When American forces killed 9/11 terrorist Osama bin Laden a little over a year ago, he was not hiding in some mountain cave in Afghanistan. Rather, he was nesting comfortably in a large house in neighboring Pakistan's military nerve center. The house was exceedingly close to what is termed Pakistan's version of West Point.
That raised some painful questions, the most obvious one being: Was the government of U.S. "ally" Pakistan truly as dumbfounded as it purported to be that bin Laden was hiding virtually in plain sight -- or was it directly or indirectly aiding his concealment?
While that question has never been answered to everyone's satisfaction -- not by a long shot -- we now have clear reason to suspect that bin Laden is not held in quite so low esteem in Pakistan as he is in the United States.
A 48-year-old Pakistani doctor helped the United States track down bin Laden through a complicated sting. And now the doctor has been slapped with a 33-year sentence in his home country -- for high treason.
He is guilty of "acting against the state," according to the tribal court that tried him.
It gives new meaning to the word "treason" if aiding the search for one of the most notorious mass murderers in recent times is deemed contrary to any nation's interest.
An Obama administration official rightly condemned the sentence against the doctor, Shakil Afridi.
"The doctor was never asked to spy on Pakistan," the unnamed official told The New York Times. "He was asked only to help locate al-Qaida terrorists, who threaten Pakistan and the U.S. He helped save Pakistani and American lives."
Key questions linger, though. First, could and should the United States have taken steps to bring Afridi out of Pakistan after he helped track down bin Laden -- precisely because the fight against radical Islam is not always popular in Muslim nations and aiding that fight can be dangerous?
Congressional efforts to grant Afridi U.S. citizenship have as yet gone nowhere -- and now it may be too late.
And second, will the administration's diplomatic efforts to have the long sentence reduced or removed succeed?
We should all hope so.
Meanwhile, we should scrutinize again the notion that Pakistan is a U.S. ally worthy of receiving continued billions of dollars in aid from our taxpayers.
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