Tag Archive for 'Osama bin Laden'

The man who killed Osama bin Laden

[This video is based on a series of interviews with the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden. To protect his identity, we are not using his real voice. Phil Bronstein, executive chairman of the board of the Center for Investigative Reporting, conducted the interviews. Bronstein's story also appears in the March issue of Esquire.]

For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story. Phil Bronstein at the Center for Investigative Reporting:

I rolled past him into the room, just inside the doorway.

There was bin Laden standing there. He had his hands on a woman’s shoulders, pushing her ahead, not exactly toward me but by me, in the direction of the hallway commotion. It was his youngest wife, Amal.

The SEALs had nightscopes, but it was coal-black for bin Laden and the other residents. He can hear but he can’t see.

He looked confused. And way taller than I was expecting. He had a cap on and didn’t appear to be hit. I can’t tell you 100 percent, but he was standing and moving. He was holding her in front of him. Maybe as a shield, I don’t know.

For me, it was a snapshot of a target ID, definitely him. Even in our kill houses where we train, there are targets with his face on them. This was repetition and muscle memory. That’s him, boom, done.

I thought in that first instant how skinny he was, how tall and how short his beard was, all at once. He was wearing one of those white hats, but he had, like, an almost shaved head. Like a crew cut. I remember all that registering. I was amazed how tall he was, taller than all of us, and it didn’t seem like he would be, because all those guys were always smaller than you think.

I’m just looking at him from right here [he moves his hand out from his face about ten inches]. He’s got a gun on a shelf right there, the short AK he’s famous for. And he’s moving forward. I don’t know if she’s got a vest and she’s being pushed to martyr them both. He’s got a gun within reach. He’s a threat. I need to get a head shot so he won’t have a chance to clack himself off [blow himself up].

In that second, I shot him, two times in the forehead. Bap! Bap! The second time as he’s going down. He crumpled onto the floor in front of his bed and I hit him again, Bap! same place. That time I used my EOTech red-dot holo sight. He was dead. Not moving. His tongue was out. I watched him take his last breaths, just a reflex breath. More:

Being Bin Laden

Ricky S. Sekhon (he plays Osama bin Laden in the Kathryn Bigelow film Zero Dark Thirty) in NYT. Sekhon was born in Southall, West London in 1983 to Indian parents

My journey to becoming Bin Laden started in March of last year, when I got a call from a casting director in London, who said she had been trying to get hold of me for a week — apparently the phone number I had registered on the Spotlight database, an online resource used to contact actors, was an old one. I apologized. She asked if I could come in the next day. I said yes, what for? She said she couldn’t tell me.

The next week, I was offered the part of the world’s most notorious terrorist. My first reaction was an expletive that cannot be printed here. I am a 29-year-old native Londoner, a moderate Sikh with a drama degree from Royal Holloway, University of London — a pretty far cry from a 54-year-old Saudi multimillionaire-turned-terrorist who had been on the lam for nearly a decade after murdering some 3,000 people. I guess I do look a bit like Bin Laden — I am 6 feet 4 inches tall, about what he was. I have brown skin and a prominent nose, but it’s not as though anyone has ever stopped me in the street and shouted, “Hey, aren’t you Bin Laden?” (And I think I have a better smile — not as creepy. At least my girlfriend says so.)

It’s not that easy to be an actor of Asian ancestry in Britain or America. There are fewer leading roles for us, but then again, there are also probably fewer of us going up for those roles. More:

“… I got so comfortable in the (body) bag that, by the end of the shoot, I was known as Osama bin Loungin’,” Read here

Inside Osama Bin Laden’s final hours

In an adaptation from his new book, Mark Bowden weaves together accounts from Obama and top decision-makers for the full story behind the daring operation. In Vanity Fair:

‘In the name of Allah the most gracious the most merciful. Praise Allah and pray on his prophet. To the esteemed brother, Sheikh Mahmud, Allah protect him.”

Holed up in his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden sat at a computer and set down his thoughts in a long letter dated April 26, 2011, to Atiyah Abdul al-Rahman, his third-in-command and the link to his far-flung and beleaguered followers—the man he addressed as Sheikh Mahmud. It was the al-Qaeda leader’s sixth spring of confinement in Abbottabad. His hair and beard had grown white. Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, bin Laden’s life had shrunk to the cramped and crowded space of the upper two floors of a house behind high walls. His days consisted of familiar routines, rarely broken: his meals, his seven daily prayer sessions, his readings, the poetry lessons for his children and grandchildren, the sermons to three of his wives, the brisk daily walk around the vegetable gardens.

In his letter to Sheikh Mahmud, he raced to catch up with the Arab Spring, to interpret the events in light of his own immutable beliefs. Bin Laden also hammered home some advice about security. After more than nine successful years in hiding, he considered himself to be an expert: “It is proven that the American technology and its modern systems cannot arrest a Mujahid if he does not commit a security error that leads them to him,” he wrote. “So adherence to security precautions makes their advanced technology a loss and a disappointment to them.”

