ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The detentions of Pakistanis who supplied the CIA with information in advance of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden reflect the deep frustration within Pakistani military and intelligence circles over the unilateral U.S. operation and the embarrassment it created for the country's security establishment, analysts said Wednesday.
Pakistan's military has faced intense criticism in recent weeks from lawmakers and commentators over its failure to detect the secret helicopter-borne U.S. commando team that slipped into the military city of Abbottabad on May 2 and killed the al-Qaida leader. The country's confidence in the military has been further eroded by a brazen militant attack on a naval base in Karachi on May 22 and the shooting last week of an unarmed man by Pakistani Rangers, also in Karachi.
The arrests of Pakistanis who helped the CIA in the bid to get bin Laden, first reported by the New York Times late Tuesday, illustrates the level of resentment that the country's military harbors against the United States for carrying out the mission without notifying or involving Islamabad, experts say.
"Pakistan's intelligence agencies and the army are very much annoyed because of the unilateral action to get bin Laden," said security analyst Hasan Askari Rizvi. "Think of this from the point of view of the Pakistani army, which has never faced such embarrassment before. The army finds itself in a very difficult situation domestically, and it's that domestic context that is influencing all these decisions."
The arrests were reportedly made by Pakistan's primary intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). A Pakistani intelligence official refused to comment on the arrests. Brig. Azmat Ali, a Pakistani army spokesman, said 30 to 40 people have been detained by authorities investigating the raid against bin Laden, but that he did not know if any of them were CIA informants.
The New York Times reported that one of the informants was a Pakistani army major who copied down the license plate numbers of cars visiting the compound where bin Laden lived. However, Ali said no Pakistani military officer or serviceman was among those arrested.
Ali said the detainees included neighbors who lived near the compound, but he could not confirm a report in the Associated Press that one of the men arrested was the owner of a safe house used by the CIA to monitor the bin Laden compound in the months leading up to the raid. He said no one has been charged in the investigation thus far.
"The investigation will decide whether they were innocent or not, what they were doing," Ali said. "Whether anything criminal was done -- that has yet to be clarified."
The arrests of informants who helped the U.S. bid to track down bin Laden further exposes the widening rift between the United States and Pakistan, and in particular their respective intelligence agencies. Though ostensibly allies in the war on terrorism, both countries harbor a deep mistrust for each other. Pakistan has lashed out at the United States for what it perceives to be gross violations of its sovereignty, citing as evidence the bin Laden raid as well as the Obama administration's reliance on drone missile strikes against al-Qaida and Taliban militants hiding out in the tribal badlands along the Afghan border.
The United States, meanwhile, continues to criticize Pakistan for its selectivity in battling militants -- pursuing those that pose a domestic threat to Pakistanis while maintaining ties with groups that view the West and India as their principal targets.
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