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ISI


Pakistan has some explaining to do

It’s going to be interesting to see how Pakistan attempts to weasel its way out of the obvious “someone there was helping bin Laden”  meme.

Here’s their first shot at it:

A senior official in Pakistan’s civilian government told ABC News, "Elements of Pakistan intelligence — probably rogue or retired — were involved in aiding, abetting and sheltering the leader of al Qaeda," the strongest public statement yet from the Pakistani government after the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound.

This is based on the government’s judgment that the number of years bin Laden spent in Abbottabad — and it now appears in a village outside the city of Haripur — would have been impossible without help, possibly from someone in the middle tier of ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, who grew up fighting alongside the mujahidin against the Soviets, said the official.

Ummm.  Yeah, it has to go a little deeper than that, unless someone is going to claim that the ISI – not rogue or retired – was totally asleep at the switch.  Some others (other than just a “rogue element”) that are still on active duty and at pretty high levels had to be complicit.  Waiving it off as “rogue elements” just isn’t going to be good enough.

For bin Laden to stay, safely for up to 7 years within Pakistan and apparently able to moving from one village to another, a whole bunch of people had to turn blind eyes.  Especially with the ISI’s reputation of knowing all that goes on within its borders.

It’s the impression of some in the government that the United States is giving Pakistan some space in the wake of the raid, but only for a limited time — and that if Pakistan doesn’t act in a way that satisfies the United States, there will be consequences.

One of the consequences could be a cut off or sharp reduction in the billions of aid we give them each year for their military and for the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.  At the moment, given this bin Laden story, it doesn’t appear to have been well spent.

That said, Pakistan is very important to us in other ways than just fighting terrorists.   It is the main staging base for the bulk of our logistical support for the effort in Afghanistan. 

Tricky diplomacy ahead.  Pakistan has been embarrassed by the US raid (rightfully so).   Also, although it has never been said openly, they’re seen as so unreliable an ally that we chose not to tell them we were going to do what we did for fear bin Laden would escape.

The US is going to have to move carefully here, but bottom line, Pakistan – at a minimum – is going to have to cough up those who were responsible for making it possible for bin Laden to stay in Pakistan for all those years and punish them.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Was bin Laden in an ISI safehouse?

Lots of bits and pieces coming out about the raid.

This was a targeted kill mission, not just a raid. They didn’t go in to capture bin Laden, they went in to kill him. And they did. It is reported he got the classic "double tap" to the left side of the head. Now he’s fish food. Appropriate. But … it also kills this "justice" nonsense in the legal sense. Legally, that’s not how we dispense justice. So, as some have said, and I agree, this removes the actions he was killed for from the "criminal" realm.

The mission was carried out by the legendary SEAL Team 6. They were the right guys for this type of mission and they apparently carried it out magnificently, even with one of their aircraft going down with mechanical failure. Or said another way, this wasn’t remotely a "Desert One". It was a well planned, well executed job for which everyone in the chain of command, from the President on down, deserve a pat on the back.

The compound bin Laden was in was built in 2005.  At the time it was pretty isolated – well, other than being 1,000 yards from the Pakistani equivalent of West Point.  Since then some other structures were built near it.

That said, there are a lot of interesting rumors flying around not the least of which are claims in the Indian media that the fortress/house/mansion was an ISI “safe house”.  ISI is the Pakistani intelligence services which has always been suspect in its loyalty and frequently cited as having given aid to al Qaeda and the Taliban. MEMRI has the story.   From “India Today”:

"A senior Pakistan military official has told India Today that it was impossible for the army to have not known that Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad. This has further fuelled speculation that Osama was killed in an ISI safehouse.

Another Indian website reported the following:

"Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] is bound to be cornered in the days to come following the killing of dreaded terrorist Osama bin Laden.

"A source in the intelligence agency says that Osama’s death will no doubt put the ISI in a very uncomfortable position among the Al-Qaeda, Haqqani Network, and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, who now feel betrayed by the agency.

[…]

"Nothing in the Af-Pak region goes unnoticed by the ISI, and if bin Laden managed to play hide-and-seek with the world all this while, it was only thanks to ISI’s patronage. Although the U.S. has claimed that Pakistan was not in the know of this operation, terror groups would not believe so.

"They are aware that nothing is possible unless there has been a certain degree of support from the establishment. Moreover, Osama was living in a place close to the army headquarters in Abbottabad, about 70 kilometers northeast of Pakistan’s capital Islamabad. This is not a fact that would have gone unnoticed by the ISI.

The Times of India also claims the ISI was involved in sheltering bin Laden:

"The finger of suspicion is now pointing squarely at the Pakistani military and intelligence for sheltering and protecting Osama bin Laden before U.S. forces hunted him down and put a bullet in his head in the wee hours of Sunday. The coordinates of the action and sequence of events indicate that the Al-Qaeda fugitive may have been killed in an ISI safehouse.

There’s some ground truth in there – the ISI has a fearful reputation in the region and little if anything is unknown to them.  They’ve been constantly accused of playing both sides of the fence in this conflict.  Few if any in the region, among terror organizations, are going to believe this all happened without the ISI’s knowledge and compliance.  And that puts them in a very tough spot as the report indicates.

So bin Laden death may end up being one of the best things to happen in some time if it casts enough suspicion to break up this unholy alliance between the Pakistani state intelligence agency and the terrorists.  Trust me, it will take a loooooong time (if it ever happens) for those two entities to ever have close ties again.

And that, my friends, is a good thing.

~McQ