The U.S. government has requested access to the three widows of Osama bin Laden in order to probe the depth and extent of support the former al-Qaeda terror chief may have received from Pakistani security and intelligence officials.
We've asked for access, obviously, to those folks, Thomas E Donilon, US National Security Advisor, told ABC News Sunday.
U.S. officials are also hoping any interrogation of the women might yield more information on existing al-Qaeda operations.
The three women, at least one of whom had been injured during the U.S. commando raid in the Abbottabad compound which killed bin Laden last week, have been placed in custody of Pakistani officials ever since.
Pakistan has not yet responded to the U.S. request.
Donilon has also asked Pakistani government officials to provide information on the Abbottabad hideout.
Meanwhile, Washington is combing through the “treasure trove” of materials that the US Special Forces seized during the raid at the compound.
The CIA is describing it to us as the size of a small college library, Donilon said, while declining to discuss specifics of what was found.
Donilon also justified the need and legitimacy of the raid on bin Laden’s compound, amidst questions surrounding its legality.
The messages that have come back to us from around the world, and I study this fairly closely, is that this was a just action, that in fact this was a just action against a man who had committed murder, not just in the United States but around the world, he said.
Meanwhile, there is much speculation over how complicit the Pakistani authorities were in hiding and protecting bin Laden all these years. Pakistan has been a strong US ally in the war against terrorism, but questions are now proliferating over the activities of its intelligence and security organizations.
We have had difficulty with Pakistan, but we've also had to work very closely with Pakistan in our counter-terrorism efforts, Donilon said.
Donilon has stated categorically that “there was a network in Abbottabad, which supported Bin Laden” (expanding on a statement by US President Barack Obama that bin Laden may have had help from Pakistani authorities).
However, Donilon softened his stance somewhat when he said that he has “not seen evidence” to indicate “that the political, the military or the intelligence leadership would have foreknowledge of bin Laden”.
Meanwhile, Senator John Kerry, the top foreign policy official in Congress, somewhat concurred
“There is no evidence that at the highest level, [intelligence chief Lieutenant General Shuja Pasha], [chief of army staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani], the president of Pakistan [Asif Ali Zardari], knew this, there’s no evidence at this moment,” he said.
However, Kerry added: “It is extraordinarily hard to believe that he could have survived there for five years or more in a major
population centre without some kind of support system and knowledge.”
Donilon also stated that Obama has no plans to visit Pakistan in the near future.
Obama has earlier promised to make a state visit to Pakistan sometime this year to “commend” Islamabad for its efforts against terrorism,. However, the embarrassing discovery of bin Laden in a compound near the capital would appear to have made such a trip unwise now.
“There is not a visit on [Obama’s] schedule at this point,” Donilon said.