Dear Pakistan: you have some explaining to do — Updated!

May 2, 2011

Now that the cheering has mostly quieted from last night’s news that we finally nailed Osama bin Laden, serious questions are being asked about Pakistan’s role, if any, in sheltering America’s arch-enemy. Consider this excerpt from Philip Klein’s article on how the mission went down:

Last August, intelligence officials tracked the [two couriers] to their residence in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a relatively wealthy town 35 miles north of Islamabad where many retired military officers live.

“When we saw the compound where the brothers lived, we were shocked by what we saw,” a senior administration official said.

The compound was eight times larger than any other home in the area. It was surrounded by walls measuring 12 feet to 18 feet that were topped with barbed wire. There were additional inner walls that sectioned off parts of the compound and entry was restricted by two security gates. And the residents burned their trash instead of leaving it outside for pickup. There was a three-story house on the site, with a 7-foot privacy wall on the top floor.

While the two brothers, the couriers, had no known source of income, the compound was built in 2005 and valued at $1 million. That led intelligence officials to conclude that it must have been built to hold a high-value member of Al Qaeda.

Further intelligence gathering found that there was another family who lived on the compound which had a size and makeup that matched the bin Laden members who would have most likely been with Osama.

After exploring every angle for months, they concluded that all signs pointed to this being bin Laden’s residence.

Emphases added.

So, here we have the most wanted man in the world, living comfortably with some of his family in a specially built mansion in Abbottabad(1), just a few miles from the Pakistani capital. A town that is a brigade headquarters for a Pakistani Army division and also houses a military academy.

Yet, somehow, no one noticed bin Laden was there?

In The New Yorker, Dexter Filkins asks the question that’s on a lot of people’s minds, right now:

Now that Osama is dead, the most intriguing question is this: Did any Pakistani officials help hide him?

We’re entitled to ask. Ever since 9/11—indeed, even before—Pakistan’s military and intelligence services have played a high-stakes double game. They’ve supported American efforts to kill and capture Al Qaeda fighters, and they have been lavished with billions of American dollars in return. At the same time, elements of those same military and intelligence services, particularly those inside Inter-Service Intelligence, or the I.S.I., have provided support for America’s enemies, namely the Taliban and its lethal off-shoot, the Haqqani network. American officials are fully aware of the double-game, and to say it frustrates them would be an understatement. For a decade, Pakistan’s role has been one of the great unmovable paradoxes of America’s war.

Pakistan’s double-dealing has been a dirty, semi-open secret in this war since it started. Filkins rightly points out that several high-ranking Al Qaeda operatives have been caught in Pakistani cities with Pakistani assitance and that there is no hard evidence that the ISI or other Pakistani agency was sheltering them.

But it is at the same time true that Islamist elements are strong in the ISI and Pakistani military, that Pakistan nurtured the birth of the Taliban –Al Qaeda’s ally– and has a longstanding relationship with them. Pakistan has also fostered and supported jihadist terror groups that have struck India time and again. (And also the attempted bombing of Times Square.)

So it is fair to ask just what Pakistan knew about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, how long they knew it, and why they didn’t tell us. We give them a boatload of money, Al Qaeda and its allies have cost us a lot of blood and treasure, and we have a right to some straight answers — now.

PS: Here are a couple of more questions to chew over: Given Pakistan’s support for numerous murderous terror groups, why are they not on the list of state-sponsors of terrorism? Islamabad seems to be giving Tehran a run for its money in that department. And now that bin Laden has gone to meet his virgin goats, do we even need Pakistan anymore?

LINKS: Diana West already has her answer. Watt’s Up With That has aerial photos of Osama’s hiding place in Abbottabad. Verum Serum has video from inside the mansion after the battle. (Gore warning.)

NOTES:

(1) “Abbottabad?” Is there a “Costelloabad,” too?

