ACCORDING TO several news sources, Pakistan's intelligence service allowed Chinese military engineers to measure, photograph and even remove pieces for further study from the SEALs' super-secret helicopter that crashed during the mission to assassinate Osama bin Laden.
The helicopter's crew smashed the instrument panels and black boxes and the SEALs blew up the rest, but a significant portion of the rear rotor assembly survived when the explosion blew it over the wall of bin Laden's compound.
The SEALs had to work quickly and in the dark to accomplish their mission. Portions of the helicopter were returned to the U.S. But short of a thorough examination by U.S. technicians, no one can be sure how much the Chinese learned from the debris.
The Pakistanis were understandably angered and humiliated when U.S. Special Forces flew into their country, secretly and undetected, and in a single evening killed a fugitive the Pakistanis had theoretically been hunting for nearly a decade.
The Pakistanis also are irritated by the success of U.S. drone strikes, even though done with their permission, in tracking down and killing radical leaders -- unfortunately at some cost in civilian casualties.
U.S. relations with Pakistan cratered after the bin Laden raid. Reportedly, the government revealed the identity of the top CIA agent in the country, ordered some U.S. personnel out of the country and refused visas to others and pointedly declined U.S. requests that the Pakistani security forces step up operations along its lawless border with Afghanistan. In return, the U.S. suspended about a third of its annual $2.7 billion in security aid.
The Chinese, on the other hand, have longstanding relations with the Pakistani military and are its major arms supplier.
Pakistan has few real friends in the world, even fewer now that India has clearly emerged as a leading world economy. The U.S. makes no secret of how badly it needs Pakistan's help to defeat Afghanistan's religious and nationalist zealots. It is in the interest of both nations to let this incident slide quietly into the past. Just don't do it again.