INGTON (Agencies) There is no evidence Pakistani officials knew Osama bin Laden was living at a compound deep inside the country, but the United States is not ruling out the possibility, President Barack Obamas counterterrorism adviser said on Tuesday.
The death of the Qaeda leader in Mondays US raid on his compound in Abbottabad, a military garrison town 38 miles from the capital Islamabad, has led some US lawmakers to demand a review of US aid to Pakistan.
They (Pakistani officials) are expressing as great a surprise as we had when we first learned about this compound, so there is no indication at this point that the people we have talked to were aware of this, but we need to dig deeper into this, White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said in an interview with National Public Radio.
Separately, while it is not yet certain who will replace Osama bin Laden to lead al-Qaeda, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Tuesday that whoever takes his place will becomes Americas new public enemy number one.
Bin Ladens deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is expected in some circles to take over, but it is not clear how soon that will happen and he may be more concerned for his own public safety after US special operations took out the Al-Qaeda chief in a daring raid.
Hes moving up very fast on the list, Panetta told CBS televisions Evening News with Katie Couric in referring to Zawahiri.
Panetta said that until a new Al-Queda leader is formally anointed, the Untied States expects to take advantage of the situation. We think thatll give us some opportunities to be able to continue to attack them in the confusion and debate that theyre going to go through as to who ultimately replaces bin Laden, he said. But I can assure you, whoever takes his place, he will be number one on our list. Earlier, when asked whether officials in Pakistans military might have known about bin Ladens presence in the compound, Brennan said it was possible. I think it would be premature to rule out the possibility that there were some individuals inside of Pakistan, including within the official Pakistani establishment, who might have been aware of this, but were not accusing anybody at this point. Well I think the latest information is that he was in this compound for the past five or six years and he had virtually no interaction with others outside that compound. But yet he seemed to be very active inside the compound, Brennan said on the CBS Early Show programme. Noting that the compound was close to an elite military academy and that bin Laden had been living there about five years, Panetta nonetheless pressed Islamabad to provide more answers.
I just think they need to respond to the questions about why they did not know that that kind of compound existed, he said. Asked whether Pakistan should be declared a terrorist state, Panetta acknowledged that the US-Pakistani relationship is a very complicated and difficult one, but warned the ties should not be severed.
Look, we are virtually conducting a war in their country going after al-Qaeda, he said. And at the same time, were trying to get their help in trying to be able to confront terrorism in that part of the world.
And they have given us some help, and they have given us some cooperation.
Brennan also said the United States was considering whether to release photographs and video taken during the raid but has not yet made a decision.
We want to make sure that were able to do it in a thoughtful manner. We also want to anticipate what the reaction might be on the part of al Qaeda or others to the release of certain information so that we can take the appropriate steps beforehand, Brennan told CNN.
Any other material, whether it be photos or videos or whatever else we are looking at it and well make the appropriate decisions, Brennan said.
Asked about any computers, documents and other material seized at the compound, Brennan said the material was being reviewed by U.S. authorities.
What were most interested in is seeing if we can get any insight into any terrorist plot that might be underway so that we can take the measures to stop any type of attack planning. Secondly, were trying to look and see whether or not there are leads to other individuals within the organization or insights into their (al Qaeda) capabilities, Brennan said.