WASHINGTON, May 5, 2011 — Pakistan needs to strengthen its counterterrorism cooperation with the United States as one result of the May 1 raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the undersecretary of defense for policy said here today.
In remarks at the Aspen Institute, Michele Flournoy said U.S. government officials are talking with the Pakistanis to try to understand “what they knew and what they didn’t know” with regard to Osama bin Laden hiding in plain sight at a one-acre compound about 35 miles north of the capital city of Islamabad.
“We have no definitive evidence at this point that they knew if Osama bin Laden was at this compound,” she said. The operation dealt a very severe blow against al-Qaida, she said, and the United States will use this in dealing with allies and foes alike.
“It has demonstrated U.S. resolve, it has demonstrated U.S. capability, and I think that puts us in a very strong position both to pressure the al-Qaida network further, but also to incentivize further cooperation with our counterterrorism partners — not only Pakistan, but around the world,” Flournoy said. “This is a real moment of opportunity for us in making further gains against al-Qaida.”
Flournoy said she has been talking with Pakistani allies about the importance of strengthening counterterrorism cooperation “and moving forward in a way in which the cooperation is visible and concrete and undeniable.”
The Navy SEAL team that conducted the raid also took materials from the compound that intelligence analysts are sifting through now, and Pakistan can help with this, Flournoy said.
“There’s great opportunity for cooperation in making sense of what we learn from the materials gathered in the operation,” she said, “from understanding the network as it remains and how to put further pressure on the network to hasten its demise, and more broadly to cooperate in a way that ultimately helps stabilize not only Pakistan but Afghanistan.”
Flournoy described the contacts as “very candid,” and stressed the need for concrete moves on the Pakistanis’ part to prove their commitment.
The operation also has relevance in Afghanistan, the undersecretary said. “I would hope the Taliban are re-thinking their future,” she said.
The United States supports an Afghan-led reconciliation process, Flournoy said, in which the Taliban would have to renounce al-Qaida, renounce violence and agree to abide by the Afghan constitution.
Now that bin Laden is dead, she said, the personal ties that connected senior Taliban leaders to him are broken.
“And that creates an opportunity for them to step forward and renounce al-Qaida and any affiliation with it,” she added.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)