Bill Clinton: Pakistan is still a partner in the war on terror

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Although we’ve heard from several George W. Bush administration officials about the U.S. raid that ended the life of Osama bin Laden, very little has come out of his predecessor’s administration, that of former President Bill Clinton.

On CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Friday, in an interview with Maria Bartiromo, Clinton offered thoughts on the successful mission. Clinton started by discussing the current status of the U.S.-Pakistani relationship.

“Someone asked me the other day, do you think Pakistan is our partner in war on terror or someone there knew that bin Laden was there and helped him stay anonymous, and my answer was yes to both questions,” Clinton said. “That is — I doubt that any one civilian apparatus knew. I don’t think necessarily President [Asif Ali] Zardari knew. I doubt that anyone in his inner cabinet knew. The heads of the intelligence services in the military have acted wounded about this. Maybe they didn’t know, but somebody may have. One of the problems that Pakistan has is sorting out its own identity, because there’s so much internal conflict there between those who want to be reconciled to the rest of the world, beginning with India, and those who essentially buy the narrative of al Qaeda. The latter group I’m convinced are in the minority but enough of them to cause a hell of a lot of damage.”

Clinton said he wasn’t sure if Osama bin Laden’s death meant an end for terrorism in the region.

“I don’t know, because I think that he clearly was symbolically the head of al Qaeda, and still if what we read in the press is to be believed about their being a veritable treasure trove of information on his computers, still thinking about what to do,” Clinton said. “The operational head for a long time has been his No. 2, Dr. al Zawahiri and in recent years, al Qaeda has operated more like a franchise operation than a top-down operation.”

Clinton credited President Barack Obama for making the right decision.

“No matter how much information you have, if you don’t know whether it’s valuable or not, it’s hard to know whether to act,” Clinton said. “I think he had to act. I think it was the right thing to do. If you’re in the room and somebody is saying, what are we going to do if we send them in there and he’s not there and kill other people and Pakistani army shows up, starts shooting, we got egg on our face. I think he concluded when I did something risky as president which is, OK – you might fail by acting or fail by not acting. Which failure would be easier to explain? And even though it was a difficult decision, I think if it comes out sooner or later he was in fact there and had you the capacity to go get him and you didn’t do it, it would be impossible to explain. After all America had been through and after the risks the world takes, so I think he made the right decision.”