Should India and Pakistan ever go to war again, eastern Afghanistan would give Islamabad the strategic depth from which to counter their much larger and stronger neighbour. This helped America step up its operations in Afghanistan, using Pakistan as a military base to direct its attacks.

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Satellite images show his hideout was a short walk from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point.

Government officials and experts alike have said it beggars belief that no one in Pakistan’s intelligence service ISI had any idea the Al Qaeda leader was living in a vast, custom-built compound just 800 yards from the country’s equivalent of West Point.

The discovery will raise questions about America’s already difficult relationship with the country – which is becoming the single biggest recipient of American aid money.

Pakistan has long denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden.

The country’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik told visiting U. politicians in 2009 that ‘he had no clue’ where the terrorist leader was – adding that he didn’t think he was in Pakistan, but perhaps Iran, Saudi Arabia or Yemen.

Given that bin Laden’s large compound was just several hundred metres from the academy, it seems inconceivable that at least some senior Pakistani members of the military or government did not know of his presence.

Absurdly, the Pakistani army chief of staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, addressed cadets at the city’s academy last month, confidently announcing that Pakistan had ‘cracked’ the forces of terrorism. intelligence has spent the past six years trying to identify and then track a key bin Laden loyalist – whose name was supplied by a detainee at Guantanamo Bay – who eventually led them to the terrorist leader’s hideout. ally since the Cold War, but the events of 9/11 gave this relationship added urgency – not least because Pakistan had been a strong supporter of the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan as it tried to shore itself up against its old enemy, India.

Even as he spoke, the Taliban were launching bomb attacks in Karachi. That is hardly surprising, since Washington rightly feared that treacherous elements in the ISI or Pakistani government might have tipped off Bin Laden and helped him relocate to the more congenial tribal badlands. The control of Afghanistan, mainly through the Taliban, has been an article of faith for all Pakistani governments. – and in return for billions of dollars in aid – Pakistan joined President Bush’s ‘war on terror’.

Significant Al Qaeda players, notably 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed in 2003, have previously been detained alive and well in Pakistan.

More outrageously, the Afghani Taliban high command – who previously sheltered bin Laden – are called the Quetta Shura (or council) precisely because they are allowed to deliberate in the western Pakistani city of Quetta.

Three of the four 7/7 bombers were of Pakistani origin.