Tag Archives: Osama bin Laden

The US isn’t going to carry out raids inside Pakistan

Haqqani militants

On the phone with a friend in Islamabad last week, I was full of questions about the Supreme Court, the election for a new Prime Minister, and her evaluation of the current political field in Pakistan. She had one question for me: “Is the US planning to launch attacks in Pakistan to take out the Haqqanis?”

I chuckled a bit when she asked the question. Just a few days earlier I had debunked another rumor about impending US military aggression, and this one seemed even more far fetched.

The next day, however, the Associated Press ran a story about just that: “US considers launching joint US-Afghan raids in Pakistan to hunt down militant groups.” So, was I wrong in dismissing this a bunch of fear-mongering? I don’t think so.

This story has, predictably, proliferated across the Pakistani media. Unfortunately, people don’t seem to be reading as far as the second paragraph of the AP report:

But the idea, which U.S. officials say comes up every couple of months, has been consistently rejected because the White House believes the chance of successfully rooting out the deadly Haqqani network would not be worth the intense diplomatic blowback from Pakistan that inevitably would ensue.

The 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden was a unique situation. As the celebrity jihadist behind the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden was the holy grail of terrorists and there was no way any US president would have let him get away. Killing bin Laden may have been more symbolic than it was blow to al Qaeda’s organizational capacity, but it was an important symbol for an American public that needed closure.

Unlike Osama bin Laden, it’s likely most Americans have never heard of the Haqqani network. They do, however, represent a strategic problem. The Afghans themselves claim to have evidence that the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.

“Afghan national security forces and coalition military sources acknowledge that this attack bears the signature of the Haqqani network, which continues to target and kill innocent Afghans,” [General John] Allen said.

But any strategic gains from taking out the Haqqani network through cross-border strikes would be more than negated by the costs. US military raids into Pakistan would not only enflame existing anti-American sentiments, they would serve as a recruiting call for jihadist organizations throughout the world. While the Haqqani network presents a nuisance as it exists, an American attack in Pakistan would result in a tsunami of new jihadists crossing the border to carry out attacks against American targets.

And forget any chance of re-opening transit lines through Pakistan, or the type of counterterrorism cooperation that resulted in a key al Qaeda operative being captured by Pakistani security forces earlier this week.

The political costs, too, make any such military action unlikely. To say the American people are war weary would be an understatement. According to Pew’s latest research, 60 percent of Americans favor removing troops as soon as possible. Expanding an unpopular war into a nuclear armed country of 180 million is simply not going to happen in an election year, or any time soon.

The US military – like all militaries – includes unrealistic scenarios in debates about strategies and possible outcomes. Somewhere in the basement of the Pentagon is probably a detailed strategy for taking out France’s nuclear capability. That doesn’t mean it’s ever going to happen.

Leaks about strategic discussions by anonymous American officials are far more likely intended to put pressure on Pakistan’s military leadership than to warn of any impending attack. If there’s one thing that the 2011 raid on bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound taught us, it’s that when the US is going to launch unilateral raids, they’re not going to announce them beforehand.  The fact that anonymous reports are appearing all over the media suggests that the US isn’t going to carry out raids inside Pakistan anytime soon.

Sec. Panetta: Pakistan’s Government Not Aware of Osama’s Whereabouts

Sec. Leon Panetta

Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta says there is no evidence that any Pakistani government official knew about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts prior to his death last May. Speaking to Peter Mansbridge with CBC Television, Sec. Panetta said none of the material collected in the raid on bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad has suggested any official Pakistani support.

MR. MANSBRIDGE: Now you mention how – you took a lot of material out of that compound and you’ve now had almost a year to go through it all. Have you been able to determine, in what you’ve seen, any direct connection with Pakistan for his ability to live and operate within a stone’s throw of Pakistan’s – one of its most important military installations?

SEC. PANETTA: I have not. And you know, there’s been a lot of material. They’ve gone through a lot of material. We haven’t had access to, obviously, all of the analysis that’s been done, but I have not heard any kind of evidence that involved a direct connection to the Pakistanis. Obviously the concern has always been how could a compound like this, how could bin Laden be in an area where there were military establishments, where we could see the military operating and not have them know.

MR. MANSBRIDGE: And how could it? How could it operate there without their knowledge?

