Washington, May 4: Ruling out an apology to Pakistan for its unilateral military action against its “enemy number one” Osama bin Laden deep inside that country, the US has said the critical mission could have been compromised if it had informed Islamabad about it.
“We make no apologies about that,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters when asked whether the US should have gone unilaterally inside Pakistan to get bin Laden.
“He was enemy number one for this country and killed many many innocent civilians. And no apologies,” he said last night, hours after Pakistan termed the US commando operation that eliminated bin Laden an “unauthorised unilateral action” without its knowledge.
The White House, however, acknowledged that Pakistan provided useful intelligence and cooperation over the years and assistance that helped the US build the “mountain of information” that it needed to find the al-Qaeda chief and execute the mission in Abbottabad.
CIA Director Leon Panetta told Senators at a briefing on the bin Laden mission that the administration decided against informing Pakistan because of fears that the details would leak and the mission could be compromised, a lawmaker present at the meeting was quoted as saying by ‘The Hill', which covers the Congress.
Earlier, Panetta told Time magazine that it was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could “jeopardise” the mission.
His remarks drew a swift reaction from Pakistan, with its Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir calling them “disquieting.”
“Most of these things that have happened in terms of global anti-terror, Pakistan has played a pivotal role... So it's a little disquieting when we have comments like this,” he told BBC.
The CIA chief, in a separate interview to NBC News, hoped that the US could continue to work with Pakistan, “because the reality is that in that part of the world, we have to have Pakistan's cooperation in dealing not just with the issue of terrorism in their country, but dealing with the issue of how we find peace in Afghanistan.”
He said: “At the same time, obviously, there - there are questions. And there are complications that we have to work through with the Pakistanis.”
“The reality is that we continue to confront our enemy in their country. We conduct operations against that enemy and their country. They have provided cooperation with regards to that effort to go after those terrorists.”
Terming the US' relationship with Pakistan as “complicated but important”, White House Press Secretary Carney said the administration was “working very hard” on its ties with Islamabad that have been tested in many ways over the years and even this year.
“It's vital because, as we have said, that lopping the head off the snake is important, but the body, while battered and bruised because of the actions that have been taken over the years, is still there and we need to bury that body.”
His comments came as US lawmakers stepped up demands to freeze aid to Pakistan with one of them even announcing a plan to introduce a legislation.
Congressman Ted Poe from Texas, who is proposing the legislation, said the aid should be barred till Pakistan demonstrated it had no inkling of bin Laden's whereabouts, observing that “Pakistan has a lot of explaining to do.”
The Pakistan Foreign Aid Accountability Act would require the US State Department to certify to Congress that Pakistan was not providing a sanctuary for the world's most wanted terrorist. Since the 2001 terrorist attack, the US Government has provided an estimated USD 20 billion of assistance to Pakistan.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner justified continuance of aid to Pakistan, notwithstanding strains in ties with Pakistan over the bin Laden issue, pointing out that the country was still facing the scourge of terrorism.
“I think our view is that this (aid) has paid dividends and will continue to pay dividends. This is assistance that is in both Pakistan's long-term interest as well as the United States' national interests and security interests,” he said.
“We're continuing to work with them. We, again, may not see eye to eye on how to approach every issue, but we're going to continue to work with Pakistan and we believe it's in the best interest of our nation to do so,” Toner said.
Acknowledging that the killing of bin Laden has raised questions, he said at this point of time US aid would continue.
Peter T King, a top New York Congressman said, “...the relationship now has changed. They (Pakistan) are at a crossroads. And you can't be coming to Congress and asking for USD 3 billion after this, after what happened, and expect to get it without serious, serious questions being asked and the relationship being reanalysed.”
His steps came as an anti-Pakistan mood prevailed on the Capitol Hill with a significantly large number of Congressmen and Senators believing that Monday's special forces operation in Abbottabad had exposed the double game of the Pakistani government.
They now want White House to adopt a tough approach against Islamabad, saying that over the years Pakistan has become the nerve centre of terrorism. PTI