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Pakistan army concedes failure to detect Osama bin Laden, warns U.S. on raids

By Alex Rodriguez

Los Angeles Times

LAST UPDATED: 5:53 p.m. HST, May 5, 2011

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan >> Pakistan's top army commanders Thursday acknowledged their country's failure to detect Osama bin Laden's presence in the garrison city of Abbottabad. But they also warned the United States that any future unauthorized raid would trigger a review of military cooperation between the two countries and ordered a cutback in the number of American troops in Pakistan to "the minimum essential."

The army's remarks are its first since U.S. commandos carried out a secret raid early Monday to kill the al-Qaida leader in the compound he had used as a hideout for five years.

Since the raid, leaders in Washington and Europe have questioned whether Pakistan knew bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, a city dotted with military installations just 60 miles from the Pakistani capital, and did nothing about it.

Many analysts and commentators in Pakistan have called on the country's military and intelligence agencies to explain whether they were providing bin Laden safe haven in Abbottabad, and if not, how they could have allowed him to hide undetected for so long. Pakistanis have also sharply criticized the military for allowing U.S. military helicopters to violate the country's sovereignty without any response.

After chairing a meeting of top army commanders, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said in a prepared statement that "any similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military-intelligence cooperation with the United States."

The statement added that the army had decided to "reduce the strength of U.S. military personnel to the minimum essential," though it did not elaborate on how many service members would be affected by the cutback. The United States, which helps train Pakistan's army and paramilitary troops along the Afghan border, has roughly 275 declared troops in Pakistan at any given time.

At the same time, the army acknowledged "shortcomings in developing intelligence on the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan." The army announced it would begin an investigation into why the nation's intelligence community was unable to discover the al-Qaida leader's presence in Abbottabad.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have been at one of their lowest points in recent years following the case of Raymond Davis, the American who on Jan. 27 shot to death two Pakistani men who he said were trying to rob him in Lahore.

Angered by the revelation that Davis was a CIA contractor, Pakistan's primary intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, put joint operations with the CIA on hold and later demanded a sharp reduction in the number of the American intelligence agency's operatives based in Pakistan, as well as detailed information on the assignments of its remaining personnel.

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