11 May 2011 – ABC NEWS
CUOMO: So let’s get right to it. Intelligence now suggests that OBL had been in this compound for at least 5 to 6 years. That would put him in the compound while you were president. So I ask you, how could you not have known that OBL was somewhere so easy to find?
MUSHARRAF: Well, it is indeed a big, uh, blunder. It’s a big slip up for the intelligence, but I really doubt (inaudible) is clear. It doesn’t appeal to my logic. And you say, I mean how come so many people around the house who all recognize OBL, it’s a household name everywhere in most of the world, how come they didn’t know OBL was there? So this is a very nagging doubt in my mind. That this isn’t logically possible.
CUOMO: Well, two things. On the logic of it Mr. President, two things for you to put into your thinking. One, they have video excerpts of OBL making tapes, practicing for tapes, that put him in the same room over that period, that helps develop the understanding that he was there, and why do you assume that people would have said anything if they knew he were there? That’s the big doubt whether the Pakistani people and intelligence were willing to out OBL
MUSHARRAF: Well, let me tell you where he was. This city, Abbattabad, I know very well. People there are not at all pro-Taliban or pro-al Qaeda. They are not the religious extremist kind. I am very sure that people would have indicated that he was there. Uh, this is not the tribal agency(??) of Pakistan. And the people here, I know, are very very different. But ethnically, they distinguish themselves from the Pashtoons very, very much.
CUOMO: Okay, so let’s take the people out of it. Let’s say they were innocent in this. That takes us to the intelligence and the military. You told me in our first interview that he was in the tribal regions, that you knew this, that only the Pakistani military could get him. Who gave you bad information about where OBL was?
MUSHARRAF: I wonder if I said so calmly that he was in the tribal region. He could be, he could be, in fact that may have been very early stages. Any particular, specific intelligence that I had. But after the operation, that al Qaeda and Taliban fled into Pakistan, into our cities and mountains. I presumed that he may be there. Could be there.
CUOMO: Are you suspicious of your intelligence officials and the leaders you had around you that somebody was keeping this quiet, somebody was helping him stay hidden when he winds up in such an obvious place?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, it’s a very obvious thing. It’s really appalling that he was there and nobody knew. I’m certainly appalled that I didn’t know and that intelligence people from that time onward didn’t know for 6 years that he was inside. And there is no excuse for this great, massive slip up. And an investigation is in order and, uh, people must be punished for this big lapse
MUSHARRAF: This is the assertion being cast on our intelligence agency and the army. And I very strongly believe this is, will not, this is not the case. As a policy, the army and the ISI fighting terrorism and extremism, al Qaeda, taliban. But rogue element within is a possibility. But for 6 years, let me tell you, the attachment commander in that area, could be of the rank of a major, uh, they would have changed about 3 times because we pull officers out in about 2 years. So I can’t imagine that if there was all of them following which was also not a possibility. So my conclusion, really, from all points of view, although I do understand it’s very difficult to believe for any al Qaeda that people didn’t know. It is a big slip up.
CUOMO: Do you believe, you keep using the word slip up, I mean it sounds like it couldn’t have been a slip up. Its too obvious. He was there too long. He’s too high profile. Do you believe it was a slip up, or do you think you need to investigate and find who was helping to hide OBL
MUSHARRAF: Well, one way to find out, if that is the case, as I said, it is not the policy, it is not the policy of the ISI or the army (inaudible) and I’m very sure of that. Because it’s not in our interest. Its not in Pakistan’s interest. Pakistan’s army has at their hands. Pakistan’s ISI has at their hands. So therefore they couldn’t be, at the policy level and the strategic level, be supporting them and, uh, hiding them there.
CUOMO: Would you be surprised to find out that a Pakistani official or intelligence operative had been helping OBL? Would that shock you?
MUSHARRAF: Well, the possibility as I said, at the lower level, somebody following a policy of his own and violating the policy from above, is a possibility.
CUOMO: Why do you feel the US thought it was necessary to have backup commandos anticipating that Pakistani military might attack them on the way out of the OBL compound?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I don’t think that is the case.
CUOMO: That is the case! That’s what they thought might happen, thats why they had the commandos. What do you think of that concern?
MUSHARRAF: The commandos where? Who had the commandos?
CUOMO: That the United States felt that it needed backup forces in anticipation of Pakistan military firing on them when they were found to be in OBL’s compound.
