WASHINGTON (AP) - Pakistan has already paid dearly for its failure to know or acknowledge that Osama bin Laden was hiding for more than five years in a compound a short distance from a Pakistani military facility, Pentagon leaders insisted Wednesday.
Pushing back against angry public and congressional accusations that Pakistani officials were complicit in bin Laden's sanctuary there, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he's seen proof that leaders there were unaware of bin Laden's whereabouts.
"I have seen no evidence at all that the senior leadership knew. In fact, I've seen some evidence to the contrary," Gates told reporters at the Pentagon. "We have no evidence yet with respect to anybody else. My supposition is, somebody knew."
He wouldn't say who, but suggested it could have been retired or low-level Pakistani officials.
The Obama administration is reassessing its fragile and sometimes hostile relationship with Pakistan after the bin Laden killing, which may change the stakes for both sides. For the U.S., it may provide greater leverage in its argument to prod Pakistan to go after the militants that target the U.S., instead of only those that target Pakistan.
For Pakistan, outrage and shame over what is seen as a breach of national sovereignty will color leaders' willingness to cooperate with the U.S.
Gates and Joint Chiefs chairman Adm. Mike Mullen issued a broad defense of Islamabad's leadership Wednesday. And they urged patience as the "humiliated" country worked through the problems emanating from the U.S. clandestine raid deep into Pakistan that killed bin Laden on May 2.
"If I were in Pakistani shoes, I would say I've already paid a price. I've been humiliated. I've been shown that the Americans can come in here and do this with impunity," said Gates. "I think we have to recognize that they see a cost in that and a price that has been paid."