ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, May 8, 2011— -- A senior official in Pakistan's civilian government told ABC News, "Elements of Pakistan intelligence -- probably rogue or retired -- were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda," the strongest public statement yet from the Pakistani government after the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound.
This is based on the government's judgment that the number of years bin Laden spent in Abbottabad -- and it now appears in a village outside the city of Haripur -- would have been impossible without help, possibly from someone in the middle tier of ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, who grew up fighting alongside the mujahidin against the Soviets, said the official.
According to the official, the military and ISI have been weeding some of them out but many remain.
There have long been sharp divisions between the civilian government and military in Pakistan, and those divisions are now playing out in public.
The Pakistani official also said U.S. officials are demanding the identities of particular ISI agents, in part, as proof the government is truly serious about confronting al Qaeda's supporters on the inside.
In public statements, U.S. officials have balanced these demands with positive words about the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon told ABC's Christiane Amanpour today on "This Week" that "questions ... are being raised quite aggressively in Pakistan."
But later, he added, "(The Pakistanis) have been an essential partner of ours in the war against al Qaeda and in our efforts against terrorism. And that really can't be dismissed. This is an important relationship with the United States, so we need to assess this, Christiane, in a cool and calm way."
It's the impression of some in the government that the United States is giving Pakistan some space in the wake of the raid, but only for a limited time -- and that if Pakistan doesn't act in a way that satisfies the United States, there will be consequences.
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