Pakistani authorities have rounded up a handful of people who helped the CIA find and kill Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad last month, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials.
Those rounded up include a doctor who was a major in the medical corps of the Pakistani military, according to two Pakistani officials and one U.S. official.
The owner of a safe house that the CIA used to spy on bin Laden’s compound was also rounded up, the Pakistani officials said.
The Pakistani army strongly denied that a major had been picked up. “There is no army officer detained, and the story is false and totally baseless,” said Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas, the army spokesman, in a statement.
A separate Pakistani military official claimed that the “story” about the major being picked up was a “fabrication” by U.S. officials to attempt to discredit the Pakistani army. The official said that the claim was “retribution” after a recent trip to Islamabad by CIA Director Leon Panetta did not go well.
U.S. officials declined to comment on that accusation.
The round up took place in the past two to three weeks, according to the Pakistani officials, who spoke on the condition they not be named. It was first reported by The New York Times.
The fact that Pakistani authorities rounded up the very people who helped the U.S. find Osama bin Laden will only increase the mistrust between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials, and convince each side that the other is trying to undermine its ally.
U.S. intelligence officials are extremely frustrated with their Pakistani counterparts. The frustration and mistrust increased last week, when Panetta showed Pakistan’s chief spy and chief of its army video that U.S. officials said showed collusion between militants and Pakistani officials.
Two U.S. officials suggest the largest impact will be on Capitol Hill. An already skeptical and angry Congress might be pushed over the edge by the news that the Pakistanis detained the very people who the U.S. used to get bin Laden. Yesterday, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill that could limit aid to Pakistan by as much as 75 percent, and Rep. Mike Rogers, R.-Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said aid to Pakistan needs new benchmarks “in order for [Pakistan] to get back on the right track.” Even if that language dies in the Senate, the momentum against Pakistan is certainly clear.
But Pakistani officials contend that they were walking a thin line after the U.S. decided to launch a unilateral raid to kill bin Laden. They said they are trying to balance U.S. demands with the demands of their own military rank and file, which is furious over the raid and wants its leaders to break with the U.S.
A U.S. official admitted that the Pakistani military is under incredible pressure from within — perhaps more than at any point since 1971, when Pakistan broke into two countries (the eastern part became Bangladesh). Because of that pressure, the official said the U.S. is trying to get more cooperation from the Pakistanis — but trying not to demand so much that the military breaks from within.