McRaven: Pakistan Didn't Know About Osama Bin Laden

Special operations commander swats away suspicions that Pakistan knowingly harbored al-Qaeda leader.

In this Oct. 28, 2009 file photo, Afghan women and their children are asked about their male relatives as U.S. Special Operations forces search their home.
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There is no evidence the Pakistanis knew that Osama bin Laden was hiding in their country prior to the operation that killed the terrorist leader, according to the commander who oversaw that raid.

While speaking to a group at the Hero Summit, Navy Adm. William H. McRaven addressed the general belief that the Pakistanis would have had to have known that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad in 2011, due largely to the proximity of the al-Qaeda leader's compound to a major Pakistani military academy.

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But McRaven, the commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, countered that assumption Thursday, according to a Department of Defense release.

"We have no intelligence that indicates the Pakistanis knew he was there," he said.

Many senior leaders thought informing the Pakistani government about Operation Neptune Spear could put the secretive mission at risk. Reports from the planning stages of that mission show intelligence officials shared those concerns.

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Marine Gen. James Mattis, the commander of Central Command, which encompasses the war in Afghanistan, said at his confirmation hearings in the summer of 2010 that he believed certain branches of Pakistani intelligence were still working with the Taliban, which harbored bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"It's no surprise to me that there may be some continued relationship there," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee in July 2010.

"History didn't start at 2001. Some of those same groups we had a relationship with back when we were fighting the Soviets," he added. The Pakistanis may be working with the Taliban, Mattis added, or may be trying to infiltrate their ranks.

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Paul D. Shinkman is a national security reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at

Corrected 11/16/2012: The quote in the last paragraph should read "History didn't start at 2001."