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Pakistan reacts angrily to tone of U.S. questions

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Bin Laden death tests U.S., Pakistan
  • NEW: Pakistani ambassador to U.S. says countrymen told him "we dropped the ball"
  • "How does he hide in plain sight like this?" congressman asks
  • "No one believes the government," Pakistani politician says
  • Pakistani official: Panetta's "involved or incompetent" statement is "regrettable"

Washington (CNN) -- The United States is pressing Pakistani authorities for answers about how Osama bin Laden could have lived close to a major military base near Pakistan's capital without the government knowing, two senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

The al Qaeda leader was living in a walled compound in Abbottabad, about 50 km (31 miles) north of Islamabad, when he was gunned down by American commandos in a pre-dawn raid Monday. The killing has left Pakistani officials facing sharp questions from Washington -- and in some cases, from their own people -- and exacerbated an already rocky relationship between the two nations.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official reacted angrily Wednesday to comments by CIA Director Leon Panetta, who told U.S. lawmakers in a closed-door session Tuesday that Pakistani officials were either "involved or incompetent" in bin Laden's case -- and, "Neither is a good place to be."

The official, who did not want to be named, said his country had been generously sharing intelligence with its American counterparts.

"Of all people," the Pakistani official said, Panetta "knows how much we have been doing."

"What worse statement can come than that we heard from Panetta?" the official said. "I am afraid this statement is totally regrettable."

But the discovery of bin Laden, who was living in a three-story, walled home a short distance from a prestigious Pakistani military academy, has fueled calls by American lawmakers to re-examine the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

"How does he hide in plain sight like this, in a military town so close to Islamabad?" asked Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Florida, a member of the House Armed Services Committee.

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Rooney told CNN that Pakistan has helped the United States in its battle against al Qaeda and its Taliban allies in neighboring Afghanistan.

"We use them for resources, logistics and assets," he said. But he added, "We have to be very careful. If we do find out they were harboring bin Laden, that will be a bad deal for Pakistan."

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said his government will conduct an inquiry to find out how bin Laden managed to maintain residency there.

The government was not complicit with bin Laden because having him there was harmful, Haqqani told PBS' Charlie Rose. Any official who was aware of the fugitive's presence and failed to act will be held accountable, he added

"I was told, 'We just dropped the ball.'" Haqqani said of his phone calls to officials back home. He claimed bin Laden was given "private support" in Pakistan.

Pakistan won't be a full partner in the international community until it solves its terrorism problem, said the diplomat, adding Pakistan and the United States remain allies.

"I am relieved bin Laden is no more," said Haqqani. The al Qaeda leader caused injury to Islam, Muslims and many nations, he told Rose.

A senior Pakistani official told CNN the embassy in Washington has been receiving threatening phone calls and e-mails since bin Laden was killed Monday.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the United States has provided $18 billion in foreign assistance and reimbursements to Pakistan, two-thirds of which has been security-related.

Pakistan says it has provided valuable intelligence information and worked with the United States to capture or kill numerous al Qaeda members and other Islamic extremists. But when the United States drew a bead on bin Laden, it launched an incursion into Pakistani territory unilaterally, without consulting Islamabad until it was over, according to White House officials.

The United States is reviewing intelligence seized in the compound to determine whether bin Laden received support inside Pakistan, a senior U.S. official told CNN.

In Islamabad on Tuesday, Marc Grossman, the special U.S. representative on Afghanistan and Pakistan, met with Pakistan's president, Asif Ali Zardari; the head of the ISI, the nation's top intelligence agency, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Pasha; and the military chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani. During that visit, which was scheduled before the killing of bin Laden, Grossman discussed the operation with the officials, the State Department confirmed.

Those officials say the Pakistani officials expressed surprise that bin Laden was living at the compound, and the U.S. officials told CNN they are taking that assertion at face value until more information is available.

But some Pakistani figures have expressed skepticism about their own government's assertions.

"This is the biggest disaster for Pakistan," onetime cricket champion-turned-politician Imran Khan said Wednesday. Khan, who now leads the nationalist Tehreek-e-Insaf party, told Pakistan's Geo TV that people "are in a state of shock" over the raid.

"Why did the Pakistani army not act when they had the intelligence?" he asked. "No one believes the government, unfortunately."

Pakistan supported the Taliban when that fundamentalist movement controlled Afghanistan during the 1990s, in part as a counterweight to the influence of longtime rival India. It broke ties with the movement after its al Qaeda allies attacked New York and Washington in 2001, triggering the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan and the nearly decade-long manhunt for bin Laden.

A resurgent Taliban is now battling U.S. and allied troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani forces across the border -- but American officials have consistently indicated that some elements of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency remain supportive of Islamic militants.

In addition, U.S. drone attacks on suspected Taliban fighters in Pakistan's tribal regions, near the Afghan border, have fueled tensions between the two allies, Quarterman said.

"The Pakistanis are hedging their bets," said Mark Quarterman, director of the Program on Crisis, Conflict, and Cooperation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and an expert on Pakistan. "They know the United States isn't there to stay."

"I would not be surprised if there are questions on Capitol Hill about continued level of support to Pakistan, about the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the consideration of the nature of that relationship and how we handle it going forward," he said.

But many Pakistanis feel the United States has violated their nation's sovereignty. They note that their country didn't have suicide attacks until U.S. and allied forces invaded Afghanistan. And ties were also strained by the actions of CIA contractor Raymond Davis, who was allowed to leave the country after he shot to death two Pakistani men he said were trying to rob him.

Pakistani political analyst Imtiaz Gul told CNN that although many Pakistanis are critical of U.S. foreign policy in the region, he doesn't expect the relationship to fall apart.

"I think it's very damaging and frustrating," Gul said. "Both need each other. You can't ignore a country of 180 million people already next to a destabilized country. ... I think it's a marriage of convenience right now. I don't think they're partnering in bed, but they're still living under the same roof."

CNN's Joe Sterling, Jill Dougherty, Elise Labott, Zain Verjee, Ted Barrett, Elise Labott, Alan Silverleib, Tom Cohen and Nick Paton Walsh contributed to this report

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