WASHINGTON: US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has expressed concern about Pakistan’s treatment of a doctor who helped the United States find former al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The doctor, Shakil Afridi, has been under arrest for months now and the Abbottabad inquiry commission earlier suggested that a treason case should be registered against him.
In an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, due to be aired on Sunday, Panetta acknowledged that Afridi, a doctor in Abbottabad, the town where Bin Laden was found, had in fact been working for US intelligence, collecting DNA to verify the 9/11 mastermind’s presence.
“I’m very concerned about what the Pakistanis did with this individual … who in fact helped provide intelligence that was very helpful with regards to this operation,” Panetta said, according to excerpts of the interview.
“He was not in any way treasonous towards Pakistan,” the defense secretary said. “Pakistan and the United States have a common cause here against terrorism … and for them to take this kind of action against somebody who was helping to go after terrorism, I just think is a real mistake on their part.”
The defense secretary didn’t stop just there. He went on to add that he still believed someone in authority in Pakistan knew where Bin Laden was hiding before US forces went in to find him.
Intelligence reports found that Pakistani military helicopters had passed over the compound in Abbottabad, according to the interview.
“I personally have always felt that somebody must have had some sense of what was happening at this compound,” Panetta said. “Don’t forget, this compound had 18-foot walls … It was the largest compound in the area.
“So you would have thought that somebody would have asked the question, ‘What the hell’s going on there?’” Panetta told CBS.
The Pentagon chief said this concern contributed to Washington’s decision not to give Pakistan advance warning of the impending raid.
“It concerned us that if we in fact brought (Pakistan) into it, that – they might … give bin Laden a heads-up,” he said.
However, Panetta acknowledged he did not have “hard evidence” that Pakistan knew of the al Qaeda leader’s whereabouts.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 29th, 2012.