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Sunday
May082011

Donilon: Pakistan Remains Important U.S. Ally

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Following the killing of Osama bin Laden, a lot of questions have been raised about whether or not Pakistani officials were aware that bin Laden had been hiding out in the town of Abbottabad, in a compound located only a third of a mile away from a military academy of the Pakistani Army.

"The idea that he could be in a suburb essentially of Islamabad is quite remarkable," said former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in an interview with ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour.

"This isn't a time bluster from Pakistan," Rice added. "This is a time for serious analysis of why this happened, why he was hiding in plain sight for apparently as long as he was."

The U.S. did not give Pakistan prior warning about the raid in which Navy SEALs killed bin Laden, and White House national security advisor Tom Donilon said that decision was not based on mistrust, but rather on "operational security." The United States acted on the assumption that bin Laden had an escape plan; if the information leaked, the Al Qaeda leader would vanish once more. There was also the matter of protecting U.S. forces.

"The safety and security of our operators would have been put at issue," Donilon said. "So we didn't share this with anybody, not even our closest ally."

Pakistan remains an important ally of the United States, the national security advisor noted, and its role in the ongoing fight against terrorism should not be so easily dismissed.

The United States also has an immediate interest in preserving the relationship: Pakistan has in its custody all the non-combatants of the Abbottabad compound, including three of Bin Laden's wives. Pakistani officials also took additional material from the compound, according to Donilon, and the United States needs access to it.

Rice said it is possible and probable that high-ranking Pakistani officials did not know bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. Ignorance, however, is not an excuse.

"If this happens in your country," Rice told Amanpour, "you have an obligation to find out and to do a thorough investigation and to punish anybody who might have been responsible."

Politicians and Americans are now questioning whether the United States should cut off funding to Pakistan. From 2002 to 2010, the United States gave $13.3 billion in security-related aid to Pakistan, and $6 billion for economic assistance. More than $3 billion was requested for 2011.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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