May 2, 2011— -- The discovery of Osama bin Laden's hideout deep inside Pakistan instead of the mountainous border region of Afghanistan complicates the fragile relationship between the United States and one of its key allies in the war against terrorism.
After years of insisting that bin Laden wasn't in its territory, the government of Pakistan today neither lauded nor condemned the killing of bin Laden by U.S. special forces in an attack that unfolded in a mansion less than 1,000 feet from the top Pakistani military academy.
"Osama bin Laden's death illustrates the resolve of the international community, including Pakistan, to fight and eliminate terrorism," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement. "It constitutes a major setback to terrorist organizations around the world."
But the proximity of bin Laden to the capital of Islamabad casts doubt on the Pakistanis' ability and resolve to root out violent extremists within their own borders.
"I think that the Pakistani army and intelligence have a lot of questions to answer given the location, the length of time, and the apparent fact that this facility was actually built for bin Laden and its closeness to the central location of the Pakistani army," Armed Services Committee chairman Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan said.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf disputed suggestions that the government might have been abetting bin Laden, telling ABC News' Diane Sawyer that Pakistani authorities' failure to locate the hideout was simply "an intelligence failure."
"You're blaming Pakistan. Let me blame the U.S.," Musharraf said. "All along it was intelligence cooperation between Pakistan and the U.S. If this is a Pakistan shortcoming, it is also a failure of the CIA, may I say. ... Any aspersions that they knew or the Pakistani government or the Pakistani military or intelligence knew about him and that he was staying there, this is absolutely wrong."
President Obama said Sunday night that Pakistani intelligence did help lead the United States to bin Laden, a point the Pakistani government played down in its reaction today. But both U.S. and Pakistani officials said the operation targeting bin Laden's compound was directed solely by the United States, without Pakistani participation or advance notice.
"It is Pakistan's stated policy that it will not allow its soil to be used in terrorist attacks against any country," the Pakistani foreign ministry said. "Pakistan's political leadership, parliament, state institutions and the whole nation are fully united in their resolve to eliminate terrorism."
Pakistan's struggle to root out terrorist strongholds and training camps, coupled with a unilateral U.S. effort to use drone strikes to combat al Qaeda on Pakistani soil, have stoked mutual distrust between the two countries. The incursion of U.S. forces into Pakistani territory to kill bin Laden could further strain relations.
But Obama made clear Sunday night that the United States believed the hunt for bin Laden transcends international borders and diplomatic boundaries.
"Over the years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was," Obama said. "That is what we've done. But it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people."
Obama said he spoke personally with Pakistani President Zardari after the raid and that the two agreed "this is a good and historic day for both of our nations."
"Osama bin Laden was a character who waged war against Pakistan," Musharraf said. "I would say [his death] is a welcome act for people of Pakistan and peace-loving people of the U.S. and the peace-loving people of the world."
Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who has long argued against speculation that his government has been negligent in pursuing bin Laden within his country's borders, publicly stressed his administration should be vindicated.
"They didn't find Osama in Parwan, Bamiyan, Kabul, Ghor, Paktia [all in Afghanistan] ... they found him in Abbottabad, [Pakistan]," Karzai said. "Our call is proven right: that we are victim of this war, that the fight is not in our homes."