WASHINGTON - "Somebody" in Pakistan knew Osama bin Laden was hiding there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Wednesday. But he said he has seen evidence that the country's senior leadership was unaware the terror leader was in a compound a short distance from a Pakistani military facility.
Both Gates and top military officer Adm. Mike Mullen, however, said the U.S. must continue to work with and provide aid to Pakistan. But, amid rising anger and distrust of Pakistan across the U.S. and in Congress, both men acknowledged that Islamabad must take concrete action to eliminate the safe havens where militants are hiding along the border with Afghanistan.
"I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I've seen some evidence to the contrary," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. "We have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew."
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Asked about congressional pressure to hold back aid until Pakistan moves against militants within its borders, Gates and Mullen said Islamabad is already paying for its inaction.
The Pakistan military's image has been tarnished by the successful U.S. raid that sent an assault team of U.S. Navy SEALs deep into the country to kill bin Laden - all without the knowledge of the now humiliated Pakistani leaders, said Mullen.
Mullen said there is a lot of "soul searching" going on within the military there, and he said they should be given some time to deal with that.
The Pentagon is coming under increased pressure from lawmakers demanding to know if Pakistan was complicit in or ignorant of bin Laden's whereabouts in the country. Some are pushing the administration to get assurances from Pakistani leaders that they will go after militants there before the U.S. commits to sending billions more in aid.
Gates and Mullen said it may take a while to find out if bin Laden had Pakistani protectors, as U.S. intelligence agencies analyze notebooks, computer data and other material seized when bin Laden was killed this month in a U.S. raid.