THE US did not warn Pakistani officials about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound because of fears they might tip off the al Qaeda leader, CIA Director Leon Panetta said in an interview.
“It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission: They might alert the targets,” he told Time magazine.
The US conducted a unilateral mission to take out bin Laden, and while Obama administration officials have said Pakistan contributed intelligence in the initial stages of the operation, Pakistani authorities insist they had no knowledge the raid was taking place.
Pakistan has come under fierce US scrutiny over how bin Laden was seemingly able to have hidden in plain sight in the million-dollar mansion, located in a military town just 40 miles (64 kilometers) from Pakistan’s capital of Islamabad.
White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said Monday he believed it was “inconceivable” that bin Laden did not have a support system within Pakistan that had allowed him to remain in the country for an extended period of time. He stopped short of saying whether the US believed the terrorist leader had received support on an “official basis,” but he said the characteristics of the compound “raise questions” about why it had not alerted authorities.
Panetta also told Time the US ruled out running a high-altitude bombing raid or launching a direct shot on the compound with cruise missiles because of the possibility of “too much collateral.”
The CIA chief said that while the US had significant “circumstantial evidence” that bin Laden was living in the compound, US satellites had not been able to photograph bin Laden or his family. Panetta’s aides were only 60 to 80 percent confident the notorious terrorist was on the property, but Panetta told the magazine the evidence was strong enough to risk the raid.
In making the case to go ahead with the mission to President Barack Obama, Panetta said he argued that “when you put it all together, we have the best evidence since [the 2001 battle of] Tora Bora [where bin Laden was last seen], and that then makes it clear that we have an obligation to act.”
After Obama approved the mission, Panetta said he told General William McRaven, head of the Joint Special Forces Command, that the mission was “to go in there [and] get bin Laden, and if bin Laden isn’t there, get the hell out!”