Background
This analysis is based on an older version of our inference model which is accurate but more difficult to read

Question

Did Pakistan know that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad?

Hypothesesinfo icon

Calculated Conclusionsinfo icon

Conclusionsinfo icon

1

82%
Intelligence knew:

Yes, Pakistani intelligence (but not the government) knew that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad.

82%

2

10%
Didn't know:
No, Pakistan didn't know that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
10%

3

9%
Government knew:

Yes, the Pakistani government knew that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad.

9%

Summary

Although Osama Bin Laden became the world's most wanted man after September 11, 2001, with a 25 million dollar bounty on his head, it took almost a decade before he was finally located and killed. On May 2, 2011, two dozen US Navy Seals landed outside of a large compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, shooting and killing Osama Bin Laden. Bin Laden's body was later dropped in the sea.

The raid on the compound, the killing of Bin Laden, and the revelation that he had apparently been hiding out in Pakistan for years, caught the world by surprise. A number of questions were raised, including whether the government of Pakistan, or its military intelligence, had been aware of Bin Laden's presence in the country, and whether the US had informed Pakistan of the impending raid.

Note: this analysis assumes that the US account of the capture is accurate. Some have doubted the veracity and accuracy of this account, a controversy that may be analyzed by Rootclaim in the future.

Rootclaim’s analysis finds that it is most likely (82%) that Pakistani intelligence--but not the rest of the government--knew that Osama Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad. It is unlikely (8.5%) that the Pakistani government knew. It is similarly unlikely (9.6%) that neither the government nor its intelligence service knew about Bin Laden’s presence.

Rootclaim’s conclusion is based on a mathematical integration of many pieces of evidence and inputs, including:

  1. As a starting point, it is less likely that the government or intelligence would have knowingly tolerated Bin Laden’s presence given his status as the most notorious fugitive of the time.

  2. The proximity of Bin Laden’s compound to Pakistani military intelligence, and leaked intelligence emails claiming that intelligence officials knew Bin Laden was present, reduce the likelihood that Bin Laden’s presence was unknown to anyone in the Pakistani government or intelligence services.

  3. Testimony by the former head of the ISI that Bin Laden’s stay was facilitated by the head of one of Pakistan’s intelligence services raises the likelihood that Pakistani intelligence knew he was present.

  4. The former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence stating that he had warned the President of Pakistan at the time that Bin Laden was hiding near Abbottabad, although no action had been taken, raises the likelihood of government complicity.

Key Evidenceinfo icon

Contributioninfo icon

1

The compound that Bin Laden was staying in was near an elite military academy only 60 miles from the capital (Islamabad).

Sources: Business Insider
Map of the compound in Abbottabad
Map of the compound in Abbottabad
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
45%
Didn't know
9%
Government knew
45%
Intelligence knew
45%
Didn't know
9%
Government knew
45%
2

Former head of the

ISI
Ziauddin Butt said that the compound in Abbottabad was used by the Intelligence Bureau (one of Pakistan's five intelligence agencies, along with the
ISI
) and that Bin Laden's stay there was arranged by the head of the Bureau at the time.

Sources: Pakistani news sources, New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall
Ex-ISI chief Ziauddin Butt
Ex-ISI chief Ziauddin Butt
wn.com
Intelligence knew
54%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
27%
Intelligence knew
54%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
27%
3

Secret emails leaked from

Stratfor
claim that
ISI
officials knew Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.

Sources: WikiLeaks
Intelligence knew
41%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
41%
Intelligence knew
41%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
41%
4

Former head of Afghanistan's intelligence Amrullah Saleh claimed that he had warned Pakistani President (at the time) Pervez Musharraf that Osama Bin Laden was hiding near Abbottabad, but Musharraf refused to act on the warning.

Sources: Former head of Afghanistan's intelligence Amrullah Saleh
Afghani ex-intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh
Afghani ex-intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh
www.theguardian.com
Intelligence knew
29%
Didn't know
25%
Government knew
46%
Intelligence knew
29%
Didn't know
25%
Government knew
46%
Combined contribution of 24 remaining elements.
Intelligence knew
56%
Didn't know
16%
Government knew
28%

Analysis

Evidenceinfo icon

Starting Point (1 item)

Hiding in the Compound (5 items)

The compound that Bin Laden was staying in was near an elite military academy only 60 miles from the capital (Islamabad).

Sources: Business Insider
Map of the compound in Abbottabad
Map of the compound in Abbottabad
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
45%
Didn't know
9%
Government knew
45%
Intelligence knew
45%
Didn't know
9%
Government knew
45%

The compound was behind high walls, with overt security and privacy measures.