SEC. PANETTA: Well, you know, these situations sometimes, you know, the leadership within Pakistan [sic] is obviously not aware of certain things and yet people lower down in the military establishment find it very well, they’ve been aware of it. But bottom line is that we have not had evidence that provides that direct link.

Sec. Panetta is not the first US official to come to this conclusion. Last fall, former CIA station chief in Islamabad, Robert Grenier, told Express News that there is no evidence Pakistani officials had any knowledge of bin Laden’s whereabouts.

This does not, however, mean that Osama bin Laden had no support network in Pakistan. This week, the US government announced a $10 million bounty for Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, the founder of terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba which is suspected of having ties to al Qaeda. And the US is not the only country that wants Hafiz Saeed. Pakistan’s own government has arrested Hafiz Saeed in the past, only to see their attempts to bring him to justice thwarted by the country’s Supreme Court who ordered the militant leader freed.

Hafiz Saeed at a Difa-e-Pakistan rally

While there is no evidence that Hafiz Saeed and his Lashkar-e-Taibi militant group facilitated bin Laden’s living in Pakistan, the way that militant leaders like Hafiz Saeed play “cat and mouse” games with Pakistani law enforcement suggests that unofficial support networks for militant extremists do exist and are hard to penetrate. If Pakistan’s different militant groups are operating synergistically, it could make connections between militant leaders like Osama bin Laden and Hafiz Saeed difficult to substantiate.

The US and Pakistan have a shared goal in ending the scourge of terrorism and bringing militant leaders to justice. Successfully ending militant violence requires cooperation between both countries. That begins with recognizing who are friends are.

 

Working together, US & Pakistan Are Effective

Pakistan security forces arrested three senior al Qaeda operatives yesterday, dealing a major blow to the terrorist organization’s capacity and interrupting plans to attack targets in the US and other Western countries. Following the arrests, Pakistan’s military issued a statement that the operation was able to succeed thanks to the joint efforts of US and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

“This operation was planned and conducted with technical assistance of United States intelligence agencies with whom Inter-Services Intelligence has a strong, historic intelligence relationship,” the Pakistan’s military said in a statement, referring to Pakistan’s top military spy agency. “Both Pakistan and United States intelligence agencies continue to work closely together to enhance security of their respective nations.”

Pakistan’s Ambassador the the US, Husain Haqqani, reiterated this point when he told NPR that the arrest, “reflects how Pakistan and the United States working together can deal an effective blow to the terrorists.”

This most recent blow to terrorist organizations demonstrates the efficacy of cooperation over unilateralism. It was this cooperation that President Obama said “helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding,” and it is this cooperation that will continue to improve both bilateral relations and the safety and security of both Americans and Pakistanis.

Once bitten, twice shy

Most Americans see the death of Osama bin Laden as an unambiguously positive event. The world’s most wanted terrorist, the man who orchestrated the deaths of thousands of innocent people, was brought to justice after a ten year manhunt. To many Pakistanis, however, the American operation evokes a complicated set of contradictory emotions. While there is certainly relief that a violent terrorist is no longer a threat, this relief is coupled with the embarrassment that he was found hiding in Abbottabad. Many in the Pakistani military consider the event humiliating. The fact that bin Laden was killed in a raid carried out without the cooperation or consent of Pakistani officials is seen as the right outcome, but the wrong process.

In his book, The Origins of Political Order, Francis Fukuyama notes the human desire for “intersubjective recognition, either of their own worth, or the worth of their gods, laws, customs, and ways of life” as a basic building block of political development. He goes on to explain that “the desire for recognition ensures that politics will never be reducible to simple economic self-interest.” Viewed through this lens, the May operation that killed Osama bin Laden takes on a meaning in Pakistan much different from the basic “law and order” narrative that informs American understanding of the event.

The midnight raid on Osama bin Laden’s secret compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan was carried out without informing the Pakistani government. Following the operation, Admiral Mullen stated “we should not underestimate the humbling experience that this is, and in fact the internal soul-searching that’s going on inside the Pakistani military right now.”

Unfortunately, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Douglas E. Lute, the US did just that.

Responding to questions from the audience, Mr. Lute acknowledged that the administration failed to anticipate the depth of embarrassment suffered by Pakistan’s military by the revelation that Bin Laden had lived comfortably and with local support in a fortress-like home near a leading Pakistani military academy for more than five years, and that American commandos swooped into their country on a two-and-a-half hour mission undetected and unchallenged.

