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National Security Archive: Pakistan's Bin Laden Policy

Published May 5, 2011

The National Security Archive at George Washington University compiled these declassified documents on Pakistan's policies regarding Osama Bin Laden. They were made available to the public on May 5, 2011 on its website.

The National Security Archive states,

"As the discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, raises fresh questions about U.S.-Pakistan relations, newly released documents show that as early as 1998 U.S. officials concluded the Government of Pakistan "is not disposed to be especially helpful on the matter of terrorist Usama bin Ladin." According to previously secret U.S. documents, Pakistani officials repeatedly refused to act on the Bin Laden problem, despite mounting pressure from American authorities. Instead, in the words of a a U.S. Embassy cable, Pakistani sources "all took the line that the issue of bin Ladin is a problem the U.S. has with the Taliban, not with Pakistan."

The documents in this compilation – part of the National Security Archive's developing Osama Bin Laden File – were obtained by the Archive through the Freedom of Information Act. They reveal a history of "disappointment that Pakistan … a good friend of the U.S., was not taking steps to help with Usama bin Ladin (UBL.)"

As an ally to both the Taliban and the United States, Pakistan was balancing conflicting policies towards the Bin Laden question. Islamabad continued to support the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, an organization protecting the al-Qaeda leader, while simultaneously promising U.S. leaders it was "taking the bin Laden matter very seriously," and would cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts. Portending momentous events to come, U.S. officials in 1998 lamented that getting Pakistani help in apprehending bin Laden would be "an uphill slog."

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