Pakistan's president acknowledged for the first time on Tuesday that his security forces were left out of a U.S. operation to kill Osama bin Laden, but he did little to dispel questions over how the al-Qaida leader was able to live in comfort near Islamabad.
The revelation that bin Laden had been holed up in a compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad, possibly for years, prompted many U.S. lawmakers to demand a review of the billions of dollars in aid Washington gives to nuclear-armed Pakistan.
"He was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be, but now he is gone," Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari wrote in an opinion piece in the Washington Post, without offering further defense against accusations his security services should have known where bin Laden was hiding.
He added that "although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world."
It was the first substantive public comment by any Pakistani civilian or military leader on the raid by a secret U.S. assault team on bin Laden's compound in the early hours of Monday.
Pakistan has faced enormous international scrutiny since bin Laden was killed by U.S. Special Forces, with questions over whether its military and intelligence were too incompetent to catch him themselves or knew all along where he was hiding.
The White House said intelligence on the compound had not been shared with any other country, including Pakistan, to ensure security.
Irate U.S. lawmakers wondered how it was possible for bin Laden to live in a populated area near a military training academy without anyone in authority knowing about it.
They said it was time to review aid to Pakistan. The U.S. Congress has approved 20 billion dollars for Pakistan in direct aid and military reimbursements partly to help Islamabad fight militancy since bin Laden masterminded the September 11, 2001 attacks.
"Our government is in fiscal distress. To make contributions to a country that isn't going to be fully supportive is a problem for many," said Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein.
The White House acknowledged there was good reason for U.S. lawmakers, already doubtful of Pakistan's cooperation against al Qaeda, to demand to know whether bin Laden had been "hiding in plain sight" and to raise questions about U.S. aid to Islamabad.
Pakistani media also took a hard line."The failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of the world's most wanted man here is shocking," The News said in an editorial.
The Daily Times echoed these sentiments, asking "how he was able to hide there without any action on our part is going to be a hard sell to the Americans."
Pakistani television networks have repeatedly shown file footage of statements by Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and other leaders denying bin Laden was in Pakistan.
Pakistan has a long history of nurturing Islamist militants in the interests of its strategic objectives, primarily facing up to what it sees as its biggest threat -- India. Pakistan's fear of India has been at the root of its support for the Afghan Taliban and separatist militants in Indian Kashmir.
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