Afghan intelligence sources suspected that Osama bin Laden was living in the region around Abbottabad, Pakistan as long ago as four years ago – but nothing was done about it because the president of Pakistan at the time, Pervez Musharraf, angrily rejected any such possibility.
Afghanistan's former intelligence chief, Amrullah Saleh, made the accusation to the Guardian newspaper of Britain.
The Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), determined as long ago as early 2004 that Osama was likely living deep inside Pakistan, rather than in the lawless, semi-autonomous tribal areas that other sources believed.
Saleh’s group made the assertion based on thousands of interrogation reports and on the belief that Osama (a millionaire with multiple wives and no background of toughness) could not survive in a tent or a cave.
I was pretty sure he was in the settled areas of Pakistan because in 2005 it was still very easy to infiltrate the tribal areas, and we had massive numbers of informants there, he said. They could find any Arab, but not Bin Laden.
By 2007, Saleh said, Afghan intelligence believed Osama was living in the Pakistani town of Manshera, a town about 27 kilometers north of Abbottabad.
NDS had even identified two al-Qaida safe houses in Manshera.
However, according to Saleh, President Musharraf became irate at the very notion of the world’s most wanted terrorist residing in such a prominent part of Pakistan.
Saleh recalled that during a meeting with Musharraf and Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, the Pakistani president became so furious at the thought of Osama living in his country that he pounded his fist on the table.
He said, 'Am I the president of the [Banana Republic]?' Saleh told The Guardian.
Then he turned to President Karzai and said, 'Why have you have brought this Panjshiri guy to teach me intelligence?'
Musharraf reportedly threatened Saleh before Karzai intervened.
[Panjshiri are an ethnic group in Afghanistan.]
Saleh is a controversial figure in Islamabad because he is viewed as being intransigently anti-Pakistani.
Saleh also told the Guardian that he believed that Mullah Omar, the chief of the Taliban, is also hiding out in a safe-house protected by member of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani spy network, in Karachi.
He is protected by ISI, [Lieutenant-General Ahmad Shuja Pasha, director-general of the ISI] knows as I am talking to you where is Mullah Omar and he keeps daily briefs from his officers about the location of senior Taliban leaders, simple, he said.