Monday, May 2, 2011

Whither Pakistan

The location of Usama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan -- an affluent suburb of Islamabad, home to many retired Pakistani generals and one army regiment -- has raised additional uncomfortable questions about the nature of Pakistan and its people, its government, its military and its intelligence agency.

The Daily Beast's Christopher Dickey goes into some detail:
Osama bin Laden’s cave turned out to be a mansion. The desolate mountains where he was hiding proved, in the end, to be the pleasant little hill town of Abbottabad, nearly 80 miles from the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. He’s been holed up, and on Sunday was at last gunned down, in the biggest house around. He lived with relatives and an entourage behind high walls topped with barbed wire, in a community that’s also home to several Pakistani army units. A military academy is just a few hundred yards down the road.

“There aren’t that many six-foot-plus Arabs walking around that town,” says M.J. Gohel of the Asia-Pacific Foundation in London. “Even if you buy a donkey there it creates a stir. So how could the Pakistani military not know about it?”

We shouldn’t be surprised. Several of the top Al Qaeda bad guys now at Guantánamo were captured deep inside Pakistani territory. And more often than not, they’d been living quite comfortably. “They’re not being caught in some haystack on the border,” Gohel told me back in 2004. Abu Zubaydah, Al Qaeda’s gatekeeper for new recruits and a planner of terrorist operations, got nailed in Faisalabad in 2002; Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of 9/11, was dragged out of bed in the garrison city of Rawalpindi in 2003; Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, since convicted by a U.S. court for his role in the 1998 bombing of American embassies in Africa and now serving a life sentence in the United States, was grabbed in Gujrat in 2004. In fact, this is not news to U.S. intelligence officials. The overt and covert war along Pakistan's northwest frontier is important for Afghanistan and American soldiers there. Some mid-level Al Qaeda commanders reportedly have been killed by drone attacks there. But for years, American analysts have suspected that Bin Laden enjoyed the same kind of comforts as his colleagues had had deep in Pakistan's cities thanks to protection from parts of the Pakistani government and its Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the infamous ISI. American operatives privately voiced suspicions that Bin Laden’s protectors either sympathized with him or saw him as the ultimate bargaining chip, or both.
Belmont Club asks the same questions:
“A top White House official said it was “inconceivable” Osama bin Laden had not had a support system to help him inside Pakistan, but he declined to speculate if there had been any official Pakistani aid,” according to Reuters. Gulf News reported that the compound which Bin Laden occupied may once have been an ISI safe house. “Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin and other senior senators sharply questioned Monday whether the Pakistani military and intelligence community had protected Osama bin Laden before Navy SEALs killed the terrorist leader in a Sunday night raid.”

The official suspicions began last year, according to the transcript of a briefing given by the White House to the press following the raid. “In the beginning of September of last year, the CIA began to work with the President on a set of assessments that led it to believe that in fact it was possible that Osama bin Laden may be located at a compound in Pakistan,” the briefing went. It went on to say they were “very concerned about — that he was inside of Pakistan”.
What is implied, but not stated in the briefing was that they were worried the raiding team had to go through the Pakistanis to get at him. Osama Bin Laden’s safe house’s location was designed not only to control him but to defend his location from a raiding team. The dangers to the team were potentially significant. Abbotabad is home to at least on Pakistani Army regiment and has thousands of military personnel. An AP report says that the four incoming helicopters met were fired on from Bin Laden’s rooftop. The Daily Mail reports that President Obama considered a proposal to strike the compound with B2 bombers, which underscores how dangerous the mission was.
Many reports suggest that the raiding team took off from Pakistan’s Ghazi aviation base. Located in the area of the Swat Valley, it is home to many US Aviation assets and has been visited by dignitaries like John Kerry. From there the assault team had a 100 mile flight southeast to Abbottabad. The White House transcript continued, “shortly after the raid, U.S. officials contacted senior Pakistani leaders to brief them on the intent and the results of the raid.” It was safe to tell them only after the fact.
This casts doubt on the claim by John Brennan, the Deputy National Security Adviser, that the killing of Osama bin Laden is “a strategic blow to Al Qaeda”. It is a strategic blow, rather, to the fiction of America’s alliance with Pakistan. Bin Laden has, for much of the last ten years, been the creature of someone else. OBL did not, and apparently has not for some time had any operational independence. Who he worked for is the question.
With these facts, long-standing issues with Pakistan and what to do about them come to the forefront:

Bin Laden's "hideout" was just outside Pakistan's capitol, across the street from a police station, and half a frigging mile from their "West Point" in a city filled with miltary retirees. And he was there for several years. How the hell can the Pakistanis say they didn't know where he was? Pakistan has some serious 'splainin' to do, and their possession of nukes can only protect them from major scrutiny so well.

Patrick Poole:
Pakistan’s duplicity must be addressed. That OBL was living in luxury not far from Pakistan’s capital, rather than in some cave in the northwest tribal areas, says something. And what it says is that OBL has always been a pawn in Pakistan’s double game. OBL could not have existed in such a state without the help and protection of Pakistan’s ISI. While clearly someone gave him up, or at least gave a tip that allowed intelligence to zero in on OBL, the fact that we did not provide warning to Pakistan enabled the success of this operation where notifying them in advance doomed all past missions. Pakistan’s leaders must decide which way they should go, but they will continue their double game (Karzai too!) as long as Obama communicates his intentions to remove American troops from the region.
Belmont Club goes a step further, a very unpleasant and dangerous step, but perha goes a step further, a very unpleasant and dangerous step, but perhaps a necessary one:
An Indian newspaper makes perhaps the most radical argument: that Lashkar-e-Taiba and perhaps al-Qaeda may in fact simply be aliases for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate. Perhaps not all parts of it, but some of it.  That would be a thought. Pakistan has long had close connection with Saudi Arabia. Parts of the rambling Pakistani state may lead a double life as international terrorism. The problem may be more than academic. Pakistan may be fatally divided and on the brink of a resolution.
Or a revolution.  Which would likely work against the US and put Pakistan's nuclear weapons in the hands of Islamists supportive of al Qaida.  Gateway Pundit has news of Pakistani reaction to the killing of bin Laden.  it is headlined: Pakistanis Stunned and Angered at News of Osama's Death.

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