Islamabad, May 9: Pakistani authorities ignored several warnings from the US over the past three years that it would take unilateral action if it gathered intelligence on Osama bin Laden's presence in the country, according to a media report today.
The Americans had warned Pakistan “time and again” that if the US had intelligence concerning bin Laden, “they would act on it with or without Pakistani cooperation”, The News daily quoted informed sources as saying.
An unnamed top-ranking US official said: “Time and again we have warned Pakistan but it seems like your officials live in a dreamland and believe that we need you so much that we will close our eyes and ears to all you do.”
This official angrily asserted that US had warned Pakistan time and again that it would undertake unilateral action against bin Laden if the US thought Pakistan would not act on its own.
One warning came almost three years ago in June 2008, when a high-level US delegation comprising Steve Hadley, National Security Adviser in the Bush administration, and CIA Deputy Director Stephen Kappes were sent to Islamabad with a message to then President Pervez Musharraf and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani - the US strongly believed that some militant groups in Pakistan were harbouring bin Laden, the report said.
The Pakistani leaders asked for “actionable intelligence”.
When questioned by civilian leaders, Pakistani intelligence officials immediately denied any knowledge about bin Laden and any other groups or individuals mentioned by the CIA, the report added.
A few months later, similar demands, including the threat of unilateral action, were made to National Security Adviser Maj Gen (retired) Mahmood Durrani when he visited Washington.
On returning to Pakistan, Durrani communicated his fears about potential US actions.
“Unfortunately, these were interpreted in a way to make him seem like an ‘American agent' and the substance of his views was ignored,” the report said.
Durrani was later sacked by Gilani without the prior knowledge of President Asif Ali Zardari after he told the media that Mumbai attacker was a Pakistani national.
In July 2008, then CIA Director Michael Hayden communicated to Gilani during a meeting in Washington that certain Pakistani militant groups had deep ties with al-Qaeda. Soon after the Mumbai terror attacks in November 2008, the CIA again reiterated this fear.
However, Pakistan's reaction was simply that it needed concrete proof, the report said.
“While willing to avoid placing excessive open pressure on a weak civilian government and often issuing statements that reassured Pakistan, Americans repeatedly said they felt betrayed,” the report said.
Soon after the Mumbai attacks, then US President George W Bush issued a statement that said the ISI was not involved in the incident.
This was mainly due to the personal efforts of Pakistan's Ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, who met senior Bush administration officials to request that statement.
In return, Pakistan assured full cooperation in investigating the Mumbai incident but the Americans said that Islamabad “never stuck to its side of the bargain and serious action had not been taken against” the accused till now.
Another unnamed US official was quoted as saying: “The Pakistanis try to get out of facing tough questions by anti-American statements in Pakistani media. Only recently, we gave them intelligence based on electronic means that one Mumbai incident accused was still using a cell phone from prison but nothing has happened. How can we trust them in such an environment?”
After the ISI warned CIA of relations reaching a breaking point following the arrest of CIA contractor Raymond Davis in Lahore in January, the CIA decided that the ISI was no longer a “reliable ally”, the report said.
While most Pakistanis are focused on the violation of Pakistani sovereignty by Americans in the raid that killed bin Laden last week, US officials say the real issue is how and why the al-Qaeda chief was in Pakistan for so long undetected.
Pakistan was under an obligation, according to UN Security Council Resolution 1297 passed in September 2001, to help locate bin Laden and take action to ensure that he did not receive any protection in the country.
The Americans are also upset that that any Pakistani government functionary who talks about “facing the reality is either forced out or put under pressure by being painted as pro-US in the media”, the report said.
On October 20, 2010, during the Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue meetings in Washington, President Barack Obama spoke directly with army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani by dropping into a meeting between the Pakistani delegation and the US national security team.
Obama repeated the US view that Pakistan's regional strategy approach was coming in the way of fighting terrorism. This included harbouring of groups like the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which the US was convinced were no longer just regional actors but close to al-Qaeda.
According to officials present at the meeting, Obama stated that while the US would like to help Pakistan, the best way Pakistan can help itself is by not sheltering such groups that have ties with al-Qaeda.
In subsequent meetings between ISI chief Lt gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha and CIA Director Leon Panetta, the American side expressed similar views.
Panetta asserted repeatedly that Pakistan had to face the truth and deal with these groups.
The ISI repeatedly denied any collaboration between these groups and al-Qaeda and refused to share information on individuals whom the Americans were interested in, like militant commanders Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Sirajuddin Haqqani. PTI