“We underestimated the humiliation factor,” he said. That reaction has prompted Pakistan’s military to take several steps since the raid to recalibrate its relationship with Washington and distance itself from the Pentagon, including expelling some 150 American Special Forces trainers for Pakistani paramilitary troops.

Najam Sethi, Senior Fellow at The New America Foundation, suggests in The Friday Times that the next time the US tries to go it alone, things might not turn out so well.

A single spark – power shortages, inflation, natural calamity, assassination, institutional gridlock or confrontation – could light a prairie fire of discontent. More probably, an outrageous unilateral interventionist act by the US – like the OBL Abbottabad raid or boots on ground in Waziristan – would provoke a media driven wave of revulsion and anger against the US and also, more pointedly, against the Zardari regime for its abject helplessness. The sentiment that would sweep the country would compel all the domestic players to scramble and exploit openings for their narrow party political or institutional interests rather than band together and build a national consensus that indirectly bails out the Zardari regime.

As Washington debates future aid and operations in Pakistan, American lawmakers should remember Fukuyama’s observation that “politics will never be reducible to simple economic self-interest.” The ‘dignity gap’ that we identified following the arrest of Raymond Davis remains an important determinate of how US-Pakistan relations will develop. Another perceived blow to Pakistan’s dignity of the magnitude of Raymond Davis or Abbottabad, however, would do more than damage US-Pakistan relations. As Najam Sethi warns, it could cut down Pakistan’s fragile democracy before it has a chance to firmly take root. If that happens, the US and Pakistan will both lose.

Petraeus: Need to strengthen relationship with Pakistan

Petraeus

Gen. David Petraeus told reporters this week that the US has no intelligence suggesting that Pakistani officials were aware of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad prior to the US special forces raid in May. Acknowledging that incidents earlier this year had strained trust between Pakistan and the US, CIA director Petraeus warned against repeating past mistakes by disengaging.

He said it was believable that Pakistani intelligence did not know that Bin Laden was hiding out in Abbottobad, home to much of the Pakistani military establishment, when he was killed there.

“It is credible to me that they did not know. We received no intelligence whatsoever to indicate that there was any awareness that he was there.” But while “we see the Bin Laden raid as an extraordinary success, intelligence together with military forces, Pakistan sees it as an affront to their national sovereignty, we’ve got to work our way through this”.

“We know what happens when we walk away from Pakistan and Afghanistan, we’ve literally seen the movie before, it’s called ‘Charlie Wilson’s War’ (about covert US support for anti-Soviet Afghan fighters) and indeed that is not in my view a good option.

“However difficult the relationship may be it’s one we need to continue to work, it’s one where we need to recognise what our Pakistani partners have done, they’ve sacrificed several thousand soldiers and police and their civilians have suffered substantial levels of violence.”

Pew Poll Raises More Questions Than Answers

Pew Research Center, Global Attitudes ProjectThe latest Pew poll of Pakistani attitudes towards the US and the war on terror raises more questions than it provides answers. While several numbers from the annual survey of Pakistani attitudes are sure to make headlines, what the poll actually reveals may be lost in the numbers.

The poll’s overview begins with a made-for-headlines statement:

Most Pakistanis disapprove of the U.S. military operation that killed Osama bin Laden, and although the al Qaeda leader has not been well-liked in recent years, a majority of Pakistanis describe his death as a bad thing. Only 14% say it is a good thing.

Such a statement will inevitably play to pre-existing suspicions of Pakistan, but what do the poll results really mean? Consider the question posed about Osama bin Laden’s death:

Regardless of how you feel about the U.S. military operation, do you think it is a good thing or a bad thing that Osama bin Laden is dead?

The results are that 14 percent replied, ‘Good thing’; 55 percent replied, ‘Bad thing’; and 32 percent either didn’t know or refused to answer.

Many Americans will read this as evidence of Pakistani sympathy or support for the terrorist leader, but such a conclusion requires assumptions that are not supported by data in the poll. Pew asked respondents whether Osama bin Laden’s death is “Good” or “Bad”, but they never asked why the respondent answered that way. Someone could have answered that Osama’s death was “good” because it would rally extremists, and other could have responded that it was “bad” for the same reason. We don’t know what any of the respondents intended, but are left to interpret the responses through the lens of American attitudes.

