By Sam Youngman - 05/09/11 06:29 PM EDT
President Obama is determined to salvage the U.S. relationship with Pakistan even as he seeks more information about Osama bin Laden’s years in hiding in that country, the White House said Monday.
A week after the terrorist behind the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was killed in a U.S. raid less than an hour’s drive from Pakistan’s capital, U.S. officials are still waiting to talk to bin Laden’s surviving wives.
The U.S. government is “in consultations with the Pakistani government at many levels” about seeing the wives and the other materials gathered from the compound, White House press secretary Jay Carney said at his daily briefing.
Obama is “very interested in getting access to the three wives … as well as the information or material that the Pakistanis collected after U.S. forces left.”
So far, Pakistan has not allowed the U.S. access to survivors from the compound, where bin Laden and others were killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL team.
Tensions are clearly rising between the two countries. On Monday, the Pakistani government leaked the name of the CIA’s Islamabad station chief — the second time Pakistan has done that — and Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani went to Parliament to blast the U.S. for carrying out a military mission without Pakistan's knowledge in a sovereign country.
In reaction to those developments, Carney sought to diffuse the tension even as he repeated that Obama will not apologize for sending U.S. commandos into the country to get bin Laden.
“We obviously take the statements and concerns of the Pakistani government seriously, but we also do not apologize for the action that we took, that this president took,” Carney said.
He added: “It is simply beyond a doubt in his mind that he had the right and the imperative to do this.”
Bin Laden’s years in Pakistan and the U.S. raid on his compound have raised disturbing questions in both countries. Pakistan’s military, intelligence apparatus and civilian government have been embarrassed by the fact that bin Laden was hiding out in Pakistan. They also were embarrassed by the fact that the U.S. SEAL team was able to enter their country undetected to take out bin Laden.
Lawmakers in the House and Senate have been incredulous that officials in Pakistan could not have known that bin Laden was in their country. Some have called for the U.S. to take a second look at U.S. aid there.
Carney described the relationship with Pakistan as critical to U.S. efforts to defeat al Qaeda.
“The fact of the matter is that relationship is important, the cooperation continues to be important for the United States in order to pursue al Qaeda and other terrorists as the war continues after the death of Osama bin Laden,” Carney said.