Afghanistan’s former intelligence chief says he knew Osama bin Laden was hiding in Pakistan four years ago, but Pakistan’s leaders rejected his claims.
In an interview broadcast today on CBS’ 60 Minutes, Amrullah Saleh says Afghan intelligence thought bin Laden was in the Pakistani city of Mansehra – about 20km away from Abbottabad, where the terrorist leader was eventually found and killed by US Navy SEALs.
Saleh has become a prominent critic of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s efforts to start peace talks with the Taleban. He says Pakistan should be recognised by the United States as “a hostile country.”
He told CBS: “They take your money. They do not co-operate. They created the Taleban. They are number one in nuclear proliferation.”
Meanwhile, a US Senator warned that already shaky US-Pakistani relations have reached a critical juncture as calls grow in the United States to cut some of the billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad following bin Laden’s killing.
Sen. John Kerry, who spoke in Afghanistan before traveling to Pakistan, said sober and serious discussion was needed to resolve the widening rift amid growing suspicion that Pakistan’s security forces were complicit in harbouring the al-Qaeda leader, who was killed May 2 in a raid by US Navy SEALs not far from Islamabad.
For its part, Pakistan is angry that it was not told about the raid in Abbottabad until after it was completed. That prompted accusations that its sovereignty had been violated.
Kerry – chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the most senior American official to travel to Pakistan since the raid occurred – sounded a hopeful tone.
“I think for the moment we want to be hopeful and optimistic that we can work our way through this, get over this hiccup, and find a positive path forward,” he said.
But he made clear that patience was running thin in Washington after it was discovered that the terror leader had been living for years in a compound in a military garrison town that includes Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.
“I think the important thing here is not to get into a recriminatory finger pointing, accusatory back and forth. The important thing is to understand that major, significant events have taken place in last days that have a profound impact on what we have called the war on terror, a profound impact on our relationship as a result,” Kerry told reporters in the Afghan capital.