Washington, May 27: Documents seized at the compound where Osama bin Laden was killed show that he and his aides discussed making a deal with Pakistan in which al Qaeda would refrain from attacking the country in exchange for protection inside Pakistan, American officials said Thursday, reports New York Times.
The documents, which officials said included messages between Bin Laden and his top operations chief over the past year, provide the first suggestion that Bin Laden considered Pakistan's government amenable to a bargain that would ensure the safety of top Qaeda leaders.
The officials emphasized that they had found no evidence that such a proposal, which one American official said was in the “discussion phase,” was ever raised with Pakistani military or intelligence operatives.
But the fact that Bin Laden even considered a truce with Pakistan suggests that he thought the idea might have had some support inside the country's national security establishment. At the same time, Pakistan could argue that the discussions provided evidence that there was no deal already in place allowing Bin Laden to hide in the sprawling compound in Abbottabad, a middle-class town 75 miles by road from the Pakistani capital.
The CIA is poring over a huge electronic database that Navy Seal commandos seized during the raid that killed Bin Laden this month. The new details about the information came as American officials said that Pakistan had granted permission for the C.I.A. to send a forensics team to search Bin Laden's compound.
Many American officials are skeptical that Bin Laden could have hidden for so long inside Pakistan without at least the tacit approval of some Pakistani officials.
Top American officials said they had yet to see any evidence of official approval from the electronic files. But new information is being discovered about Al Qaeda's structure, particularly about a tier of operatives Bin Laden corresponded with who were in charge of the network's daily operations.
In particular, the documents highlight the central role played by Atiya Abdul Rahman, the operations chief with whom American officials said Bin Laden discussed a possible truce with Pakistan. Mr. Rahman is a Libyan operative who came into the job after a drone strike in 2010 killed his boss, Sheik Saeed al-Masri.
The job of Qaeda operations head is particularly perilous, as C.I.A. drone strikes in Pakistan have killed a number of people holding that position over the past year. American officials and terrorism experts said the position was dangerous because the operations chief had to communicate with Qaeda operatives outside Pakistan, communications that are often intercepted by American eavesdropping.
Last year, American officials said, Mr. Rahman notified Bin Laden of a request by the leader of Al Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen to install Anwar al-Awlaki, the radical American-born cleric, as the leader of the group in Yemen. That group, known as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, apparently thought Mr. Awlaki's knowledge of the United States and his status as an Internet celebrity might help the group's operations and fund-raising efforts.
But, according to American officials, Bin Laden decided that the group's leadership should remain unchanged.
Pakistan's decision to allow a C.I.A. forensic team to search the compound, first reported on Thursday by The Washington Post, comes after weeks of private talks between uneasy allies.
It may be more important for symbolic than substantive reasons, as the Obama administration does not appear optimistic that the team would uncover secret tunnels or buried clues that could yield fresh information about Qaeda operations.
Still, American and Pakistani officials are, at least publicly, trying to play down tensions in a deeply fractured relationship. In another move aimed at thawing relations, Pakistan last week returned to the Americans the severed tail of a Black Hawk helicopter that crashed at the Abbottabad compound on the night of the raid.