The computer turned bin Laden’s words into neat lines of uniform Arabic. He was feeling confident. He had five days to live. More:

Inside the mission to catch 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

In The Atlantic:

In August, the FBI caught a break when it questioned a brother-in-law of KSM, Abdul Samad Din Muhammad, who had been arrested and questioned in the United Arab Emirates in November 2001 and extradited to Pakistan in 2002. Muhammad told FBI agents that Aziz Ali was in constant contact with his uncle, KSM. He also said Aziz Ali received a constant stream of Arab visitors from Pakistan at the airport and that Ali had suddenly bolted from the UAE a day or two before the Sept. 11 attacks. He didn’t have his belongings together, but insisted on leaving. When Muhammad asked Aziz Ali why he was in such a rush to leave, he didn’t get a satisfactory answer. FBI deputy legal attaché Jennifer Keenan, who was working closely on the case, was now certain that the way to get to KSM was through his nephew.

More raids initially yielded nothing, but in early September, the Pakistani police got lucky. Neighbors had pointed out that there was an awful lot of traffic through a house in the Gulshan-e-Iqbal neighborhood. Police nabbed a man leaving the house on his way to pay utility bills. Agents of the ISI investigated and detained the man, a Saudi native, who said he managed the house. His name was Mohammed Ahmad Rabbani. Rabbani’s driver proved to be quite talkative. He said Rabbani and his brother managed several similar guesthouses, all of which had a constant stream of guests. He helpfully gave police the addresses of the houses.

One of the houses was nearby, on Tariq Road. Authorities raided it and found the brother there, along with two other men, two women, and three children. They also found 20 carefully wrapped passports and almost two dozen SEGA game consoles that had been modified for use as detonators for explosives. The passports were for members of Osama bin Laden’s family. The police interrogated the children to determine if they were bin Laden’s. One of the women was a caretaker, and one child was hers. Two of the children were brothers. The other woman was a nanny to the brothers — and the man was her companion. The two boys, ages seven and nine, were named Omar and Abdullah. No, they said, their father’s name was not bin Laden; it was Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. The women were caretakers and nannies. More:

In hiding, Bin Laden had four children and five houses

Declan Walsh from Islamabad in NYT:

Osama bin Laden spent nine years on the run in Pakistan after the Sept. 11 attacks, during which time he moved among five safe houses and fathered four children, at least two of whom were born in a government hospital, his youngest wife has told Pakistani investigators.

The testimony of Amal Ahmad Abdul Fateh, Bin Laden’s 30-year-old wife, offers the most detailed account yet of life on the run for the Bin Laden family in the years preceding the American commando raid in May 2011 that killed the leader of Al Qaeda at the age of 54.

Her account is contained in a police report dated Jan. 19 that, as an account of that frantic period, contains manifest flaws: Ms. Fateh’s words are paraphrased by a police officer, and there is noticeably little detail about the Pakistanis who helped her husband evade his American pursuers. Nevertheless, it raises more questions about how the world’s most wanted man managed to shunt his family between cities that span the breadth of Pakistan, apparently undetected and unmolested by the otherwise formidable security services.

Bin Laden’s three widows are of great interest because they hold the answers to some of the questions that frustrated Western intelligence in the years after 2001. They are currently under house arrest in Islamabad, and their lawyer says he expects them and two adult children — Bin Laden’s daughters Maryam, 21, and Sumaya, 20 — to be charged on Monday with breaking Pakistani immigration laws, which carries a possible five-year jail sentence. More:

A personal Quest to clarify Bin Laden’s last days

Declan Walsh from Rawalpindi in NYT:

In his quest for the truth about his country’s most notorious guest, Shaukat Qadir started where it all ended: the room where Osama bin Laden was killed.

Last August, Mr. Qadir, a retired Pakistani Army brigadier, retraced the steps of the American commandos who stormed through the corridors of Bin Laden’s hide-out on May 2.

Climbing the stairs to the second floor, Mr. Qadir passed a body outline that marked the spot where Bin Laden’s 22-year-old son, Khalid, was shot dead. Then he turned to a small room with a low ceiling, an empty wardrobe and a tight cluster of bullets holes in one wall, he said. Above that, on the ceiling, was a fading splash of blood that, his Pakistani intelligence escort told him, belonged to Bin Laden.

“As a former soldier, I was struck by how badly the house was defended,” Mr. Qadir said in an interview. “No proper security measures, nothing high-tech — in fact, nothing like you would expect.”

