When hiding out in Pakistan, Osama bin Laden was aided by a "support network," the extent of which the U.S. is still trying to understand, President Obama said Sunday.
The president said that bin Laden, who'd been living in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, for at least five years before being killed in a U.S. raid last Sunday, had been the beneficiary of others in his efforts to evade American forces.
The idea that bin Laden had been able to hide out so long in relatively plain sight — Abbottabad is home to a military academy, and many of bin Laden's neighbors were reportedly retired military — has provoked suspicion by senior lawmakers.
Sen. John KerryJohn KerryTime for Action on Bahrain When wise men attack: Why Gates is wrong about Clinton, Libya Internal memo: Refugee program vulnerable to fraud MORE (D-Mass.), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Sunday that he found it difficult to believe that no members of the Pakistani government had knowledge of bin Laden's whereabouts. Some other members of Congress have called for cuts in the billions in aid doled out by the U.S. to Pakistan this year.
Tom Donilon, the president's national security adviser, said on Sunday morning's talk shows that there was no evidence that senior members of Pakistan's political, military or intelligence communities knew about bin Laden's location.
Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. denied any prior knowledge of the al Qaeda leader's whereabouts, though ABC News reported Sunday evening that a senior Pakistani official suspected that some "rogue or retired" members of Pakistan's intelligence agency may have assisted bin Laden.
Obama said that the Pakistani government has indicated "a profound interest in finding out what kinds of support networks bin Laden might have had," and that the U.S. would expect Pakistan to follow through on an investigation.
The president acknowledged differences between the U.S. and Pakistan, but characterized the country as an overall partner in the war on terror.
"What I can say is, is that Pakistan, since 9/11, has been a strong counterterrorism partner with us. There have been times where we've had disagreements. There have been times where we wanted to push harder, and for various concerns, they might have hesitated," Obama explained. "And those differences are real. And they'll continue. But the fact of the matter is, is that we've been able to kill more terrorists on Pakistani soil than just about any place else. We could not have done that without Pakistani cooperation."