By ASIF HAROON RAJA
ON the night of 01/02 May 2011, two US Blackhawk stealth helicopters carrying over two dozen soldiers from US Navy SEALs took off from Jalalabad Airbase and headed for Abbottabad to get Osama bin Laden (OBL). The operation was launched on the basis of intelligence provided by the ISI in 2009. Mobile conversation of an Arab from Taxila with another one in Kuwait was recorded and handed over to CIA. The CIA built upon this piece of information and it got the breakthrough in August 2010 when a detainee in Gitmo recognized the voice and disclosed that al-Kuwaiti was OBL’s personal body guard. This lead led CIA to OBL’s residence in Abbottabad. ISI which had worked in close cooperation with CIA and had helped in arresting hundreds of Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives and high value leaders was kept completely in the dark on the plea that it might scare away the target. Keeping Pakistan out of the loop was not because of trust deficit as widely perceived but because of CIA’s personal vendetta.
Thoroughly rehearsed Team-6 belonging to the US Navy SEALs team managed to reach the target area but instead of capturing the most wanted man alive, it killed him and took his body away to Afghanistan and dumped it in the sea. There was no reason to kill him since he was unarmed and had no bodyguard to protect him. His loyal wife who had tried to shield him at the peril of her life and got wounded was also unarmed. OBL was a frail and sick man and could barely walk due to his acute kidney problems and was surviving on medication. He had also discontinued his nightly walk in the compound due to ill-health. He had got cut off from al-Qaeda and was non-operational since long. Aymal al-Zawahiri and other leaders had been running the show under a decentralized arrangement since 2002.
OBL was a hunted man with $25 million head money. He was leading a quiet and inactive life with his family consisting of three wives and large number of teenaged children and toddlers and posed no threat to anyone. His alleged involvement in 9/11 terrorist attacks which killed nearly 3000 American citizens has yet not been proven. There is widely held perception both within USA and elsewhere that it was an in-house drama. According to the US/western security analysts and policy makers, al-Qaeda is an international terrorist organization, which in their perception is the most dangerous threat to the world peace and security. Despite the arrest of large numbers of al-Qaeda high-profile leaders by Pakistan, al-Qaeda as an organization is still in existence and strikes whenever opportunity comes its way. It has spread its tentacles far and wide and after its enfeeblement in Afghanistan, it has made Arabian Peninsula as its main base of operation. However, it has not been able to mount another terrorist attack in USA after 9/11 because of extraordinary homeland security built with American taxpayers’ money.
For a decade the US had no clue about the whereabouts of OBL. Even now, it doesn’t exactly know how al-Qaeda manages its recruitment, funding, communication and logistics and how its command infrastructure functions. It is unclear about the level of al-Qaeda-Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda-TTP cooperation. OBL was the key man to provide answers to all the nagging queries. Capturing him and taking him away alive would have helped the US in acquiring information on missing links and in speedy dismantlement and uprooting of al-Qaeda in real sense. Alive OBL was hundred times better than captured documents and letters, which few will believe in their authenticity. He could be brainwashed or coerced through water boarding, similar to several other detainees in Guantanamo Bay to compel him to admit that he had masterminded 9/11. He could be befriended during captivity. After all he had been a blue-eyed boy of CIA and Reagan administration in the 1980s and had played his role as a committed Mujahid against Soviet forces entirely to the satisfaction of his mentors in Washington. Al-Qaeda was also on the side of NATO in Libyan war and had played a key role in toppling Qaddafi’s regime.
This priceless treasure for which a worldwide massive manhunt had been launched in 2002 was grasped but senselessly murdered for incomprehensible reasons. The one shooting him to death could have justified his act if OBL had resisted, or tried to escape. Nothing of the kind happened. He stood motionless in his upper storey bedroom and his wife pleaded for mercy. Either his personality was so over towering and awesome that the soldier who faced him got overawed and nervy and in panic pressed the trigger fearing that he may pounce upon him like a tiger and snuff the life out of him. Or, the destruction of one of the Blackhawk helicopters had unnerved him and his colleagues. Or, Obama had modified his predecessor’s directive of getting OBL dead or alive and wanted OBL dead. Or, lure of $25 million was so strong that the raiders didn’t want to take any chance. Alive OBL would have become a problem child for the US since the world would have sought his open trial by an unbiased court to ascertain the veracity of 9/11 saga which has soaked the Muslim world in blood and sentenced only if found guilty. The US had rejected the offer of Mullah Omar in September 2001 to either furnish proof of OBL’s involvement in 9/11 or to try him by a neutral court. This option was unpalatable and unacceptable for the US.
Fact of the matter is that the US had mal intentions from the very outset. It had cunningly roped in Pakistan and coerced it to become its coalition partner to fight GWOT but in actuality had dangerous designs against it. Prime focus of the Indo-US-Israeli nexus has been on Pak nukes. It used Pakistan not to defeat terrorism but to weaken Pakistan from within through covert war to such an extent that either it voluntarily opted to hand over its nukes to survive economically, or became incapable of defending its arsenal. It was essentially this hidden agenda which impelled the US to play a dual game, show dissatisfaction over its performance, distrust it, malign and ridicule it by subjecting it to series of humiliating accusations.
Stealth raid on the compound of OBL in Abbottabad came at a time when relations between the two allies had got strained as a result of Raymond Davis incident. Ego of the domineering USA got hurt when Pakistan stood its ground and refused to grant diplomatic immunity to the double murderer and was released only when blood money was paid the next of kin of the deceased. Another grouse was Pak Army’s refusal to launch a major operation in North Waziristan, which the ISAF felt was necessary to achieve success in eastern Afghanistan.
If Pak Army and ISI were associated with OBL as alleged by the US, vital information which led to OBL’s hideout would not have been passed on to CIA. The US decided not only to stand on the victory stand singly, but also to exploit its adventure by maligning Pak Army and ISI. Instead of feeling remorseful for stabbing its ally in the back, one year has lapsed since OBL’s death still shrouded in mystery, but the US/western propaganda machinery is still maligning Pakistan. The US leadership audaciously claims that elements within Army/ISI had provided logistic support to OBL. The US will keep releasing faked or genuine letters captured from Abbottabad compound allegedly written by OBL, to keep Pakistan in the dock as was the case with Wikileaks.
The US knew that OBL had lost his relevance and his capture or death would have made little difference to the plunging fortunes of al-Qaeda in Af-Pak region or of the ISAF, stuck in the quagmire of Afghanistan. Al-Qaeda had been sufficiently mauled in Pak-Afghan region as a result of pro-active role of Pak security forces and CIA operated drones. All its known leaders wanted by the US had been arrested by Pak agencies and handed over to the US. While al-Qaeda in this region stands shriveled, the Taliban have resurged and emerged as the major challenge to the ISAF. They have wrested the initiative and dampened all hopes of victory repeatedly claimed by the US generals. Under the changed operational environment, it is Taliban and not 100 or so al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan that posed the real threat. OBL was willfully demonized as well as cleverly lionized to justify ISAF’s continued stay in Afghanistan despite reverses and economic meltdown. 2 May adventure was undertaken merely to browbeat Pakistan. Otherwise there was no earthly reason not to take Pakistan in confidence and conduct a joint operation. Moreover, there was no rationale to hurriedly and clandestinely dump the body of OBL in Arabian Sea. This hush-hush burial has given rise to avoidable speculations that it was a drama played upon already dead OBL.
OBL could have been easily captured by Pak security agencies without firing a bullet if CIA had shared intelligence with ISI. To over ensure that OBL didn’t escape, the CIA could have placed a security ring around the compound with its setup in Abbottabad. Since the i