“If Pakistan cannot or will not act…”

A “war of words” has broken out between the US and Pakistan over the former’s decision to launch a “unauthorised unilateral action” resulting in the targeted killing of Osama Bin Laden on Pakistani soil.

There were some relevant comments made at the first White House press briefing [2 May] following Bin Laden’s death.  At the start of the briefing the Obama Administration Press Secretary, John Carney, quoted Barack Obama in July 2008 – “We must make it clear that, if Pakistan cannot or will not act, we will take out high level terrorist targets like Bin Laden if we have them in our sights.” [Added emphasis]

When questioned by reporters, the President’s Counterterrorism Advisor, John Brennan, states that the US “didn’t contact the Pakistanis until after all of our people, all of our aircraft, were out of Pakistani airspace.”

Who made the decision, then, that Pakistan could not or would not act? And how was that decision reached?

During the press conference John Brennan also claimed that Osama Bin Laden had “engaged in [the] firefight”, was “hiding behind women” and that Bin Laden’s wife “served as a shield” when she had been shot.  He qualified those points with a “reportedly” and a “it is my understanding”.  Subsequently, the Administration’s Press Secretary, John Carney, clarified the situation.

The Telegraph’s Toby Harden has some other questions about the White House’s account.