Pakistan and the US were closing in on al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden about five years ago but suddenly lost track of him and now it was not known whether the world's most wanted terrorist was dead or alive, according to former President Pervez Musharraf.
"It was some five years back when there was some intelligence that got picked up of a broad location...Then suddenly, we lost track," Musharraf, currently on a lecture tour of the US, told a near-capacity crowd at a college at Sioux Falls in South Dakota.
The former military ruler described this as a failure of Pakistani and US intelligence and said they did not now know whether bin Laden was alive. "I don't know whether he's dead or alive," he said.
Musharraf made the comments in response to a question from a student during an event on Friday.
He conceded that he committed several blunders in the years leading up to the 9/11 attacks in the US but he also took credit for several accomplishments, including improving Pakistan's economy and introducing "an essence of democracy" to the country.
"This gives me pride to say, that although I was a military man a man in uniform I did believe in the real essence of democracy. I take pride in declaring that I introduced the essence of democracy in Pakistan," Musharraf said.
He did this, Musharraf said, by empowering citizens. He said women gained political power and were given more seats in the local and national levels of government, a comment that drew a standing ovation from the crowd.
On Tuesday, Musharraf was invited to Capitol Hill to share with Republican and Democrat lawmakers his thoughts on the situation in the Afghan-Pak region and the way forward.
"Mr Musharraf provided his personal and candid insights on Afghanistan and Pakistan and shared his perspective for strategies to stabilise the region," said Congressman Steve Buyer after the meeting.
Musharraf's thoughts "will be very helpful to us as Congress works with the administration in crafting a successful way forward in Afghanistan," Buyer said.
The Congressional meeting came on the eve of the crucial "situation room" meeting of US President Barack Obama with his top policy advisers on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
As the Obama administration continues to consider a new strategy in Afghanistan, which could include an increase in US troops, hearing Musharraf's insight will "help us make the necessary decisions to support a successful strategy with the ultimate goal of finding sustained peace and stability in the region," Buyer said. PTI