Some elements within Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI may have had knowledge of Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, but the raid that killed the al-Qaeda chief was a unilateral American military operation, according to a senior US official.
“There’s been a lot of speculation about that. We don’t know with certainty,” Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told MSNBC when asked if the US believed that the then ISI chief or the Pakistan Army chief knew that Osama lived in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
“What we’ve said is it is possible that there were elements within the ISI who may have had some inkling of bin Laden’s whereabouts. But we’ve never seen hard evidence that that’s the case,” he said.
His comments came days after American investigative journalist Seymour M Hersh claimed that the Pakistani army chief and ISI head knew about the US operation in advance.
“Certainly our belief, when we briefed the Pakistanis, is that they were surprised. If you’ll remember, there was a big rupture in US-Pakistan relations after the raid precisely because they were so upset that they didn’t know in advance and they felt it was a violation of sovereignty,” he said.
“That was a source of tension that we had to ease. But with respect to their foreknowledge, we’ve never had that hard evidence. People have speculated, again, that there may have been elements in the ISI, but I think history will have to continue to pull the thread on that. But we’ve never seen hard evidence that that’s the case,” Rhodes said.
He said the raid that killed Osama was a unilateral American military operation and Pakistan had no role to play in it.
“We felt that it was so sensitive that we could not risk the operation by briefing a foreign government. So they absolutely did not have any foreknowledge of this operation. Obviously didn’t cooperate with us on it,” Rhodes said.