UPDATE: Bill Roggio at Threat Matrix has a very good analysis of why Pakistan was complicit in protecting Osama bin Laden. You’ll want to rad the whole thing, but I want to quote the final section that offers a very strong clue: Osama’s demonstrated confidence that he was safe:

While it is next to impossible to know the calculations made by bin Laden to shelter in a Pakistani city, it isn’t a stretch to say that he was confident enough to live in Abbottabad for an extended period of time because he felt that he, and his family, would be safe. Since his ouster from Sudan in 1996, bin Laden has been wary about entrusting his personal security to states. Yet he had to believe that there was little to no risk in sheltering in a city with a heavy military presence in a compound that gave all indications it housed a very important person. Bin Laden or his handlers had to be confident that the mansion would not be disturbed by Pakistan’s military and intelligence services. And to be confident, they must have had assurances that bin Laden would not be touched by Pakistani security forces.

Remember that the next time Pakistan comes up for foreign aid.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Our good friends: Pakistani Intelligence behind Mumbai massacre

October 21, 2010

In late November, 2008, the world stood transfixed in horror as Muslim terrorists waging jihad (jihad fi sabil Allah) went on a murderous rampage in the Indian city of Mumbai. At the time, there was strong suspicion that the terrorists, who belonged to a jihad group called Lashkar e Taiba (LeT), had received some support from the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. But the evidence, while suggestive, wasn’t considered conclusive.

Now it is. An American who became involved with LeT, David Headley, acted as a scout for LeT, picking targets and reporting to… the ISI:

Pakistan’s powerful intelligence services were heavily involved in preparations for the Mumbai terrorist attacks of November 2008, according to classified Indian government documents obtained by the Guardian.

A 109-page report into the interrogation of key suspect David Headley, a Pakistani-American militant arrested last year and detained in the US, makes detailed claims of ISI support for the bombings.

Under questioning, Headley described dozens of meetings between officers of the main Pakistani military intelligence service, the ISI, and senior militants from the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

He claims a key motivation for the ISI in aiding the attacks was to bolster militant organisations with strong links to the Pakistani state and security establishment who were being marginalised by more extreme radical groups.

Headley, who undertook surveillance of the targets in Mumbai for the operation, claims that at least two of his missions were partly paid for by the ISI and that he regularly reported to the spy agency. However, the documents suggest that supervision of the militants by the ISI was often chaotic and that the most senior officers of the agency may have been unaware at least of the scale and ambition of the operation before it was launched.

I’m not sure which is worse: that Pakistan’s intelligence service was involved in the operation, or that it’s so poorly supervised, fractured, and riddled with Islamists that it can run rogue operations senior officials are unaware of. Regardless, I’m wary of the “the bosses didn’t know” argument, as Pakistan has had a long history of using LeT and similar groups as proxy forces against India in Kashmir and have been suspected of facilitating other spectacular attacks inside India.

Pakistan’s possession of nuclear weapons prevents India from taking strong military action against Pakistan in retaliation (as they have every right to do), but we should nevertheless stay aware that our “ally” in the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban is quite willing to play a double or triple game and that it would be foolish to trust them completely.

Via Big Peace.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


In most cases, this would mean war

July 14, 2010

Based on communications intercepted during the operation itself and the confession of one of the operatives, India has accused Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, of being behind the 2008 Mumbai massacre:

India has accused Pakistan’s powerful spy agency of planning and executing the 2008 Mumbai attacks, in the strongest and most specific allegation of Islamabad’s involvement in the assault from a top official.

The remark comes a day before the foreign ministers of the rival nations are set to meet in Islamabad to attempt to rebuild a fragile peace dialogue that was shattered by the attacks, which killed 166 people. It appeared to be an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on Pakistan to prosecute people whom India says were deeply involved in the assault.

In an interview published Wednesday, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai accused Pakistan’s powerful spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence of playing a key role the attacks.

“It was not just a peripheral role. They (the agency) were literally controlling and coordinating it from the beginning till the end,” Pillai told the Indian Express newspaper.

Sponsoring a raid on another country’s city that results in over 150 deaths would usually earn one a visit from the other guy’s military. And I have no doubt that a) India would have every justification to crush Pakistan and b) they could do it within a matter of weeks, if they tried.

