Bin Laden operation deepens Pakistan-US rift

Pakistan, Abbottabad : This framegrab from an undated video released by the US Department of Defense on May 7, 2011, reportedly show Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden making a video at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. According to the Defense Department, the video was seized from the compound during a May 1 operation by US special forces in which bin Laden was killed (AFP PHOTO / US Department of Defense)
As the first wave of euphoria following Bin Laden’s death ebbed away, the US authorities demanded the identities of some of Pakistan’s top intelligence operatives whom they suspected had known more than they had let on about Bin Laden’s location.

­The Obama administration believes some Pakistani agents had had some contact with the former Al-Qaeda leader long before the raid that killed him. Thus Pakistan’s government may now face pressure to see to it that some senior intelligence operatives are punished.

Lt. Gen. Ahmad Shuja Pasha, the Director-General of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has already departed for the United States in order to take in the situation.

Andrey Volodin, head of Oriental Studies at the Diplomatic Academy of Russia’s Foreign Ministry, told RT that the ISI is a rather heterogeneous organization.

“Some of its top officers are in sympathy with Bin Laden,” he said. “If Pakistan’s authorities find these people and fire them, it will be just a formal victory for the Obama administration. In fact, Bin Laden is supported by many more people in Pakistan than it might have seemed.”

This may be the reason behind the fact that despite the seemingly good relations between the US and Pakistan, Islamabad was not made aware of the raid that was being prepared.

Political analyst Sergey Strokan says that despite US-Pakistan cooperation, the Americans do not trust their Pakistani allies and the whole story of this operation throws up more questions than answers.

“The problem is that although cooperating with the Pakistani services, the Americans deeply distrust them. If you compare all statements made by both American and Pakistani sides since last Sunday [May1], when Bin Laden was killed, you will see there are some discrepancies”, Strokan told RT. “The next day [after Bin Laden was killed] Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a statement saying that the operation was conducted in cooperation with Pakistan, with the help of information given by Pakistani partners. But immediately afterwards the Pakistani Foreign Minister claimed that it was “an American operation” – thus he made it clear that Pakistan was not involved.”

Andrey Volodin also believes Bin Laden wouldn’t have gone to Abbottabad if he wasn’t sure he’d be helped: “Bin Laden has proved – more than once – his ability to hide. In addition to that I am sure there were people who helped him.”

Sergey Strokan shares this point of view: “This is a really embarrassing and really confusing situation. It is clear that most probably Osama Bin Laden would not have been able to stay in Pakistan without the cooperation of someone related to the Pakistani secret services. Of course, this might not have been authorized by the Pakistani government, but it is common in Pakistan for those retired from the ISI and other structures to have special relations with militants. So we cannot fully discount the possibility that Osama Bin Laden was enjoying the hospitality, not of Pakistani officials, but of someone who had knowledge, who had connections, who had expertise and who at one time had been part of the Pakistani establishment.”

And it is really doubtful that Bin Laden, who was found in a mansion not far from the Abbottabad military academy, the Pakistani equivalent of West Point, with guards standing on every street corner, dared to live there without being shielded.

Moreover, Osama Bin Laden spent more time extremely close to the Pakistani capital than was previously believed. One of Bin Laden’s three wives, who are now in Pakistani custody, said their family had been living in the mansion in Abbottabad where the Al-Qaeda leader was killed for the past five years. Before that they were housed in a small village on the main Abbottabad highway, both places just a few kilometers away from Islamabad.

RT’s military contributor Evgeny Khrushchev argues that the answer as to whether or not the Pakistani security service knew that Bin Laden was living in Abbottabad can quite easily be surmised.

“First, I wonder how and why the arrest of Umar Patek, the mastermind of the attack in Bali [in 2002] which claimed more than 200 lives, who was arrested [by Pakistani forces] on a tip from the CIA in the same Abbottabad in the winter [of January 2010], somehow miraculously did not scare Bin Laden away. And second, it is an indirect confirmation of either complete incompetence, which I doubt, or concealment by the ISI of finding Osama Bin Laden in this military town,” Khrushchev told RT.

Meanwhile Andrey Volodin maintains that “the USA needs Pakistan, and the Pakistan authorities know that. They are not afraid that the Obama administration will arrive at the decision to deliberately damage relations with Pakistan – it is not to their interest to do so.”