Pakistan's claims that it was unaware Osama bin Laden was sheltered – perhaps for years – in a walled compound up the road from its national military academy in Abbottabad are meeting with deep skepticism in the United States and elsewhere.
Time magazine reports that CIA Director Leon Panetta acknowledges that U.S. officials did not trust Pakistani officials enough to provide them with advanced notice of Sunday's raid that killed bin Laden. "It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission," Panetta said. "They might alert the targets."
Calls for a suspension in the $3 billion in annual aid to the country, and at least one suggestion that the United States label Pakistan a terrorist state are likely to grow in the coming days.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., is among those questioning future American financial support for Pakistan. "Before we send another dime," he said Monday, "we need to know whether Pakistan truly stands with us in the fight against terrorism. Until Congress and the American public are assured that the Pakistani government is not shielding terrorists, financial aid to Pakistan should be suspended."
In a column published by the Washington Post, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari defended his country's record on fighting terrorism.
"Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation," he wrote, "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. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day."
Few people are buying that.
"I think it's inconceivable that bin Laden did not have a support system in the country that allowed him to remain in there for an extended period of time," White House counter terror advisor John Brennan told reporters Monday. The U.S. wants to know how government officials remained ignorant to his presence.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed that, telling CNN that "President (Asif Ali) Zardari and his team need to understand better how Osama bin Laden could hide in plain sight in that kind of compound without the knowledge of high-ranking officials."
Journalist Lawrence Wright, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning book The Looming Tower, told PBS that Pakistan stood to gain financially from the hunt for bin Laden. "I feel that for years, the Pakistani military and intelligence complex has been in the 'looking for bin Laden' business," Wright said. "He was a priceless asset to them because we poured billions of dollars into their pockets to try to find him. If they found him, they'd be out of business. So he was an irreplaceable asset and I think that Pakistan has a lot to answer for. This looks very incriminating."
Author Salman Rushdie argues that this is merely the latest in a series of events in which Pakistan's duplicity in dealing with terrorists has been exposed. Its intelligence service has been implicated in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks. U.S. intelligence cables released by Wikileaks show that the service, the ISI, was listed among international terrorist groups.
"The old flim-flam ("Who, us? We knew nothing!") just isn't going to wash, must not be allowed to wash by countries such as the United States that have persisted in treating Pakistan as an ally even though they have long known about the Pakistani double game—its support, for example, for the Haqqani network that has killed hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan," Rushdie wrote.
If it cannot provide reasonable explanations, he concluded "perhaps the time has come to declare it a terrorist state and expel it from the comity of nations."