Mr. Qadir’s quixotic investigation began as a personal attempt to truth-check the competing accounts of Bin Laden’s last years in Pakistan. But his work has already come under scrutiny and criticism, mostly on the grounds that his heavy reliance on Pakistani military and intelligence sources leaves him open to official manipulation. More:

The ally from hell

Pakistan lies. It hosted Osama bin Laden (knowingly or not). Its government is barely functional. It hates the democracy next door. It is home to both radical jihadists and a large and growing nuclear arsenal (which it fears the U.S. will seize). Its intelligence service sponsors terrorists who attack American troops. With a friend like this, who needs enemies?

Jeffrey Goldberg and Marc Ambinder in The Atlantic:

SHORTLY AFTER AMERICAN NAVY SEALs raided the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May and killed Osama bin Laden, General Ashfaq Kayani, the Pakistani chief of army staff, spoke with Khalid Kidwai, the retired lieutenant general in charge of securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Kidwai, who commands a security apparatus called the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), had been expecting Kayani’s call.

General Kayani, the most powerful man in a country that has only a simulacrum of civilian leadership, had been busy in the tense days that followed the bin Laden raid: he had to assure his American funders (U.S. taxpayers provide more than $2 billion in annual subsidies to the Pakistani military) that the army had no prior knowledge of bin Laden’s hideout, located less than a mile from Pakistan’s preeminent military academy; and at the same time he had to subdue the uproar within his ranks over what was seen as a flagrant violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty by an arrogant Barack Obama. But he was also anxious about the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and he found time to express this worry to General Kidwai.

Much of the world, of course, is anxious about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and for good reason: Pakistan is an unstable and violent country located at the epicenter of global jihadism, and it has been the foremost supplier of nuclear technology to such rogue states as Iran and North Korea. It is perfectly sensible to believe that Pakistan might not be the safest place on Earth to warehouse 100 or more nuclear weapons. These weapons are stored on bases and in facilities spread across the country (possibly including one within several miles of Abbottabad, a city that, in addition to having hosted Osama bin Laden, is home to many partisans of the jihadist group Harakat-ul-Mujahideen). Western leaders have stated that a paramount goal of their counterterrorism efforts is to keep nuclear weapons out of the hands of jihadists. More:

U.S. fights to keep bin Laden photos secret

According to the Justice Department, the CIA has located 52 images or videos, all of which are classified in order to protect agency secrets and the lives of Americans overseas. An Associated Press report:

The Associated Press has filed Freedom of Information Act requests to review a range of materials, such as contingency plans for bin Laden’s capture, reports on the performance of equipment during the May 1 assault on his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, and copies of DNA tests confirming the al-Qaida leader’s identity. The AP also has asked for video and photographs taken from the mission, including photos made of bin Laden after he was killed.

The Obama administration refused AP’s request to quickly consider its request for the records. AP appealed the decision, arguing that unnecessary bureaucratic delays harm the public interest and allow anonymous U.S. officials to selectively leak details of the mission. Without expedited processing, requests for sensitive materials can be delayed for months and even years. The AP submitted its request to the Pentagon less than one day after bin Laden’s death.

In a declaration included in the documents, John Bennett, director of the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, said many of the photos and video recordings are “quite graphic, as they depict the fatal bullet wound to (bin Laden) and other similarly gruesome images of his corpse.” Images were taken of bin Laden’s body at the Abbottabad compound, where he was killed by a Navy SEAL team, and during his burial at sea from the USS Carl Vinson, Bennett said. More:

The journalist and the spies

In New Yorker, award-winning journalist and author Dexter Filkins on the murder of journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad, a man who exposed Pakistan’s secrets

On May 30th, as the sun beat down on the plains of eastern Pakistan, a laborer named Muhammad Shafiq walked along the top of a dam on the Upper Jhelum Canal to begin his morning routine of clearing grass and trash that had drifted into the intake grates overnight. The water flow seemed normal, but when he started removing the debris with a crane the machinery seized up. He looked down and saw, trapped in the grates, a human form.

Shafiq called some colleagues, and together they pulled out the body. Occasionally, farmers and water buffalo drown in the canal, float downstream, and get stuck in the grates, but never a man in a suit. “Even his tie and shoes were still on,” Shafiq told me. He called the police, and by the next day they had determined the man’s identity: Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist known for his exposés of the Pakistani military. Shahzad had not shown up the previous afternoon for a television interview that was to be taped in Islamabad, a hundred miles to the northwest. His disappearance was being reported on the morning news, his image flashed on television screens across the country. Meanwhile, the zamindar—feudal lord—of a village twenty miles upstream from the dam called the police about a white Toyota Corolla that had been abandoned by the canal, in the shade of a banyan tree. The police discovered that the car belonged to Shahzad. Its doors were locked, and there was no trace of blood. more

How they got Bin Laden

In New Yorker, Nicholas Schmidle on what happened that night in Abbottabad

Shortly after eleven o’clock on the night of May 1st, two MH-60 Black Hawk helicopters lifted off from Jalalabad Air Field, in eastern Afghanistan, and embarked on a covert mission into Pakistan to kill Osama bin Laden. Inside the aircraft were twenty-three Navy SEALs from Team Six, which is officially known as the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU. A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard. It was a moonless evening, and the helicopters’ pilots, wearing night-vision goggles, flew without lights over mountains that straddle the border with Pakistan. Radio communications were kept to a minimum, and an eerie calm settled inside the aircraft.