Georgetown professor C. Christine Fair explains this phenomenon in her response to Christopher Hitchens’ latest piece on Pakistan for Vanity Fair:

Hitchens is correct in noting that Pakistanis of all strata are deeply outraged that U.S. Navy SEALS came into Abbottabad — a garrison-town — to catch bin Laden without hindrance and with impunity. However, his outrage at Pakistani outrage is misplaced. Of course, Pakistanis should feel so violated because they were. As an American, I support the raid that eliminated this terrorist. However, from the optic of many Pakistanis, they first had to contend with the notion that bin Laden was in their country and second that the United States stormed their airspace, conducted a firefight for 40 minutes in a garrison town and then escaped with its dead quarry all before the Pakistanis could even scramble their F-16s.

Pakistanis themselves began wondering whether their military could protect them from India and whether the United States could act with equal ease to eliminate their nuclear program. Needless to say, all of this came on the back of years of drone attacks against terrorists in Pakistan’s tribal areas. While the facts about the drone program in Pakistan are grotesquely distorted and obscured by Pakistani and American officials, ultimately perception matters more than reality. Pakistanis, especially beyond FATA, loathe them as weekly assaults upon their nation’s sovereignty. The bin Laden raid was just the latest and most brazen of assaults on the country and demonstrated the incapacity or will of the military or intelligence agencies to stop the United States. Who would not be demoralized and outraged by these events?

There are similar methodological problems with the way Pew asked about Pakistanis’ views of political leaders. According to the poll’s findings, the most favored political leader in Paksitan is Imran Khan. This may come to a surprise to many Pakistanis since Imran Khan’s political party, Tehreek-i-Insaf Pakistan (PTI), has never won more than 1 percent of the vote in an election. Is Imran Khan a rising star in Pakistani politics? That’s not what the poll actually tells us about Pakistani politics.

In surveying Pakistanis about their views of political leaders, Pew limited the field of “Pakistani leaders” to six individuals: President Asif Zardari, Prime Minister Yusuf Gilani, Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani, Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan. Notice anything about this list? Only two of the figures Pakistanis were asked about are not current office holders – Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan.

With ongoing terrorist attacks, a struggling economy, and incidents such as the Raymond Davis shooting and the Abbottabad operation fresh on people’s minds, is it any wonder that sitting politicians would come under greater scrutiny than those on the sidelines? Even the higher numbers for Imran Khan must be weighed with the consideration that Nawaz Sharif has served as Prime Minister twice, and therefore carries the baggage of past decisions while Imran Khan has never held any political office and has no record for people to judge.

The other strange thing about Pew’s list of political leaders is that they chose to include Imran Khan, but did not ask about political leaders from opposition parties that actually have more support at the polls. Noticeably absent from Pew’s list are Chaudhry Hussain, head of the Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid faction (PML-Q) which has 76 seats in parliament; Altaf Hussain, head of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which has 32 seats in parliament; Asfandyar Wali Khan, head of Awami National Party (ANP), which has 19 seats in parliament; or Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam – Fazlur Rehman faction (JUI-F) which has 16 seats in parliament and was recently awarded the post of opposition leader in the Senate.

Rather than ask Pakistanis about the political leaders and parties that they are actually voting for, Pew skipped much of parliament and asked about a former cricket celebrity who has never held elected office. Additionally, Pew admits that the sample surveyed was “disproportionately urban” and excluded Federally Administered Tribal Areas, Gilgit-Baltistan, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Khyber Pakthunkhwa and Baluchistan. Perhaps this further explains the disproportionate popularity of Imran Khan despite his inability to secure actual votes come election time.

This year’s Pew poll is not the first to come under criticism as being inherently problematic. Following the release of last year’s poll results, Kalsoom Lakhani noted of Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel blog that “quantitative data cannot capture the nuances and complexities of identity and society.” It seems that, unfortunately, this problem continues to plague Pew’s annual poll.

My Questions, My Fears

Kay NeseemThe following submission by Kay Naseem presents an alternative perspective to the security-focused conventional wisdom about terrorism in Pakistan, and challenges us to consider the need for investment in the education and economic opportunity as a strategy to combating the lure of militancy for Pakistan’s youth.