MUSHARRAF: And therefore they had backup from whom? From their own forces? Well, it is a normal military operation, a sting operation like that, a commando operation like that, always has a strategy and it is always, I mean, I know there has to be a “stay behind party” as we used to call it…
CUOMO: Did the United States have a reason to be concerned
MUSHARRAF: Let me finish what I am saying. (CC – Go ahead, please.) The stay behind team’s job is to counter anybody who may interfere with the force. And therefore I think that is a normal drill. So therefore now Pakistan army firing, well certainly it was a violation of our sovereignty and I, I don’t know if there were armed troops, armed troops around and if they saw some helicopters firing in a house without knowing who they are dealing with, there was a possibility of a clash like that and firing from the Pakistani troops on ground could have taken place.
CUOMO: Mr. President, you say there could have been a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but didn’t you have a deal in place with the administration while you were president allowing for a unilateral attack by the United States if they had actionable intelligence to where OBL was?
MUSHARRAF: Never! And this is the assertion being cast by the Guardian and I rejected that. I condemn such an insinuation. This has been done by a reporter in Pakistan and I’m looking into what action can be taken against him.
CUOMO: Comes from a general. Tommy Franks gave the information that there was a deal in place with you that if the U.S. knew where Bin Laden was, they could go in unilaterally… and backed up by Condoleezza Rice.
MUSHARRAF: I didn’t read that. I didn’t read that Tommy Franks had said that. I read that some report, some sources in Pakistan had given this information to this reporter. And, anybody getting up and saying something, this was thought of earlier. And I wonder at this critical stage why this came up. So therefore I, I suspect, uh, doing, I suspect some conspiracy behind it, some people behind it to say that. In any case, I challenge anybody to produce some evidence. And I do not accept anybody getting up and saying there was a deal. There was no such deal. And that was in 2001 between me and President Bush. I personally was trying to cast my mind back to 2001 after 9/11 and in those 3, 2 and a half months left, after September 2001, I do not remember, recollect, that I even spoke to President Bush. And besides, we didn’t even discuss this issue about allowing such an action.
CUOMO: Right now there’s word that Pakistani officials won’t allow US officials back in the compound. Do you think this is a good decision?
MUSHARRAF: Definitely, that was a good decision. I don’t think we can accept, no government can accept a violation of their sovereignty.
CUOMO: But why is it a violation of sovereignty? This man who has been plotting to kill Americans since and before 9/11, enemy number 1, a huge foundation for our relationship with Pakistan, was finding this man. We find him in a curious location, take him out, now we want to go back to the compound. You say no. What kind of friend is that?
MUSHARRAF: What kind of friend is that, that you haven’t taken us into confidence?
CUOMO: When we find him in your military’s backyard, it makes us a little suspicious, doesn’t it?
MUSHARRAF: Well you are not conscious about sensitivities. What kind of friend is that? That the people are rising against the army and I, what kind of friendship is that?
CUOMO: Do you believe that the US should have gone about this a different way, even though OBL was sitting in the backyard of your military?
MUSHARRAF: Absolutely because in the previous, in my time, we apprehended three dozen, dozens of al-Qaeda people. It was always intelligence cooperation, whether CIA had it or ISI, we cooperated with each other, we spotted the target, we identified it, and that is all from the American side. It was always, invariably, not one different action. Always Pakistan law enforcement agency, the police, or military. Never did US come in to attack the target. We did it. And we always did it. And that is how we got these dozens of people.
CUOMO: Since the raid, the Pakistanis have said you can’t come into the compound. The Pakistanis have outed the name, identity of the head CIA operative in Pakistan. These seem like hostile actions. Do you think that this is the way forward?
MUSHARRAF: Well the way forward is to be better. You can’t clap with one hand. If you don’t trust Pakistan, how can Pakistan trust you? And let me tell you there is a background to this also. Look at the people, what they have suffered. When we joined, when we joined the coalition, I decided to join the coalition after 9/11, one question that was always invariably asked by the people, everyone asked, what makes you think that the United States will not again use us and take us as we did in 1989. And we suffered all the consequences of mayhem and tribal warfare in Afghanistan, 4 million refugees in Pakistan, al Qaeda coming about, Taliban maybe being created in 1995. While everyone was away, we were all alone fending for ourselves. So that, that was the scare that they have. And now that there’s (inaudible) of the United States by 2014 and whatever circumstances (inaudible) without stabilizing Afghanistan. We are thinking this is reminiscent of what happened in 1989 up to 1990 -uh- 1995, 1996. And there was total kind of warfare and destruction of Afghanistan and Pakistan is alone fending for itself.