Fifteen minutes later, the helicopters ducked into an alpine valley and slipped, undetected, into Pakistani airspace. For more than sixty years, Pakistan’s military has maintained a state of high alert against its eastern neighbor, India. Because of this obsession, Pakistan’s “principal air defenses are all pointing east,” Shuja Nawaz, an expert on the Pakistani Army and the author of “Crossed Swords: Pakistan, Its Army, and the Wars Within,” told me. Senior defense and Administration officials concur with this assessment, but a Pakistani senior military official, whom I reached at his office, in Rawalpindi, disagreed. “No one leaves their borders unattended,” he said. Though he declined to elaborate on the location or orientation of Pakistan’s radars—“It’s not where the radars are or aren’t”—he said that the American infiltration was the result of “technological gaps we have vis-à-vis the U.S.” The Black Hawks, each of which had two pilots and a crewman from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, or the Night Stalkers, had been modified to mask heat, noise, and movement; the copters’ exteriors had sharp, flat angles and were covered with radar-dampening “skin.” more

Eulogies for bin Laden, shrouded in mystery

Who are the secret sponsors of a poetry and essay contest eulogizing Osama bin Laden at Pakistan’s largest university? Salman Masood in The New York Times:

Lahore — The posters were plastered around the campus of Pakistan’s largest university last month, inviting students to enter a poetry and essay contest eulogizing a major historical figure who spent his last years living in seclusion in this nation.

The subject of such an outpouring of praise? Osama bin Laden.

The contest may have seemed out of place here at the University of the Punjab, a century-old prestigious institution in this eastern city, known as the artistic and cultural capital of the country. After all, there had been no campus protests denouncing the death of Bin Laden, who was killed in a nighttime raid by United States Navy Seal commandos in the northern garrison town of Abbottabad.

But the big surprise was not the contest itself, at least not in a nation where 63 percent of the people disapprove of the operation that killed Bin Laden, according to a June survey by the Pew Research Center.

Indeed, the big surprise was just the opposite: that the contest organizers chose to remain anonymous, providing nothing more than an e-mail address to send submissions. More:

What do you get when you put a terrorist inside of a brain scanner?

Virginia Hughes in the blog “The last word on nothing“:

It’s not the setup of a bad joke. For years, the U.S. military has likely used brain scanners to try to read the minds of suspected terrorists. Some bioethicists have argued, and I tend to agree, that using neuroimaging during interrogations is not only ineffective, but could also exacerbate the abusive treatment of prisoners of war.

We want terrorist suspects to disclose reliable information. So the push for technology that can distinguish truth from deception makes sense, especially when you consider how older methods have failed. Physical torture, of the sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding varieties, almost always, if not always, gives interrogators buckets of unreliable information. (It has some pesky ethical problems, too, but I’m not going there.) ‘Truth serums,’ such as scopolamine, sodium pentothal, and sodium amytal, act like sledge hammers on rational cognition and produce punch-drunk gibberish no more illuminating than the pronouncements of David After Dentist. And then there’s the polygraph, whose infamous squiggles reveal not the truthfulness of information, but rather the interrogee’s emotional response to it. Polygraphy is pretty much useless in all situations, not to mention those in which the subject is exhausted and/or drugged and/or relying on a translator.

Enter our colorful hero, the brain scan. The most famous is called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which measures blood flow in the brain. More:

The man who hunted Osama bin Laden

 

In this image released by the White House and digitally altered by the source to diffuse the paper in front of Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, along with with members of the national security team, receive an update on the mission against Osama bin Laden in the Situation Room of the White House, Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Washington.

AP report from Washington:

After Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden, the White House released a photo of President Barack Obama and his Cabinet inside the Situation Room, watching the daring raid unfold.

Hidden from view, standing just outside the frame of that now-famous photograph was a career CIA analyst. In the hunt for the world’s most-wanted terrorist, there may have been no one more important. His job for nearly a decade was finding the al-Qaida leader.

The analyst was the first to put in writing last summer that the CIA might have a legitimate lead on finding bin Laden. He oversaw the collection of clues that led the agency to a fortified compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. His was among the most confident voices telling Obama that bin Laden was probably behind those walls.

The CIA will not permit him to speak with reporters. But interviews with former and current U.S. intelligence officials reveal a story of quiet persistence and continuity that led to the greatest counterterrorism success in the history of the CIA. Nearly all the officials insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters or because they did not want their names linked to the bin Laden operation.

The Associated Press has agreed to the CIA’s request not to publish his full name and withhold certain biographical details so that he would not become a target for retribution.