Osama bin Laden has been brought to justice! As I feel grateful today for safety of many innocent people, I am still concerned about integrity of the institution he has left behind; scores of madrasas where thousands of little kids are taught wrong meaning of “Jihad.” The word comes from the Arabic word “Juhd” which means “effort.” The process of “Jihad” means exerting ones best effort (physically, intellectually and spiritually) to achieve a particular goal involving struggle or resistance. It does not imply war or violence. A working mom who is struggling to take her sick child to a doctor and puts her best effort to do so has done “Jihad.” A team of Rotarians who travelled across the ocean to rescue people from polio in India have done “Jihad.” A child collecting money for a poor family outside Wal-Mart has done “Jihad.” The true meaning of “Jihad” is not what is being taught to those little children in extremist madrasas. This is predatory, in many ways, as many children have no access to other sources of primary school education due to poverty, illiteracy and inequity.

Can the same tool of education that turns young children into suicide bombers be used to turn them into doctors, teachers, engineers, scientist and most of all peace makers? It is only the difference of what could be taught to them.

I grew up in Pakistan. I went to a school where we said a Bible prayer at assembly every morning. In fourth grade there was a Bible study class and an Islamic study class held simultaneously for students of the respective faith. Through this experience we developed appreciation and respect of each other’s culture and religion and we saw each other as human beings. We all played together on playgrounds and in each other’s homes. It all seemed so normal at that time.

As I reflect on world politics and terrorism, I wonder what the world would be like if every child in Pakistan was receiving the same integrated and privileged education I was receiving. Would things be different? Would there still be a prevalence of explosive devices in form of young children or adults? I want to say no.

That there are currently 70 million children around the world with no access to primary education makes me sad and afraid. I fear that the learning process of tolerance is being missed by all those70 million. If we deprive them the opportunity to learn, reason, and be productive member of the society, I fear we provide Al-Qaida, and other opportunists, a chance to use the desperation of these children to turn them into terrorists.

This is why programs such as the Education for All Act and Education for All- fast Track Initiative (EFA-FTI), a global partnership of donors and developing countries working to ensure equal education for all, are critical. As a RESULTS grassroots activist, I believe EFA-FTI leads my organization’s goal in providing effective aid to promote equity in global education and my vision of recovery of a peaceful world. RESULTS believe that the most effective tool for improving global health and financial well being is through education. Poverty breeds disease and illiteracy. Has illiteracy and poverty contributed to terrorism? Can thousands of kids be saved from falling into the hands of terrorists through access to primary schools? These are some of the questions we need to ask ourselves while contemplating for our moneys sent abroad. Educating kids is certainly cheaper than sending soldiers and it ensures that healthy bodies and minds will be contributing to healthier peaceful societies. And peace abroad brings prospects of peace here at home.

Kay Neseem is a grassroots activist for RESULTS advocacy organization to fight against poverty and disease and enforce equal education internationally and domestically.

Repeating Past Mistakes Will Repeat Past Failures

Sen. Carl Levin

Senator Carl Levin told Foreign Policy magazine’s blog ‘The Cable’ that lawmakers are considering scaling back civilian aid to Pakistan in the wake of the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad. Though Congress has concerns about the possibility of militant support networks within Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, however, lawmakers are not considering cuts to military, but civilian aid. According to Sen. Levin, helping develop a stable democracy in Pakistan is “also in our interest but not as clearly.”

A 1962 article for Foreign Affairs argues the opposite – that the shortest path to peace and stability is through strengthening civilian institutions, not military.

In this large context of peace and war, the fundamental aim of economic assistance is, therefore, to build up stability in unstable states. This cannot be done by piecemeal patching up, by casual subsidies and handouts. The most successful of all programs of economic aid so far-the Marshall Plan-clearly illustrates the need for change in depth. If the nations of Western Europe had simply been restored to where they were before the Second World War, they would inevitably have repeated yet again their melancholy inter-war cycle of economic isolationism and national rivalry. It was America’s insistence upon a joint solution of their problems that opened the era of technical modernization, supra-nationalism and interdependence. What has saved Europe has been not the reconstruction of the old order but the bold projection of a new.

We don’t have to go back to 1962 to understand the importance of investing in a strong and stable democratic Pakistan, and how disastrous it can be to turn our backs on the civilian institutions. In fact, we can look at a time as recently as the 1990s.

When President George H.W. Bush could no longer certify that Pakistan was not actively pursuing nuclear weapons, aid to Pakistan was suspended as required by the Pressler Amendment. Suspending aid to Pakistan may have made a moral point, but the practical result was to convince Pakistan that it’s national security would have to depend on options outside US cooperation. Rather than pushing Pakistan towards a policy of nonproliferation, cutting aid as India demonstrated nuclear capability likely increased Pakistan’s resolve to demonstrate it’s own nuclear deterrent.

