KABUL, Afghanistan – The Afghan government said Wednesday that Pakistan must have known Usama bin Laden was living in a military garrison town near the capital, echoing international suspicions about Islamabad in the aftermath of the deadly strike against Al Qaeda's chief.
"Not only Pakistan, with its strong intelligence service, but even a very weak government with a weak intelligence service would have known who was living in that house in such a location," said Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi.
The house where bin Laden lived in the town of Abbottabad was close to the gate of the Kakul Military Academy, an army run institution where top Pakistani officers train, Azimi said, adding that many neighboring houses are home to military officials.
"There are lots of questions that need answers," Azimi said.
Others have made similar remarks.
Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said bin Laden must have had an extensive support network in Pakistan in the years before his death. And White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Tuesday that the U.S. is committed to cooperating with Pakistan despite questions about who in the Islamabad government may have known bin Laden was in hiding in the compound in Abbottabad.
Afghan officials have long said that the real war against terrorism is not in Afghanistan. And while they have welcomed international troops who are fighting back the Taliban insurgency across Afghanistan, they have also criticized these forces for backing a Pakistani government that Afghan officials say is double-dealing.
Azimi went on to say that Afghanistan is bracing for revenge attacks following the bin Laden strike, but expects that the Al Qaeda leader's death will eventually make it easier to defeat the Taliban.
The nearly 10-year war in Afghanistan started as a manhunt for bin Laden in 2001 and many inside Afghanistan and those who follow the conflict from allied countries have raised questions about whether his death will shorten or ease the battle with the Taliban insurgency.
On the day that bin Laden's death was announced, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called it a blow to terrorism but made no predictions about how it would effect the war in his country.
Azimi, for his part, predicted Al Qaeda revenge attacks in the immediate aftermath of the terror chief's death.
"The first phase will be for a short period of time, a revenge phase in order show that even if he is gone, others are keeping the network together," he said, adding that Afghan security forces have already increased their presence in key areas and their readiness in anticipation of such attacks.
"Then slowly the situation will become more normal and that will start to show how Usama's absence effects the structure of the network," Azimi said.