Sources: BBC
Schematic of the compound
Schematic of the compound
www.bbc.com
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
38%
Government knew
31%
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
38%
Government knew
31%

There were only three men in the compound with Osama Bin Laden.

Sources: Slate
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
31%
Government knew
35%
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
31%
Government knew
35%
People living in the compound behaved strangely in their few interactions with the neighbors (primarily shopping).
Sources: Local shopkeepers
Intelligence knew
30%
Didn't know
37%
Government knew
33%
Intelligence knew
30%
Didn't know
37%
Government knew
33%

Some of the people living in the compound didn't know that Osama Bin Laden was hiding there.

Sources: Maryam al-Kuwaiti (wife of one of Bin Laden's bodyguards)
A hat may have helped Bin Laden evade detection.
A hat may have helped Bin Laden evade detection.
www.dailymail.co.uk
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
39%
Government knew
31%
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
39%
Government knew
31%

Raid (3 items)

A retired Pakistani intelligence officer helped the US find Osama Bin Laden.
Sources: Intelligence sources
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
35%
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
35%

The

ISI
arrested the local informants who helped the US catch Osama Bin Laden. Although many were later released, others, like Dr. Shakil Afridi, were sent to prison under questionable circumstances ("trumped-up charges" according to the
Abbottabad Commission Report
).

Sources: The New York Times
Dr. Afridi, a US informant imprisoned in Pakistan.
Dr. Afridi, a US informant imprisoned in Pakistan.
alchetron.com
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
34%
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
34%
Scenario A:
Yes, Pakistan was informed
Scenario B:
No, Pakistan was not informed
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%

Communications (4 items)

Papers and files from Bin Laden's house showed communication with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (founder of

Lashkar-e-Taiba
) and
Mullah Omar
(head of the Taliban).

Sources: New York Times Magazine
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
32%
Government knew
34%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
32%
Government knew
34%

The cellphone of Bin Laden's courier contained contacts to

Harkat-ul-Mujahideen
(a group allegedly tied to the
ISI
).

Sources: Senior American officials
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen flag
Harkat-ul-Mujahideen flag
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
37%
Didn't know
29%
Government knew
35%
Intelligence knew
37%
Didn't know
29%
Government knew
35%

Secret emails leaked from

Stratfor
claim that
ISI
officials knew Bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad.

Sources: WikiLeaks
Intelligence knew
41%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
41%
Intelligence knew
41%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
41%

A leaked diplomatic message quoted a Tajikistani intelligence claim that many in Pakistan knew about Bin Laden's whereabouts and tipped him off whenever there was to be a raid on his hideout.

Sources: WikiLeaks
General Abdullo Nazarov, quoted in WikiLeaks in US-Tajikstan communications
General Abdullo Nazarov, quoted in WikiLeaks in US-Tajikstan communications
gdb.rferl.org
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
31%
Government knew
35%
Intelligence knew
35%
Didn't know
31%
Government knew
35%

American Reaction (3 items)

US officials didn't apologize for the raid and demanded continued cooperation and assistance.

Sources: Husain Haqqani, former Pakistani Ambassador to the United States
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%

The US government never publicly presented any evidence of Pakistan hiding or protecting Bin Laden.

Intelligence knew
33%
Didn't know
35%
Government knew
32%
Intelligence knew
33%
Didn't know
35%
Government knew
32%
The United States froze 700 million dollars in aid to Pakistan after the Bin Laden raid.
Sources: Reuters
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
29%
Government knew
35%
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
29%
Government knew
35%

Pakistani Reaction (6 items)

Pakistani President (at the time) Asif Ali Zardari denied that Pakistan had intentionally harbored Bin Laden.

Sources: The Washington Post
President Asif Ali Zardari
President Asif Ali Zardari
wallpaperstall.blogspot.co.il
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
36%
Government knew
27%
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
36%
Government knew
27%

The Pakistani military and intelligence did not issue an immediate response to Bin Laden's capture.

Sources: The New York Times
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
33%
Intelligence knew
36%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
33%
Former Defense Minister Chaudhry Ahmed Mukhtar said that the government knew about Bin Laden's whereabouts.
Sources: Washington Post
Ex-Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar
Ex-Defense Minister Ahmad Mukhtar
gujratpakistan1.blogspot.co.il
Intelligence knew
32%
Didn't know
27%
Government knew
41%
Intelligence knew
32%
Didn't know
27%
Government knew
41%

Former head of the

ISI
Lieutenant General Asad Durani said it was "probable" that the
ISI
knew where Bin Laden was and protected him as an asset.