Call him John, his middle name. More:

 

Interview: Ehsan ul-Haq, Pakistan’s former ISI chief

Charles Homans in Foreign Policy:

Foreign Policy: Where were you when you heard about the 9/11 attacks?

EH: On 9/11 I was co-commander in Peshawar, with responsibility for the western border with Afghanistan and security in the tribal areas of Pakistan and our northwestern province, what is now called Khyber-PK. And of course, it was shocking news for everybody — it was for me personally. And I didn’t realize how much it would impact on my personal life, how the world would change, how Pakistan would change.

FP: From there to the end of your tenure in 2007, what was your understanding or suspicion of where bin Laden was?

Ehsan ul-Haq: I was asked [to take over as lead of IS] on Oct. 7, 2001, when the bombing of Kabul began … Of course, our awareness of al Qaeda at that stage was very limited because al Qaeda was not operating in Afghanistan — it was an Arab phenomenon. Yes, it was transiting through Pakistan and Iran and other countries, but since they had not really operated in Pakistan, so we were not much aware of its dimensions, its role, its intentions, its objectives-these were things that were new to us, and it took time for us to really reconcile with it. But very quickly, we did achieve very substantial successes and close cooperation with other intelligence services, particularly the CIA.

As far as Osama bin Laden is concerned, frankly speaking, after Tora Bora we only heard the information that was shared with us at the time. After that, there were never any authentic reports on Osama bin Laden until his killing in Abbottabad. More:

Pakistan after Osama

Pervez Hoodbhoy in Himal Southasian:

Twenty-five years ago, the Pakistani state pushed Islam on its people as a matter of ideology. Prayers were made compulsory in government departments, punishments were meted out to those civil servants who did not fast during Ramadan, selection for academic posts required that the candidate demonstrate knowledge of Islamic teachings, and jihad was propagated through schoolbooks. Today, government intervention is no longer needed because of the spontaneous groundswell of Islamic zeal that has been the result of the years of grooming. A generation of poisoned minds that holds the external world responsible for all the country’s ills has led the country into collective xenophobia and psychosis. Signs suggest that a fascist religious state may be just around the corner.

A necessary condition for fascism – a sense of victimhood, mass delusions and a disconnection with reality – has now been met. A majority of all Pakistanis believe that 9/11 was a Jewish conspiracy, think the dynamiting of schools and suicide attacks on shrines are the work of Blackwater (the US defence contractor now called Xe), see India’s hand behind Pakistan’s deepening instability and, refuse to accept Pakistan’s responsibility in the Mumbai attacks of November 2008. Many welcomed the murder of Punjab Governor Salman Taseer in January, despite the fact that his only ‘crime’ was to protect a poor peasant Christian woman against charges of blasphemy. Surveys also show that a majority believes that senior army officers do not support the Taliban, and think that peace will return to Pakistan once the US leaves Afghanistan.

Those holding such distorted views of the world greeted the news of bin Laden’s killing with outright disbelief and denial. Pakistan’s capacity for self-deception should not be underestimated. An online survey conducted two days after the operation by a global opinion pollster revealed that a staggering 66 percent of Pakistanis thought the person who was killed by US Navy SEALs was not bin Laden. Participants in satirical TV shows burst into peals of laughter as they poured scorn on America and its claims. The supposed killing of bin Laden was nothing but high drama, said popular TV anchors. General Mirza Aslam Beg, former army chief and the formulator of the notion of ‘strategic depth’ in Afghanistan, fully agreed. He wrote: ‘Osama’s look-alike prisoner from Bagram was picked-up and brought to Abbottabad and killed in cold blood, in front of his family members, who were living there. In fact, Osama had been killed in Afghanistan some time back and his body may still be lying in a mortuary in Afghanistan.’ Beg says it was all a ploy to defame the Pakistan government, the Pakistan armed forces and the ISI.

Rent-a-country

Over decades, Pakistan has adapted to its changing strategic circumstances by renting itself out to powerful states. Territory and men are part of the services provided. Payment comes not just from the US, but Arab countries as well. For fear of public criticism, the arrangements have been kept hidden. Pakistan’s supposedly vibrant press has chosen to steer off such controversial issues. But post bin-Laden, the clatter of skeletons tumbling out of Pakistan’s strategic closet is forcing some secrets out into the open. More:

Pakistan and India: A rivalry that threatens the world

In The Economist:

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks.

Outsiders, especially Indians, have expressed dismay ever since Osama bin Laden was killed this month in Abbottabad, a prim military town in Pakistan. Here is a state that both fights, and protects, Islamic fanatics. Even when Pakistanis themselves are the main victims of attack by jihadis, the state fails to act.

