U.S. President Barack Obama, who had planned to make a state visit to Pakistan later this year in order to commend Islamabad for helping to tackle terrorism and to show that he did not favor India, now might have second thoughts.
Following revelations that al-Qaeda terror boss Osama bin Laden had been living safely in a military garrison near the Pakistani capital, speculation has swirled that top government officials there not only knew of bin Laden’s location but actively protected him.
When asked earlier this week by reporters if Obama would cancel his trip to Pakistan, a White House spokesman declined to answer.
Soon after bin Laden was killed inside the Abbottabad compound, John Brennan, Obama’s number one counter-terrorism adviser, told reporters: ”I’m not going to address the president’s schedule. I think there’s a commitment that the president has made that he is intending to visit Pakistan. A lot depends on availability, scheduling.”
A trip to Pakistan by the US president would present huge headaches – but not going at this sensitive would raise even more questions. Pakistan has long been an important US ally and has received billions of dollars in aid.
Complicating things even further is the fact that US and NATO troops are expected to withdraw from neighboring Afghanistan later this year.
Prominent members of US Congress have already called for Pakistani aid to be reviewed in light of the embarrassing situation surrounding bin Laden.
Similarly, Pakistani military and intelligence are reportedly outraged by the US carrying out a commando attack on their soil, allegedly without their knowledge or approval.
In the event Obama did travel to Pakistan, due to enormous concerns, it would likely not be public knowledge until afterwards. He has gone to Iraq and Afghanistan under similar conditions.
According to Dawn, an English-language Pakistani newspaper, Karl Inderfurth, a former assistant secretary of state under President Bill Clinton, said: ”I don’t think that responsible officials on either side want to inject into that situation all that is required for a presidential visit, including safety and security. The Pakistanis know they are sitting atop a very volatile situation.”