CUOMO: You say alone fending for itself, you get a lot of aid from the United States and a lot of military cooperation. You don’t want to underplay what the United States does for Pakistan, do you?
MUSHARRAF: Well, no. I don’t want to underplay that.
CUOMO: You’re kind of underplaying it, you’re kind of suggesting we left you alone and the United States hasn’t done anything for you. Lotta money on the table.
MUSHARRAF: Yeah, no, I’m talking about 1989.
CUOMO: That was a long time ago. We’re talking about right now, this circumstance.
MUSHARRAF: We don’t realize what we did. In 1989 there were (inaudible) in Pakistan and then they left. And we were a strategic partner since 1947 for 42 years Pakistan was a U.S. strategic partner. We won the cold war for the west. And then we were suddenly left and sanctions were put on Pakistan. And very good relations with India, which was in the the people of Pakistan. So that’s why I’m saying leaving high and dry. Otherwise, yes indeed, we are happy, we are very glad with you gave us a lot of aid before 1979.
CUOMO: You get a lot of aid now, right? And a lot of it was hinged on the partnership to find OBL
MUSHARRAF: Because of a common cause. No, not only to find OBL.
CUOMO: Well that was a big part of it. This last time we did our interview we came back with that interview, Mr. President, and I asked you if you found OBL would you turn him over to us. You didn’t like the question. You did not handle this question quickly. You said I don’t want to talk about it. It was a big deal! It’s still a big deal!
MUSHARRAF: if you found OBL, would you hand him over.
CUOMO: It’s a sad commentary that Americans have to think about whether Pakistanis are more partial to them or to the sympathies of OBL, don’t you think?
MUSHARRAF: Well that is very sad if your countrymen think that Pakistan is more sympathetic or more partial to the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
CUOMO: Well you wouldn’t even answer the question of handing him over because you said I have to think what the people want. I mean what does that suggest?
MUSHARRAF: Even if you ask anytime, I will not answer that in clear terms.. Because there are sensitivities.
CUOMO: But that’s an odd situation, don’t you think? I mean this man is enemy number one for the United States. You’re in partnership with them to catch him and you won’t even say if you’d turn him over?
MUSHARRAF: You think it is very odd because you don’t understand the sensitivities. You think from their point of view, from the American eyes. You see everything from the American eyes. You don’t want to see things from our eyes, from Pakistan’s eyes. From the people of Pakistan. How do the people of Pakistan take everything and a Pakistani government and a Pakistani leader must consider that.
CUOMO: Hmm, that’s a fair point and that’s why we’re happy to have you on Mr. President because you’re giving us that perspective. Let me ask you, what do you see is the future of US/Pakistan relations? How do we move forward together?
MUSHARRAF: Well you have to first of all identify what is required. The requirement is absolutely Pakistan and US relations must be good, in the mutual benefit of Pakistan and also the mutual benefit of the United States to fight terrorism and extremism. And also in the very to fight terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. So it’s a win-win for both. But if there is if there is mistrust and we are pulling in different directions, trust me, we are losing the battle against terror.
CUOMO: Do you believe that Pakistan can be a strong partner to the United States dedicated to going after terrorism?
MUSHARRAF: Is Pakistan being a good partner? (CC – Yes.) Pakistan has always been an excellent partner to the United States, it was the United States which has always let us down until 1989, okay.
CUOMO: All right, but you have to look after 1989. You can’t always look back to 1989, Mr. President. There’s been a lot of history since then.
MUSHARRAF: But you don’t want to. You don’t want to. You don’t think the United States did anything wrong in Pakistan
CUOMO: No no no, I don’t believe that at all. That not fair, Mr. President, that’s not fair. I’m just saying that when OBL is found less than a mile from a major military compound in a suburb of your capital, it raises some eyebrows and you would think Pakistan would be very forthcoming about what went wrong
MUSHARRAF: Well, no. This was a very serious fault, but let me also say that taking it to an extent that you want to alienate Pakistan, you will be a loser. And Pakistan will also be a loser, there’s no doubt. The world will lose. Because if an irresponsible policy is developed because of this incident. After 9/11 took place, did you take your intelligence and your military chiefs to task? That was a big national intelligence failure. (CC – Fair point) Did you take the intelligence and army chiefs to task (inaudible) national intelligence failure. Did you take them to task? It was also a terrible failure.
CUOMO: It’s a fair point and good perspective. Mr. President, I appreciate you taking the time. You’re always forthcoming. Thank you for the opportunity. I wish you the best going forward. I look forward to speaking to you again