manager (specializing in ...

Embedded Linux Engineer

£40000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: Embedded Sof...

Senior Hardware Design Engineer - Broadcast

£50000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Working for a m...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash
Shipping container hotels: Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Pop-up hotels filling a niche

Spending the night in a shipping container doesn't sound appealing, but these mobile crash pads are popping up at the summer's biggest events
Native American headdresses are not fashion accessories

Feather dust-up

A Canadian festival has banned Native American headwear. Haven't we been here before?
Boris Johnson's war on diesel

Boris Johnson's war on diesel

11m cars here run on diesel. It's seen as a greener alternative to unleaded petrol. So why is London's mayor on a crusade against the black pump?
5 best waterproof cameras

Splash and flash: 5 best waterproof cameras

Don't let water stop you taking snaps with one of these machines that will take you from the sand to meters deep
Louis van Gaal interview: Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era

Louis van Gaal interview

Manchester United manager discusses tactics and rebuilding after the David Moyes era
Will Gore: The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series

Will Gore: Outside Edge

The goodwill shown by fans towards Alastair Cook will evaporate rapidly if India win the series
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz