Afghanistan: Pakistan had to know bin Laden there

AP News
Posted: May 04, 2011 11:02 AM
Afghanistan: Pakistan had to know bin Laden there

The Afghan government said Wednesday that Pakistan must have known Osama bin Laden was living in a military garrison town near the capital, echoing international suspicions about Islamabad in the aftermath of the deadly strike against al-Qaida's chief.

The two countries have long had tense relations, especially over the issue of Pakistan failing to target Taliban militants using its territory as sanctuary to launch cross-border attacks against Afghan and international forces.

"Not only Pakistan, with its strong intelligence service, but even a very weak government with a weak intelligence service would have known who was living in that house in such a location," said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.

The house where bin Laden lived in the town of Abbottabad was close to the gate of the Kakul Military Academy, an army-run institution where top Pakistani officers train, Azimi said, adding that many neighboring houses are home to military officials.

"There are lots of questions that need answers," Azimi said.

Others have made similar remarks.

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said Tuesday that bin Laden must have had an extensive support network in Pakistan in the years before his death. And White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters that the U.S. is committed to cooperating with Pakistan despite questions about who in the Islamabad government may have known bin Laden was in hiding in the compound in Abbottabad.

Afghan officials have long said that the real war against terrorism is not in Afghanistan, but across the border in Pakistan. And while they have welcomed international troops who are fighting the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, they have also criticized these forces for backing a Pakistani government that Afghan officials say is double-dealing.

Azimi went on to say that Afghanistan is bracing for revenge attacks following the bin Laden strike, but expects that the al-Qaida leader's death will eventually make it easier to defeat the Taliban.

The nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan started as a manhunt for bin Laden in 2001. Many inside Afghanistan and in foreign countries fighting the war have raised questions about whether his death will shorten or ease the battle with the Taliban insurgency, but the U.S. and others pledged there wouldn't be a rapid withdrawal.

On the day that bin Laden's death was announced, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called it a blow to terrorism but made no predictions about how it would affect the war in his country.

Azimi, for his part, predicted al-Qaida revenge attacks in the immediate aftermath of the terror chief's death.

"The first phase will be for a short period of time, a revenge phase in order show that even if he is gone, others are keeping the network together," he said, adding that Afghan security forces have already increased their presence in key areas and their readiness in anticipation of such attacks.

"Then slowly the situation will become more normal and that will start to show how Osama's absence effects the structure of the network," Azimi said.

International forces say a persistent campaign against insurgents over the summer has driven them out of their traditional strongholds and destroyed the weapons caches they depend on to mount their seasonal spring offensive.

The Taliban, however, have started the spring fighting season with high-profile attacks apparently designed to show their strength and their ability to infiltrate the government.

In April, the insurgent group launched deadly attacks from within the Defense Ministry in Kabul, the main police headquarters in the southern city of Kandahar and a joint U.S.-Afghan base in the east.

The militants also managed to break more than 480 of their compatriots out of the Kandahar city prison with an elaborate tunnel escape.

So far, violence in Afghanistan has continued unabated despite bin Laden's death.

Officials announced that gunmen assassinated the head of the Afghan police counterterrorism unit for western Ghor province as he was driving to work. The assailants hemmed in Ghulam Yaya's car by approaching on motorcycles from the front and behind, before opening fire on it.

Yaya, one of his brothers and a bodyguard were all killed in Tuesday's attack, said Abdul Ghafar Sayedzada, the head of the country's anti-terrorism force.

In the east, meanwhile, two civilians were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb in Nangarhar province Wednesday afternoon, according to provincial spokesman Ahmadzia Abdulzai. In the same area, a group of rural elders were attacked by gunmen while on their way to a U.S. base to discuss development programs. Two of the elders were killed, Abdulzai said.

And in nearby Paktia province, a woman was killed when she was caught in the crossfire of a morning clash between government forces and militants, Paktia Police Chief Abdul Ghafar Safi said.

Separately Wednesday, NATO forces rejected accusations that they had killed a private security guard under contract to protect a road traveled by their supply convoys. The international military coalition said that the man who was killed was not working for a security company and was a militant involved in setting up an ambush.

Afghan police and the man's alleged employer _ Watan Risk Management _ have maintained that it was a Watan guard who was killed while trying to protect the road.