Washington: US tipped off Pakistan about two
militant bomb making facilities in the country's restive
tribal region, but by the time the camps were raided, they
were found empty.
US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said as an act of faith
to restore relations with Pakistan, US intelligence in recent
weeks shared the location of two such compounds in Pakistan's
tribal areas. But by the time authorities reached the
facilities, they had been vacated.
The Defense Secretary in an interview to a news agency said the
Obama administration was disappointed by the unexplained
failure of a US effort to share intelligence with Pakistan.
The soon-to-retire Pentagon chief said he was not certain
how or why the effort went awry. He said "there was clearly
disappointment on our part." Others have raised the
possibility that Pakistan's intelligence service had tipped
off the militants.
Gates said Washington is disappointed and suspicious that
militants in Pakistan apparently were tipped off that American
intelligence officials had discovered two of their suspected
But he stopped short of concluding that Pakistani
officials leaked the information to the al Qaeda-linked
Haqqani insurgents. And Gates said such incidents must not
derail US relations with Islamabad.
A little over two weeks before ending his 4 1/2-year
tenure, Gates in the interview touched on a range of issues
including his expectation of a smooth handoff to his
designated successor, current CIA Director Leon Panetta. Gates
will retire June 30; Panetta's Senate confirmation is expected
The Pakistan intelligence breach has only fueled unease
in the US, where officials worry about links between the
intelligence service there and some militant groups.
A US official said that after telling Pakistani
intelligence about the location of the two compounds, US
drones and satellite feeds showed the militants clearing out
the contents at both sites.
"We don't know the specifics of what happened," said
Gates. "There are suspicions and there are questions, but I
think there was clearly disappointment on our part."
Another US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
said the assumption was that the Pakistanis had tipped off the
Asked whether it was time to take a harder line with
Pakistan, Gates counseled patience and noted that the
Pakistanis have not forgotten that the US abandoned them in
the late 1980s after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan.
"We need each other, and this relationship goes beyond
Afghanistan," he said. "It has to do with regional stability,
and I think we have to be realistic about Pakistani distrust
... and their deep belief that when we're done with al Qaeda
that we'll be gone, again."
Despite recurring tensions between Washington and
Islamabad, and questions by some in Congress about the wisdom
of having spent billions of dollars on aiding Pakistan since
the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks, Gates said the effort has
On other topics, Gates said he sees no roadblocks to
ending the ban on openly gay military service, and if the top
officers of each service recommend moving ahead on the repeal
before the end of the month, he will endorse it.
More than a million US troops have been trained on the
new law that repealed the 17-year-old ban on gays serving
openly in the armed services, and Gates said the instruction
has gone well.
"I think people are pretty satisfied with the way this
process is going forward," he said. "I think people have been
mildly and pleasantly surprised at the lack of pushback in the
Still, he noted that decades after women entered military
service, there are still persistent problems with sexual
assaults. So the notion that there will be no ugly incidents
when the ban is lifted is "unrealistic," he said.
Under the law passed in December and in the detailed
process laid out this year by the Pentagon, the military
chiefs must report to Gates every two weeks on training
progress and eventually need to make a recommendation on
whether the repeal will damage the military's ability to
If Gates approves the certification before he leaves
office, the repeal could be fully implemented in September.
First Published: Tuesday, June 14, 2011, 17:09