The other byproduct of aid suspension was Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies looking more to irregular forces as a means of strengthening Pakistan’s defenses. It was terrible, but rational decision: If Pakistan could not count on the support of it’s ‘most allied ally’, it would have to find support where it could.

This scenario could easily repeat itself if Congress repeats this past mistake again.

“You risk undermining the whole edifice that the United States has been trying to support in Pakistan,” warned Shuja Nawaz of the Atlantic Council, an independent policy institute.

Moreover, the U.S. aid lies at the heart of Obama’s strategy to help stabilize a deeply impoverished country of 170 million struggling with a growing Islamic insurgency, soaring ethnic and sectarian tensions, mounting joblessness and failing education, health, energy and other services.

US-Pakistan relations may be suffering from a severe trust deficit, but his lack of trust did not develop on May 1st or when Raymond Davis shot two men in the streets of Lahore. It is the result of past failures by US policymakers to foresee the inevitable perception among their Pakistani counterparts that the US could not be trusted to support them in their time of need.

Despite these setbacks and the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, today presents a unique opportunity to remedy past mistakes and help Pakistanis stabilize their young democracy. Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has expressed his determination to reign in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency by placing it under civilian control, but as yet has not received the political support necessary to do so.

The discovery of Osama bin Laden on Pakistani territory has resulted in open discussion of a civilian inquiry by both coalition and opposition politicians in spite of insistence by military leaders for an internal review. In order for change to take place, however, the civilian institutions must have the support necessary to stand up to and reform the outsized influence of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies. Cutting civilian aid to Pakistan will only reinforce a failed status quo. The US should reaffirm it’s commitment to civilian democracy in Pakistan – the bold projection of a new order.

Speculation, Not Facts, Are Driving Discussion of Pakistani Support

The day after Osama bin Laden was killed by US special forces, Washington Post columnist David Ignatius wrote that, “One of the mysteries is whether the Pakistani government knew all along who was hiding in Abbottabad.” Since President Obama addresses the nation about the success of the mission, this question has been a constant in media discussions – Was Pakistan providing support to Osama bin Laden? The question’s persistence, however, is supported by speculation, not facts.

National Security Advisor Tom Donilon was clear last Sunday that there is no evidence of Pakistani support for Osama bin Laden.

“I’ve not seen any evidence – at least to date – that the political, military or intelligence leadership of Pakistan knew about Osama bin Laden at Abbottabad, Pakistan,” Donilon said in an interview aired Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

An assertion David Ignatius brushes aside as “not quite the same as saying for certain that the Pakistanis didn’t know.” Without any evidence of Pakistani complicity, the Washington Post columnist rhetorically asks the NSA Donilon to prove a negative.

A week later, there is still no evidence of official Pakistani support for bin Laden, but David Ignatius is once again suggesting as much.

And what happens next, as the U.S. begins to exploit the “treasure trove” of information found in bin Laden’s compound? Among other things, that cache may reveal what, if anything, Pakistani officials knew, and when they knew it.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that Mr. Ignatius’s latest column bears that titillating headline, “The Plot Thickens In Pakistan.” Georgetown University Professor and South Asia Expert Christine Fair says reporting on Pakistan’s role has descended to the muck of tabloid journalism.

First and foremost, all accounts and statements attesting to Pakistan’s official facilitation of bin Laden’s tenure are irresponsibly speculative. The United States had been monitoring the compound since August 2010 and had even erected a CIA house to do so. If there is credible evidence of such facilitation, the U.S. government should say so. In the absence of evidence, conjecture is reckless. I spent last week in Islamabad interviewing journalists working on their stories—several of them outright confessed that they had nothing of substance and were running with sheer conjecture. Some relied upon dubious and tentative accounts from children playing near the house, milkmen and paperboys as well as night watchmen. As one journalist conceded, “the standards go down” in situations like this. Unfortunately, these sloppy articles will form the contemporary and historical understanding of this momentous event. But let’s be clear: this is not reportage; rather, it is the substance of tabloid.

As lawmakers consider US-Pakistan cooperation going forward, it is important that their decisions be informed by facts, not speculation. Suggestions of official Pakistani support for Osama bin Laden threaten to unnecessarily deepen distrust between the US and Pakistan. And that will serve no one’s interests.