But, then, both have nuclear weapons, which no doubt gives India considerable pause. Look at it this way: the point of nuclear weapons is that your enemy can’t be sure of what will trigger a massive response, therefore they aren’t likely to push you too far. In Pakistan’s case, the ISI (which is highly Islamized and only nominally under government control) guesses it can get away with quite a bit without provoking war with India, because India, on its part, cannot be sure that an invasion of Pakistan wouldn’t lead to a nuclear strike by a desperate Pakistani military. India also has to be concerned that punitive action against Pakistan, with its weak and unstable governments, might cause a collapse of central authority and the passing of Pakistan’s nukes into much more dangerous and unpredictable hands.

Hence New Delhi’s relatively mild words (after all, they’re still talking) and the apparent determination that an attack against the nation’s financial capital and the deaths of several hundred citizens isn’t worth war.

Yet.

The danger lies in a Pakistani miscalculation of India’s response after the next incident, and there will be a “next incident,” I’m sure. The ISI isn’t sorry this happened, only that they got caught. With a large part of the service comprising  jihad-minded Muslims, they’re bound to continue their terror war against India. The risk is that the Indians decide they’ve had enough and should “do something” about Pakistan.

At which point things get really scary.

(via DaveedGR)


The Taliban must be sweating bullets, now

February 16, 2010

I’d waited to write on this until it was confirmed, and now it is: In a joint operation, the Pakistan Interservices Intelligence agency and the CIA captured the Taliban’s top military commander, a man second only to Mullah Omar himself:

Secret Joint Raid Captures Taliban’s Top Commander

By MARK MAZZETTI and DEXTER FILKINS

The Taliban’s top military commander was captured several days ago in Karachi, Pakistan, in a secret joint operation by Pakistani and American intelligence forces, according to American government officials.

The commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, is an Afghan described by American officials as the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the American-led war in Afghanistan started more than eight years ago. He ranks second in influence only to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban’s founder and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before the Sept. 11 attacks.

Mullah Baradar has been in Pakistani custody for several days, with American and Pakistani intelligence officials both taking part in interrogations, according to the officials.

It was unclear whether he was talking, but the officials said his capture had provided a window into the Taliban and could lead to other senior officials. Most immediately, they hope he will provide the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed cleric who is the group’s spiritual leader.

Disclosure of Mullah Baradar’s capture came as American and Afghan forces were in the midst of a major offensive in southern Afghanistan.

His capture could cripple the Taliban’s military operations, at least in the short term, said Bruce O. Riedel, a former C.I.A. officer who last spring led the Obama administration’s Afghanistan and Pakistan policy review.

Details of the raid remain murky, but officials said that it had been carried out by Pakistan’s military spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, and that C.I.A. operatives had accompanied the Pakistanis.

Naturally the Pakistanis are denying the CIA was involved in the raid. I don’t blame them; not only is the issue of an American, especially CIA, presence sensitive in Pakistan, but the ISI has been playing a double game between the US and the jihadists, especially the Taliban, with whom they have a long and paternal relationship. Confirming that they had stabbed their clients in the back would only earn them more suicide bombs in the capital and the Urdu-speaking heartland than they’re already going to get.

And I have to give rare credit to the New York Times, which sat on the story at the administration’s request for several days, until rumors became rife in the region.  This preserved the value of the intelligence we were getting from this slime.  Good job, guys. Now, if only you’d see fit to be that concerned about national security during Republican administrations….

Regardless, this is a major coup for the US and its allies, and a body blow to the Taliban. This piece of walking garbage knows plans, names, locations… everything. It would be as if they had captured General McChrystal, our commander in the region. Baradar is close to Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden – want to bet they moved faster than they have since October, 2001, when the word got around?

And the capture takes place just as we’re launching a major offensive against the Taliban. Kind of like taking out Rommel at the start of the North Africa campaign.

This is truly good news, and congratulations to the Obama administration.

But, I have to ask, is it wrong of me to want to waterboard this escapee from a 7th century lunatic asylum? I mean, think of all the evil these schmucks have done since taking over Afghanistan – a few pours is the least any of their leaders deserve.

Oh, okay. It’d be wrong, but it would still feel good.

LINKS: More at Hot Air, which links to a Newsweek profile of Baradar ; Legal Insurrection, which wonders about the interrogation; Power Line, which wonders why we didn’t get him a lawyer; The Jawa Report; Sister Toldjah; Threat Matrix, which wonders why Pakistan gave up Mullah Baradar; and Hot Air, again, asking how it was done.