ISLAMABAD — Incompetence by Pakistan’s spy agencies and civilian government allowed Osama bin Laden to hide in the country for nine years before he was killed by U.S. commandos, a Pakistani investigative commission has concluded, though it added it did not have enough evidence to assert government complicity in the al-Qaida leader’s presence in the country.
The commission was established following bin Laden’s death in May 2011, when many Pakistanis demanded to know how the al-Qaida leader was able to evade detection in the country for so long, and were deeply angered by the ease with which Navy SEALs in stealth helicopters slipped in and out of Pakistan to carry out the covert raid against Bin Laden without any reaction from the military.
A copy of the report was leaked to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network, which posted it on its website late Monday.
The U.S. mission to kill bin Laden at his compound in the military city of Abbottabad was one of a series of events in 2011 that pushed increasingly tenuous relations between the U.S. and Pakistan to the brink of collapse. In January 2011, a CIA contractor shot to death two Pakistani men in the eastern city of Lahore. Six months after bin Laden’s death, U.S. aircraft mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the Afghan-Pakistani border.
It was the bin Laden raid, however, that did the most damage to two of the country’s most powerful institutions — the military and the intelligence community.
A week after the raid, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, appeared before parliament and offered to resign, acknowledging the Pakistani security establishment’s inability to detect the incoming U.S. helicopters as well as the al-Qaida leader’s use of Abbottabad as a hideout. Lawmakers allowed him to keep his post.
The report was particularly harsh in its criticism of the military and intelligence community, both of which historically have been seen in Pakistani society as unassailable.