Saturday, May 07, 2011

Americans could not have killed Osama without the help of Pakistanis

Obama and others enjoying the spectacle of the gruesome execution of unarmed Osama

The best accounts of the operation which killed bin Laden are not to be found in the US media, which is behaving as if it is embedded with the CIA like American journalists were with the US forces during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and swallowed army propaganda for which newspapers like The Washington Post later apologised.

Revealing details about Sunday’s Abbottabad operation are to be found in the Chinese media, especially China’s official news agency, Xinhua, which has no pretensions to media freedom unlike its American counterparts.

The Chinese have the best sources in Pakistan, given the all-weather friendship between Islamabad and Beijing.

Xinhua says electricity was cut off to Abbottabad as the operation to kill Osama began. That shows complicity with the Americans not only within the Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi but down the line to the local administration that controls the electricity switching stations.

Xinhua says security forces cordoned off the entire area near Osama’s safe house before the Americans attacked it and no one was allowed to enter or leave the operational surroundings during the attack. That only means the Pakistanis knew what was going to take place, although it is only logical that reasons for sealing off the area would not have been communicated down the line to the local police or paramilitary units.

Xinhua also says residents of Abbottabad took videos and cellphone pictures from their rooftops as the spectacular helicopter landing and firefight was under way. But Pakistani security forces went round from house to house collecting memory cards from cameras and seizing videos from residents soon enough so that the pictures were not transmitted freelance by what modern TV would call citizen journalists.

All this could not have been organised by the Pakistanis after the event, which means, circumstantially, that the killing of Osama was a well co-ordinated US-Pakistani operation down to local ward-level in Abbottabad. Besides, Abbottabad is the seat of a brigade of the second division of Pakistan’s Northern Army Corps and several other sensitive army establishments, including a key military training academy.

Metaphorically, even a fly cannot circle the skies of that city without escaping the attention of the defence network that guards Abbottabad.

It is for this reason and to keep up the fiction that the US and Pakistan did not co-operate in killing Osama that an official statement was issued in Islamabad today that “US helicopters entered Pakistani airspace making use of blind spots in the radar coverage due to hilly terrain”.

The statement added that “US helicopters’ undetected flight into Pakistan was also facilitated by the... efficacious use of latest technology and ‘nap of the earth’ flying techniques”. At the same time, the Pakistan Army did not want its people to lose faith in Rawalpindi as the guardian of their country’s borders and their defence. Hence, a paragraph in the statement which asserts that “it may not be realistic to draw an analogy between this undefended civilian area and some military (and) security installations which have elaborate local defence arrangements”.

But to think that American helicopters carrying heavily armed personnel who attacked Osama’s hideout could have violated Abbottabad’s air space without help from Pakistan is pure fiction that is meant for the masses who are vulnerable to jihadi sermons in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Inflaming those masses could mean difficulties for the Americans everywhere.

Of the greatest significance, however, is the revelation in the statement that “as far as the target compound is concerned, ISI has been sharing information with CIA and other friendly intelligence agencies since 2009. The intelligence flow indicating some foreigners in the surroundings of Abbottabad, continued till mid-April 2011”.

The Pakistani statement is remarkable for its candour between the lines because it is admitting that in April 2011, the ISI stopped sharing information about Osama with the Americans because of strains between their respective intelligence outfits.

As a result, the Americans had to put off their plans to kill or capture bin Laden in mid-April, plans which began when Pakistan shared that intelligence from 2009, because the operation could not be undertaken without Islamabad’s full support.

K. P. Nayar in The Telegraph. More Here 

Make no mistake. It was a Joint venture

Make no mistake about it: The operation that killed bin Laden was a joint Pakistan-United States Special Forces operation. There is no conceivable way that the Americans could have got anywhere near that part of Pakistan on their own. (Abbottabad is also the sensitive “gateway” to the Karakoram Highway leading to China.) Nor could the Americans have obtained such “real time” intelligence that bin Laden was passing through Abbottabad without the involvement of the Pakistani agencies.

The big question, therefore, is why the Pakistani military leadership finally decided to turn in bin Laden – and the timing of it. Everything hinges on the answer to that question. What needs to be factored in is that bin Laden has always been the “trump card” that Pakistani military was expected to play at an appropriate time. Historically speaking, Pakistani military and intelligence have been extremely adept at modulating their working relationship with the Pentagon and the CIA. Quite obviously, Pakistani military estimated that doing a favourable turn to the US president Barack Obama at this precise juncture would optimise the “returns”.

The American public opinion has lately turned against the Afghan war and is plainly dissatisfied with Obama’s handling of the war. Obama is badly in need of a “success” story from the Hindu Kush. And bin Laden is a highly emotive issue for the American people. Obama will now be riding a wave of patriotic fervour all across America and that can have interesting fallouts for his re-election bid in 2012.

A regards the Pakistani military leadership, what counts most at this juncture is that the endgame of the Afghan war is beginning. Pakistan has never been so close to realising its objective of gaining strategic depth in Afghanistan, devolving upon the return of the Taliban to the power structure in Kabul. But in order for this to happen, American acquiescence is a vital pre-requisite. And, lately, tensions had arisen in the equations between the US and Pakistani military and intelligence. The killing of bin Laden comes as the ultimate litmus test of the trustworthiness of the Pakistani military as an ally. In sum, Pakistani military leadership will expect a quid pro quo from Obama.

M K Bhadrakumar in Strategic Culture. More Here

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