ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan â€” Pakistanâ€™s top army commanders Thursday acknowledged their countryâ€™s failure to detect Osama bin Ladenâ€™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 â€œthe minimum essential.â€
The armyâ€™s remarks are its first since U.S. commandos carried out a secret raid early Monday on the compound the al-Qaida leader used as a hideout for five years.
Since the raid, leaders in Washington and Europe have raised questions about whether Pakistan knew bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad, a city just 35 miles from the Pakistani capital and dotted with military installations, and did nothing about it.
Many analysts and commentators in Pakistan have called on the countryâ€™s military and intelligence agencies to explain whether they were providing bin Laden safe haven in Abbottabad, and if not, how he could have gone undetected for so long. Pakistanis have also sharply criticized the military for allowing U.S. military helicopters to violate the countryâ€™s airspace without any response.
After chairing a meeting of top commanders, army chief Gen. Ashfaq Kayani said in a prepared statement that â€œany similar action violating the sovereignty of Pakistan will warrant a review on the level of military-intelligence cooperation with the United States.â€
The statement added that the army had decided to â€œreduce the strength of U.S. military personnel to the minimum essential,â€ though it did not elaborate on how many service members would be affected by the cutback. The U.S., which helps train Pakistanâ€™s army and paramilitary troops along the Afghan border, has about 275 declared troops in Pakistan at any given time.
At the same time, the army acknowledged â€œshortcomings in developing intelligence on the presence of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.â€ The army announced that it would begin an investigation into why the nationâ€™s intelligence community was unable to discover the al-Qaida leaderâ€™s presence in Abbottabad.
In Washington, lawmakers said they wanted to apply tougher scrutiny to the billions of dollars in U.S. aid funneled to Pakistan.
Rep. Howard L. Berman, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, complained in a letter to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton that Pakistan was failing to meet a number of U.S. requirements for military aid, adding that the countryâ€™s resistance to full cooperation on terrorism â€œbespeaks an overall regression in the relationship.â€
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declined to comment on Pakistanâ€™s statements that it intended to reduce U.S. personnel in Pakistan to a minimum.
Mullenâ€™s spokesman said the admiral has often acknowledged that â€œthe small number of U.S. military trainers in Pakistan are there at the invitation of the Pakistani government, and therefore subject to the governmentâ€™s prerogatives.â€
Relations between the U.S. 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 men in Lahore who he said were trying to rob him.
Angered by the revelation that Davis was a CIA contractor, Pakistanâ€™s primary intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, put joint operations with the U.S. agency on hold and later demanded a sharp reduction in the number of CIA operatives based in Pakistan, as well as detailed information on the assignments of its remaining personnel.