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Ahmed Rashid: What Did Pakistan Know?

This aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden.
Alex Brandon
/
AP
This aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden.

Pakistan's leaders have said they didn't know that Osama bin Laden was living in a large house in Abbottabad, close to the nation's capital. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who has written extensively about the Taliban and al-Qaida, discusses what officials might have known about bin Laden's presence, and what impact his death may have on jihadist groups, the war in Afghanistan and the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

"The feeling in Pakistan is very mixed," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I think there's astonishment and embarrassment and anger at the idea that [their] intelligence might have been involved in trying to protect bin Laden. But at the same time, there is a very large conservative, fundamentalist, anti-American lobby which would want to try and salvage something from this — and one of the things they can salvage is that the Americans have attacked Pakistan's sovereignty by launching this attack without taking permission. ... All the talk in Parliament over the past 24 hours has all been about the question of sovereignty. For some people, this is a way of escaping the real question, which is: Did bin Laden have protection from anyone?"

Ahmed Rashid is a columnist for the Financial Times. His books include Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Rashid lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

Copyright 2023 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

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