WASHINGTON — The U.S. has no “definitive evidence” that Pakistan knew Osama bin Laden had been living in the compound where Navy SEALs killed him, but the Pakistanis must now show convincingly their commitment to defeating the al-Qaida terrorist network, a senior Pentagon official said Thursday.Michele Flournoy, the top policy aide to Defense Secretary Robert Gates, told reporters that the Pakistani government should, for example, help the U.S. exploit the materials the SEALs collected inside bin Laden’s lair during their raid on Monday.
Flournoy was the first Pentagon official to comment on-the-record about the raid. She offered no new details about it, but said it dealt “a very severe blow” to al-Qaida and offers incentive for Pakistan to cooperate more fully in defeating the terrorist network.
“This is a real moment of opportunity for us in terms of making further gains against al-Qaida,” she said.
Questions about whether Pakistan knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts, and may even have helped hide him, arose immediately after Monday’s raid. Flournoy said U.S. officials have pressed Pakistan for more details about the matter.
“We are still talking with the Pakistanis and trying to understand what they did know, what they didn’t know,” she said. “We do not have any definitive evidence at this point that they did know that Osama bin Laden was at this compound.”
Pressed for more detail about what evidence the U.S. might have about Pakistani knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts prior to the raid, Flournoy declined to elaborate, saying that kind of information would have to come from the CIA, which led the hunt for bin Laden and oversaw Monday’s raid.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s army on Thursday called for cuts in the number of American military personnel inside the country to protest the raid, and it threatened to cut cooperation with Washington if it stages more unilateral raids on its territory. A small number of U.S. soldiers have been training Pakistani forces in counter-insurgency operations.