On May 13th suicide-bombers sent by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, the Pakistani Taliban, killed 80, mostly young army cadets, in Shabqadar, a town in the north-west. That attack was claimed as retaliation for bin Laden’s death, but such strikes have grown dismally common. As America’s ambassador in Islamabad, Cameron Munter, puts it, “If you grow vipers in your backyard, you’re going to get bitten.”

At moments Pakistan sounds ready to co-operate with America against extremists. John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, whizzed through Kabul and Islamabad this week and claimed, after four hours of talks with General Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s army chief, that the troubled bilateral relationship was again “on track”. Pakistan will hand over the remains of the stealth helicopter blown up in the Abbottabad raid. And America’s secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, will visit in the coming weeks. More

 

The double game

Lawrence Wright, author of Looming Tower, on the unintended consequences of American funding in Pakistan. In the New Yorker:

It’s the end of the Second World War, and the United States is deciding what to do about two immense, poor, densely populated countries in Asia. America chooses one of the countries, becoming its benefactor. Over the decades, it pours billions of dollars into that country’s economy, training and equipping its military and its intelligence services. The stated goal is to create a reliable ally with strong institutions and a modern, vigorous democracy. The other country, meanwhile, is spurned because it forges alliances with America’s enemies.

The country not chosen was India, which “tilted” toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pakistan became America’s protégé, firmly supporting its fight to contain Communism. The benefits that Pakistan accrued from this relationship were quickly apparent: in the nineteen-sixties, its economy was an exemplar. India, by contrast, was a byword for basket case. Fifty years then went by. What was the result of this social experiment?

India has become the state that we tried to create in Pakistan. It is a rising economic star, militarily powerful and democratic, and it shares American interests. Pakistan, however, is one of the most anti-American countries in the world, and a covert sponsor of terrorism. Politically and economically, it verges on being a failed state. And, despite Pakistani avowals to the contrary, America’s worst enemy, Osama bin Laden, had been hiding there for years—in strikingly comfortable circumstances—before U.S. commandos finally tracked him down and killed him, on May 2nd.

American aid is hardly the only factor that led these two countries to such disparate outcomes. But, at this pivotal moment, it would be a mistake not to examine the degree to which U.S. dollars have undermined our strategic relationship with Pakistan—and created monstrous contradictions within Pakistan itself. More:

 

Noam Chomsky: My reaction to Osama bin Laden’s death

In Guernica:

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president. More:

At scienceblogs: Another reason not to pay Noam Chomsky any mind

In WSJ: The professor dons the militant’s cap: It fits.

Obituary: Osama bin Laden

From The Economist:

His mind and approach were those of a businessman. The same caution that characterised his fugitive existence in Afghanistan and Pakistan—avoiding phones, the internet, even watches, anything that might be used to track him, slipping from cave to safe house to compound—featured in his investments, which were profitable and practical. No political ideology guided him, though he might lie for hours at night thinking, or read for most of the day. The polite, pious rich boy, who had left university without a degree, became neither an intellectual nor a visionary.

Pure rage was all he needed, roused especially by the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the arrival of American troops in Saudi Arabia, on the holy ground of the two mosques in Mecca and Medina, in 1990. Hatred of America had tormented him for as long as he could remember. To drive out the infidels, to establish Palestine and destroy Israel, to eject the “heretics” who ruled in Saudi Arabia, to purify Islam itself with Wahhabist fundamentalism, were his ambitions. If they boiled down to a doctrine, it was a violent form of jihad, the holy duty of all Muslims, to make God’s word victorious; or just what he called “reciprocity”, an eye for an eye. More:

Also in The Economist: Now, kill his dream

A reporter’s quest for Osama bin Laden

John F. Burns in The New York Times:

As reporting opportunities go, few can have been more spectacularly flubbed than the one that came my way on a long-ago spring day in the former Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan. The year was 1989; the location a cramped room at a ramshackle indoctrination camp for Arab militants in the hinterland outside Peshawar, the frontier town that was a staging area for the mujahedeen who forced Soviet troops to withdraw from Afghanistan earlier that year.

At the back, in a corner, sat a tall, straggly-bearded man in his early 30s, silent, taut-faced, and plainly, by his body language, deeply upset by a reporter’s intrusion. His name, I learned later from an officer of Pakistan’s military intelligence agency, the Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, was Osama bin Laden. I never spoke to him that day, on what proved to be the only firsthand sighting I would have of the man whose terrorist murderousness — and success for so long in eluding history’s biggest manhunt — was to recast the story of our time.

For me, as for many foreign correspondents of my generation, Bin Laden was to become an obsessive figure, a sort of unholy grail, just as he was for the American commandos who finally tracked him down. A handful of reporters succeeded in interviewing him in the decade after my own encounter, always under cloak-and-dagger conditions, always at one of his hideaways in Afghanistan. But none were to meet him after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when he became a figure to be seen only in the smuggled videotapes that became his sermons — and now his epitaph — for the world. More:

Trail to bin Laden began with phone call

Bob Woodward in The Washington Post:

It seemed an innocuous, catch-up phone call. Last year Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, the pseudonym for a Pakistani known to U.S. intelligence as the main courier for Osama bin Laden, took a call from an old friend.