Sources: AlJazeera
Lt. Gen. Durani interview
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
32%
Government knew
34%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
32%
Government knew
34%

Former head of the

ISI
Ziauddin Butt said that the compound in Abbottabad was used by the Intelligence Bureau (one of Pakistan's five intelligence agencies, along with the
ISI
) and that Bin Laden's stay there was arranged by the head of the Bureau at the time.

Sources: Pakistani news sources, New York Times correspondent Carlotta Gall
Ex-ISI chief Ziauddin Butt
Ex-ISI chief Ziauddin Butt
wn.com
Intelligence knew
54%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
27%
Intelligence knew
54%
Didn't know
18%
Government knew
27%

Former head of Afghanistan's intelligence Amrullah Saleh claimed that he had warned Pakistani President (at the time) Pervez Musharraf that Osama Bin Laden was hiding near Abbottabad, but Musharraf refused to act on the warning.

Sources: Former head of Afghanistan's intelligence Amrullah Saleh
Afghani ex-intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh
Afghani ex-intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh
www.theguardian.com
Intelligence knew
29%
Didn't know
25%
Government knew
46%
Intelligence knew
29%
Didn't know
25%
Government knew
46%

Anonymous Claims (3 items)

A Pakistan security official claimed that the compound had not been under Pakistani surveillance.
Sources: The New York Times
Aerial footage of the compound
Aerial footage of the compound
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
38%
Government knew
31%
Intelligence knew
31%
Didn't know
38%
Government knew
31%

According to a senior US official, the US had direct evidence that General Shuja Pasha, the head of the

ISI
, knew that Bin Laden was in Abbottabad.

Sources: Pakistani official
ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha
ISI Director General Ahmad Shuja Pasha
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%

A senior CIA official involved in the search for Bin Laden said he was unaware of any evidence that the

ISI
was protecting Bin Laden.

Sources: The New York Times
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%
Intelligence knew
34%
Didn't know
30%
Government knew
36%

Abbottabad Commission Report (1 item)

The leaked Abbottabad Commission report blamed government incompetence and military inadequacies for Bin Laden's ability to live in Pakistan undetected.

Sources: Time Magazine
Commission members finalizing report
Commission members finalizing report
www.pakistantoday.com.pk
Intelligence knew
32%
Didn't know
41%
Government knew
27%
Intelligence knew
32%
Didn't know
41%
Government knew
27%

Other evidence (3 items)

Former Pakistani Ambassador to the US Hussein Haqqani said that the heads of the Pakistani military and the

ISI
were embarrassed that Osama Bin Laden was found in Pakistan.

Sources: Foreign Policy
Generals Kayani and Pasha, heads of the Pakistani military and the ISI
Generals Kayani and Pasha, heads of the Pakistani military and the ISI
www.thenewstribe.com
Intelligence knew
33%
Didn't know
35%
Government knew
33%
Intelligence knew
33%
Didn't know
35%
Government knew
33%

The car transporting Osama Bin Laden had been pulled over by police in Pakistan, but escaped undetected.

Sources: Maryam al-Kuwaiti (wife of one of Bin Laden's bodyguards)
Intelligence knew
37%
Didn't know
27%
Government knew
37%
Intelligence knew
37%
Didn't know
27%
Government knew
37%

During the time that Osama Bin Laden was living in Pakistan, there were two different governments (Pervez Musharraf until 2008, and then Asif Ali Zardari and the Pakistan People's Party from September 2008 until Bin Laden's capture).

Pervez Musharraf (President 2001-2008)
Pervez Musharraf (President 2001-2008)
en.wikipedia.org
Intelligence knew
40%
Didn't know
33%
Government knew
27%
Intelligence knew
40%
Didn't know
33%
Government knew
27%

Storyline Assumptionsinfo icon

Assumptions that derive from the evidence above are presented and evaluated here for each hypothesis.
Storyline assumptions:
Likelihood given hypothesis
(including preceding assumptions)

Discussioninfo icon

To view the discussion pages of the subanalyses, click below:
userIcon
user icon
hoo lala
Nov 20, 2018 at 8:44 PM
fghjhgj
user avatar
Joanne C Howland-Jurgensen
Mar 4, 2018 at 8:12 PM
How could Pakistan have hidden Bin Laden for so long..How does no one see a 7ft tall terrorist?
user avatar
Nils Kilden-Pedersen
Aug 22, 2017 at 2:04 AM
There's no mention of the 25 million dollar bounty, a very strong incentive for anyone who would have known.
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John123
Aug 6, 2017 at 6:57 AM
No, however they did know he was in Pakistan