Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Who Protected Laden?

We just learned at 11 :30 pm EDT on Sunday (May 1) in America via Internet and TV that a special American team had gone to Abbottabad, which is located in the Hazara district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (formerly known as Northwest Frontier Province) in Pakistan, to execute a daring mission. The city of Abbottabad is located about 90 miles to the north from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. The intelligence officials now say that Osama bin Laden was living in a mansion in Abbottabad for months; therefore, the al-Qaeda chief chose to live in a crowded city in Pakistan. Now it appears that Osama bin Laden lived in a city rather than in an obscure place perhaps for medical reason. The American intelligence knew all along that the al-Qaeda chief was living inside Pakistan. The US intelligence knew that bin Laden had been living in a mansion in Abbottabad since August 2010. A careful military plan was drawn and finally on May 1 , 2011 a special military team executed a plan to capture or kill bin Laden. No mention of Pakistani military assisting the US team was made by President Obama who addressed the nation at about 11 : 45 EDT. Therefore, it appears that the entire operation was planned and executed by American military with no assistance from the Pakistan's military. It was mentioned in the media that not a single person from the American team was killed in the operation. The purpose of this article is not to give a glowing encomium to American team that killed al- Qaeda chief but to raise the point - - who really protected Osama bin Laden in Pakistan all these years? The US intelligence had the information that in the aftermath of 9 /11 , particularly in December 2001 , Osama bin Laden and his entourage moved to Pakistan by crossing the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This information was also known to many in the intelligence communities throughout Europe and North America. During the presidential election contest in US in 2008 , Obama made a pledge to US voters that if he were elected to the highest office in the land, he would hunt Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. It seems as if his prediction came true. The Pakistani authorities played a vicious game in the aftermath of al-Qaeda led attack in New York in September 2001. General Pervez Musharraf was the military president of Pakistan at the time. He was able to convince Bush that America needs Pakistan to hunt down Mr. Osama bin Laden. However, there was a catch. America had to shell out billions of dollars to Pakistan for hunting Osama bin Laden and Taliban leaders who were ensconced in the NWFP area. Pakistani military and intelligence would catch lower-level al-Qaeda operatives from time to time and also hand over lower-ranking Taliban leaders to show that they mean business. A regime change took place in Pakistan in August 2008 with the removal of Gen. Musharraf from power but that hardly changed the tactics of Pakistani military. They claimed that the Pakistani military were hunting down al-Qaeda leaders in such oddball place as Gilgit and Waziristan. There was no hope of catching Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second man in command, anytime soon. Life was going as usual in Pakistan where a weak civilian government was running the show outwardly but the real power belonged to Pakistan's military. US authorities finally realised that Pakistani government was playing a vicious game in Afghanistan. They extracted billions of aid money since 2001 all in the name of catching the masterminds of 9 / 11 terror attack. Finally, US took the charge of hunting al-Qaeda top bosses inside Pakistan. As per President Obama, US authorities in recent days knew where Mr. Osama bin Laden took refuge inside Pakistan. They finally moved on May 1 , 2011 and killed the al-Qaeda chief after a gun battle. In Pakistan the military and its intelligence branch, ISI, know everything. Therefore, they must have had real time intelligence on Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the al-Qaeda chief chose to live in a mansion in a crowded city whose population is about 100 ,000. Since Mr. bin Laden holed up in this mansion for at least six months, would anyone believe that Pakistani police, ISI, and the military not know who lived in that mansion? Furthermore, the al-Qaeda chief maintained his own security force inside the mansion. The mere human activities inside the compound should give enough hints that a powerful person was residing in the big house. Still then, the Pakistani authorities were not perturbed about the occupants of this mansion. In conclusion, the Pakistani authorities, in particular ISI and the military, had the full knowledge of Osama bin Laden's whereabouts all these years. It is an open question whether they have protected Mr. Laden and his bodyguards or not. They say that in Pakistan not a single leaf moves without being watched by the military intelligence. Therefore, Mr. Laden's itinerant journey inside Pakistan was closely monitored by Pakistani military. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, the inside story should come out.