Where have you been? inquired the friend. We’ve missed you. What’s going on in your life? And what are you doing now?

Kuwaiti’s response was vague but heavy with portent: “I’m back with the people I was with before.”

There was a pause, as if the friend knew that Kuwaiti’s words meant he had returned to bin Laden’s inner circle, and was perhaps at the side of the al-Qaeda leader himself.

The friend replied, “May God facilitate.”

When U.S. intelligence officials learned of this exchange, they knew they had reached a key moment in their decade-long search for al-Qaeda’s founder. The call led them to the unusual, high-walled compound in Abbottabad, a city 35 miles north of Pakistan’s capital.

“This is where you start the movie about the hunt for bin Laden,” said one U.S. official briefed on the intelligence-gathering leading up to the raid on the compound early Monday. More:

Pakistan is playing dumb

Fatima Bhutto in The Daily Beast:

For twenty four hours after Osama bin Laden was (or was he?) shot dead with two bullets to the face by Navy SEALs from the Joint Special Operations Command—“sort of like Murder Incorporated,” a former colonel explained to author Jeremy Scahill—no one heard a peep out of Pakistan’s president. Normally ensconced so securely within the president’s house in Islamabad, venturing out only for foreign junkets and dealing with domestic bothers from behind his fortified walls, President Asif Ali Zardari had met the news that the world’s most wanted man was killed two hours away from his nation’s capital with catatonic silence.

Instead of a televised address to the nation or a press release, he did what all hapless leaders do when in trouble—Zardari wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post. Claiming that his government had no role in the killing, he waxed lyrical about his personal travails. He applauded Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, seconded President Obama’s morally ambiguous speech, and resurrected nothing short of a stump speech for why his government should please be left in power because they really are very democratic even though Zardari himself was never elected to office.

It is not surprising that Pakistan’s president would insist he had no idea bin Laden was living comfortably in one of the country’s most famous garrison towns—the Pakistani establishment has been feigning ignorance for years.

It takes a certain aplomb to insist that you didn’t know Public Enemy No. 1 was living in your country—and in a leafy city, not in a South Waziristani cave; that American helicopters entered your airspace, perhaps using one of your air bases at Tarbela Ghazi; and that the Americans had been planning to take out said Public Enemy No. 1 for the past nine months. The modus operandi of recent years has been to look the other way while keeping their purse at the open.More:

Osama’s killing will not affect India-Pakistan talks

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu:

The fact that Osama bin Laden found refuge in a Pakistani cantonment town may add more rhetorical punch to India’s charge that Pakistan has become a safe haven for violent extremism but the first-order effect of his killing on the bilateral relationship is likely to be negligible.

After all, India’s recent decision to rekindle the dialogue process was taken in full knowledge of the fact that Islamabad remains unwilling or unable to act decisively against the different jihadi groups that form part of the “syndicate of terror.” These include, of course, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and its leadership, who were responsible for the November 2008 terrorist attacks on Mumbai.

For two years, the Manmohan Singh government kept the dialogue process suspended in the hope that this would help force Pakistan to act. The strategy worked at first but turned out to be a weak instrument the longer India persisted with it. Worse, the blanket refusal to talk meant India was unable to push for gains in other areas such as trade and commerce and confidence-building measures. More:

Pakistan did its part: Zardari

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari in The Washington Post:

Although the events of Sunday were not a joint operation, a decade of cooperation and partnership between the United States and Pakistan led up to the elimination of Osama bin Laden as a continuing threat to the civilized world. And we in Pakistan take some satisfaction that our early assistance in identifying an al-Qaeda courier ultimately led to this day.

Let us be frank. Pakistan has paid an enormous price for its stand against terrorism. More of our soldiers have died than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand police officers, as many as 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress for our people have been lost. And for me, justice against bin Laden was not just political; it was also personal, as the terrorists murdered our greatest leader, the mother of my children. Twice he tried to assassinate my wife. In 1989 he poured $50 million into a no-confidence vote to topple her first government. She said that she was bin Laden’s worst nightmare — a democratically elected, progressive, moderate, pluralistic female leader. She was right, and she paid for it with her life. More:

Pakistan and Osama bin Laden: What did they know?

From The Economist blogs:

Whichever way you cut it, Pakistan’s authorities are in a bind over the discovery, and killing, of Osama bin Laden by American Navy Seals in Abbottabad, a military town just north of Islamabad. The hollow claims made for many years by Pakistani rulers, military chiefs and spooks that Mr bin Laden, other al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban bosses were being allowed no refuge inside Pakistan, have been spectacularly exposed. The fact that he had last been holed up not in some wretched mountain cave but in a specially built, fortress-like compound within a mile of a prestigious military academy, in a town bristling with Pakistani military men, is a damning detail to which Pakistan’s authorities are struggling to respond.

