Portending momentous events to come, US officials lamented a good three years before 9/11 that getting Pakistani help in apprehending bin Laden would be "an uphill slog".
The al-Qaeda chief is the mastermind for the spectacular 9/11 strike in the US in 2001 in which 3,000 persons were killed.
As the discovery of bin Laden deep inside Pakistan before being killed by American commandos on Sunday last raised fresh questions about US-Pakistan ties, the documents revealed a history of "disappointment that Pakistan ... a good friend of the US, was not taking steps to help with Usama bin Ladin (UBL)."
The National Security Archive said that according to previously secret US documents, Pakistani officials repeatedly refused to act on the bin Laden problem, despite mounting pressure from American authorities.
Instead, in the words of a US Embassy cable, Pakistani sources "all took the line that the issue of bin Laden is a problem the US has with the Taliban, not with Pakistan."
The documents in this compilation -- part of the National Security Archive's developing Osama bin Laden File -- were obtained by the Archive through the Freedom of Information Act.
The National Security Archive said as an ally to both the Taliban and the United States, Pakistan was balancing conflicting policies towards the bin Laden question.
Islamabad continued to support the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, an organisation protecting the al-Qaeda leader, while simultaneously promising US leaders it was "taking the bin Laden matter very seriously" and would cooperate with US counterterrorism efforts.In a cable dated May 29, 1999, as Taliban "charge d'affaires" Syedur Rahman Haqqani describes bin Laden as a "bomb" waiting to explode, US government officials grow increasingly frustrated with Pakistani and Taliban officials who have little to offer on the issue of bin Laden.
Although both Taliban and Pakistani authorities are reportedly courteous to US diplomats, the embassy expects little, if any, action to result.
The Pakistani government reiterated that it "was taking the bin Laden matter very seriously," while admitting that officials are in fact "preoccupied" with a very different issue "the recent increase in Indo-Pakistani tensions over Kashmir."
Less than a year before September 11, 2001, US Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering meets with Pakistani officials to press Islamabad on the bin Laden question, according to a November 20, 2000 cable.
Pickering "opened the meeting by expressing disappointment that Pakistan, whom he called a good friend of the US, was not taking steps to help with Osama bin Laden."