Spearhead Analysis - 03.05.2011
Obama Kills Osama
"I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside Pakistan.
And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice.
Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability. No Americans were harmed. They took care to avoid civilian casualties.
After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.
Over the years, I've repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we've done.
But it's important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding"
President Obama’s statement makes it quite clear that the operation that killed Osama was a US operation authorized by the US President on the basis of intelligence developed by the US. Pakistan’s help is acknowledged but probably only in the context that Pakistan had granted US the access that gave it the capability to do all that it did. Pakistan’s sensitivity to Davis type covert operations now makes sense. The Corbett Report raises another question:
“Then on December 26, 2001, Fox News reported on a Pakistan Observer story that the Afghan Taliban had officially pronounced Osama Bin Laden dead earlier that month... What followed was a string of pronouncements from officials affirming what was already obvious: supposedly living in caves and bunkers in the mountainous pass between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Osama would have been deprived of the dialysis equipment that he required to live... On January 18, 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced quite bluntly: “I think now, frankly, he is dead.”On July 17, 2002, the then-head of counterterrorism at the FBI, Dale Watson, told a conference of law enforcement officials that “I personally think he [Bin Laden] is probably not with us anymore,” before carefully adding that “I have no evidence to support that.”In October 2002, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told CNN that “I would come to believe that [Bin Laden] probably is dead.”In November 2005, Senator Harry Reid revealed that he was told Osama may have died in the Pakistani earthquake of October that year... In September 2006, French intelligence leaked a report suggesting Osama had died in Pakistan. On November 2, 2007, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told Al-Jazeera’s David Frost that Omar Sheikh had killed Osama Bin Laden. In March 2009, former US foreign intelligence officer and professor of international relations at Boston University Angelo Codevilla stated: “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.”In May 2009, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari confirmed that his “counterparts in the American intelligence agencies” hadn’t heard anything from Bin Laden in seven years and confirmed “I don’t think he’s alive.” Now in 2011, President Obama has added himself to the mix of people in positions of authority who have pronounced Osama Bin Laden dead. Some might charge that none of the previous reports had any credibility, but as it is now emerging that Osama’s body was buried at sea less than 12 hours after his death with no opportunity for any independent corroboration of his identity".
---The Corbett Report
Notwithstanding the doubt created by the Corbett Report the world has accepted that this ninth report of Osama’s death is authentic and credible. No doubt there is evidence available to confirm the disposal of his remains and that this will eventually surface if required. The question that is really the elephant in the room is whether Pakistan knew of Osama’s hideout and had not disclosed it or whether his discovery and elimination by the US on Pakistani soil was a complete surprise to them. Some questions raised in an article by Steve Coll could lead to an answer and probably will in due course: "The initial circumstantial evidence suggests... that bin Laden was effectively being housed under Pakistani state control". Pakistan will deny this; it seems safe to predict, and perhaps no convincing evidence will ever surface to prove the case.
If one were a prosecutor at the United States Department of Justice, however, one would be tempted to call a grand jury. Who owned the land on which the house was constructed? How was the land acquired, and from whom? Who designed the house, which seems to have been purpose-built to secure bin Laden? Who was the general contractor? Who installed the security systems? Who worked there? Are there witnesses who will now testify as to who visited the house, how often, and for what purpose?
The US Counter Terrorism Chief John Brennan has refused to rule out official Pakistan backing for Osama bin Laden and has said that Islamabad was only told of the raid that killed the Al Qaeda leader after US forces had left Pakistani airspace; “we are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long and whether or not there was any type of support system within Pakistan that allowed him to stay there”. Senator Joe Lieberman also said that "Pakistan will need to prove to us that they did not know that bin Laden was there". It is in Pakistan’s interest that these matters be cleared up.
Perhaps the most important aspect of the entire episode is the impact that this will have on US-Pakistan relations. This could be an opportunity to put the relationship on a positive track by addressing each others concerns. For the US this implies looking beyond the transactional relationship that addresses immediate US interests of with drawing US/ISAF troops from Afghanistan. For Pakistan it means getting out of the past mindset and looking at this situation as an opportunity to forge a new relationship with India and Afghanistan keeping in view the economic benefits of cooperation and an end to conflict. Right now Pakistan sees an India-US- Afghan government alliance that is hostile to it and an internal environment that has multiple security, economic and political issues.
No doubt there will be repercussions from the Osama killing in the region and elsewhere because of Al Qaeda’s wide dispersal world wide but beyond that is the potential of the new Pakistan-Afghanistan initiative for peace, the composite dialogue between India and Pakistan and the progress in the joint pipeline project through Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Spearhead analyses are the result of a collaborative effort and not attributable to a single individual.
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