It is possible—just about—to imagine that Pakistan’s rulers, notably the revered military intelligence network, the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), were too incompetent to spot the world’s most-wanted man hiding under their noses. On this reckoning, America’s spies were able, eventually, to track him to a compound known locally as “Waziristan Mansion” and then to deploy a team of 30 to 40 Navy Seals to kill him, whereas the local men, despite enjoying significant local, linguistic, cultural and other advantages, were outfoxed by al-Qaeda’s boss. More:

The curious case of Osama bin Laden

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Express Tribune:

Pervez Hoodbhoy is professor of physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad

Osama bin Laden, the figurehead king of al Qaeda, is gone. His hosts are still rubbing their eyes and wondering how it all happened. Although scooped up from Pakistani soil, shot in the head and then buried at sea, the event was not announced by General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or by President Asif Ali Zardari. Instead, it was the president of the United States of America who told the world that bin Laden’s body was in the custody of US forces.

Suggestions that Pakistan played a significant role ring hollow. President Obama, in his televised speech on May 1, said “our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden”. But no sooner had he stopped speaking that his top national security aides declared that the United States had not told Pakistani leaders about the raid ahead of time. Significantly, Obama did not thank Pakistan. An American official pointedly declared that the information leading to bin Laden’s killing was shared “with no other country” and this top secret operation was such that “only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance”.

Today, Pakistan’s embarrassment is deep. On numerous occasions, our military and civilian leaders had emphatically stated that bin Laden was not in Pakistan. Some suggested that he might be in Sudan or Somalia. Others hinted that he might already have died from a kidney ailment, or perhaps that he was in some intractable area, protected by nature and terrain and thus outside the effective control of the Pakistani state. More:

Behind the hunt for Bin Laden

Mark Mazzetti, Helene Cooper and Peter Baker in The New York Times:

Administration officials split over whether to launch the operation, whether to wait and continue monitoring until they were more sure that Bin Laden was really there, or whether to go for a less risky bombing assault. In the end, President Obama opted against a bombing that could do so much damage it might be uncertain whether Bin Laden was really hit and chose to send in commandos. A “fight your way out” option was built into the plan, with two helicopters following the two main assault copters as backup in case of trouble.

On Sunday afternoon, as the helicopters raced over Pakistani territory, the president and his advisers gathered in the Situation Room of the White House to monitor the operation as it unfolded. Much of the time was spent in silence. Mr. Obama looked “stone faced,” one aide said. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. fingered his rosary beads. “The minutes passed like days,” recalled John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism chief.

The code name for Bin Laden was “Geronimo.” The president and his advisers watched Leon E. Panetta, the C.I.A. director, on a video screen, narrating from his agency’s headquarters across the Potomac River what was happening in faraway Pakistan.

“They’ve reached the target,” he said.

Minutes passed.

“We have a visual on Geronimo,” he said.

A few minutes later: “Geronimo EKIA.”

Enemy Killed In Action. There was silence in the Situation Room.

Finally, the president spoke up.

“We got him.” More:

Who shot bin Laden?

Manuel Roig-Franzia in The Washington Post:

Who shot Osama?

He’s out there somewhere, an instant icon in the annals of American conflict, the ultimate big-game hunter. But an enigma, too, his identity cloaked for now, and maybe forever.

He is the unknown shooter. The nameless, faceless triggerman who put a bullet in the head of the world’s most notorious terrorist.

Yet there are clues, and the beginnings of a portrait can be pieced together from scraps gleaned from U.S. officials. A trio of former Navy SEALs — Eric Greitens, Richard Marcinko and Stew Smith — helped us fill in the blanks, drawing from their experiences to develop a kind of composite sketch of an elusive historic figure in real time.

He’s likely between the ages of 26 and 33, says Marcinko, founder of the elite “SEALs Team 6” — now known as DEVGRU — that many believe led the assault on bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. More:

Bin Laden’s body’s journey

From The Washington Post:

After he was killed at his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden’s body was flown by helicopter to Afghanistan for identification, then airlifted to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson in an undisclosed location on the Arabian Sea.

Burial at sea

Bin Laden’s preparation for burial included some traditional Muslim practices, according to an unnamed senior Defense Department official. Muslim scholars disagree about whether the burial was, in fact, done according to Islam’s mandates. What we know about the 50-minute rites:

1. Washing

Bin Laden’s body was washed while on the aircraft carrier. Islam dictates that male relatives or a surviving spouse wash the body with soap and water in very specific ways, three, five or seven times. The official did not give details as to who washed the body or how it was done.

2. Covering

The body was wrapped in a white sheet. Islam requires three clean, preferably white sheets, tied around the body with rope. The body is to be placed in a specific position with the hands on the chest. More: