The former president of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, admitted to ABC News that rogue lower-level members of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence Agencies and military may have helped Osama bin Laden hide in plain sight near the capital, Islamabad. Musharraf also said he agreed with Pakistan's refusal to allow the U.S. back into bin Laden's compound.
"No government can accept a violation of their sovereignty," Musharraf said in an interview with ABC News Chief Law and Justice Correspondent Chris Cuomo.
In the interview Musharraf called Osama bin Laden's six-year residence in the military town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, a "big blunder" on the part of Pakistani intelligence. But he also warned the United States that if it continues to alienate Pakistan as they did in the bin Laden raid, the U.S. will be the "loser."
"You want to alienate Pakistan, you will be a loser," he said in the interview with Cuomo.
Musharraf said the Navy SEALs' raid could have also gone far differently than it did, with a seemingly uninterrupted entrance and exit through Pakistani airspace by the U.S. assault team. According to reports this week, President Obama increased the size of the assault team sent to bin Laden's compound, concerned about a possible battle between U.S. and Pakistani forces. Musharraf said the confrontation could have happened.
"Certainly it was a violation of our sovereignty, and I don't know if there were armed troops around, and if they saw some helicopters firing in a house without knowing who they are dealing with, there was a possibility of a clash like that, and firing from the Pakistani troops on ground could have taken place," he said.
In the days following the daring nighttime raid on bin Laden's walled compound, questions arose within the U.S. government about Pakistan's role in harboring the terror mastermind, including how much of an ally Pakistan really was in the fight against al Qaeda. According to Musharraf, the feelings of mistrust are mutual.
"What kind of friend is that, that you haven't taken us into confidence?" he said. "You can't clap with one hand. If you don't trust Pakistan, how can Pakistan trust you?"
Musharraf called the belief that Pakistan sides with al Qaeda simply "sad."
"That is very sad if your countrymen think that Pakistan is more sympathetic or more partial to the Taliban and Al Qaeda," he told Cuomo.
Musharraf said instead that there was a possibility that rogue lower-level members of Pakistan's intelligence and military may have had knowledge of bin Laden's location. He conceded they might have known during the last year of his presidency six years ago, and said there ought to be an investigation.
"It's really appalling that he was there and nobody knew. I'm certainly appalled that I didn't know and that intelligence people from that time onward didn't know for 6 years that he was inside. And there is no excuse for this great, massive slip-up. And an investigation is in order and people must be punished for this big lapse."
"As a policy, the army and the ISI fighting terrorism and extremism, al Qaeda, Taliban. But rogue element within is a possibility," he said.
According to the former president, there were three attachment commanders in Abbottabad in the past six years and he could not imagine all three knowing and harboring bin Laden.
"The possibility as I said, at the lower level, somebody following a policy of his own and violating the policy from above, is a possibility."
Regardless of who knew what, according to Musharraf, was the fact that the U.S. raid was a possible violation of Pakistan's sovereignty, that there was never a deal struck during his tenure to allow the U.S. to make a unilateral attack on Pakistan's soil if bin Laden was found.
"I do not accept anybody getting up and saying there was a deal. There was no such deal. And that was in 2001 between me and President Bush. I personally was trying to cast my mind back to 2001 after 9/11 and in those three, two and a half months left, after September 2001, I do not remember, recollect, that I even spoke to President Bush. And besides, we didn't even discuss this issue about allowing such an action," he said.
Yet in 2007, when he was first interviewed by Cuomo, Musharraf admitted if his forces captured bin Laden he wasn't sure he would turn him over to the United States, a sentiment he reiterated during this interview, citing the complexities of Pakistani politics.
"I will not answer that in clear terms. Because there are sensitivities. You think it is very odd because you don't understand the sensitivities. You think from their point of view, from the American eyes. You see everything from the American eyes. You don't want to see things from our eyes, from Pakistan's eyes. From the people of Pakistan. How do the people of Pakistan take everything and a Pakistani government and a Pakistani leader must consider that," he said.
In order for the U.S.-Pakistan relationship to heal, and for the war on terror to succeed, Musharraf said the two nations would have to build a renewed level of trust.
"The requirement is absolutely Pakistan and U.S. relations must be good, in the mutual benefit of Pakistan and also the mutual benefit of the United States to fight terrorism and extremism. So it's a win-win for both. But if there is mistrust and we are pulling in different directions, trust me, we are losing the battle against terror," he said.
"This was a very serious fault, but let me also say that taking it to an extent that you want to alienate Pakistan, you will be a loser. And Pakistan will also be a loser, there's no doubt. The world will lose."