Monday, May 2, 2011

Seeing Osama Bin Laden's Death in Broader Perspective

Usama Bin Laden was not only the "Most Wanted" man for his horrible crimes against innocent civilians, but also the most hated person in the world, particularly in the United States where his al Qaeda terrorists killed thousands of innocent people on Sept 11, 2001. So it's not a surprise to see on TV wildly cheering crowds in America celebrating his death announced by President Obama on May 1, 2011. In polling by the Pew Research Center before he was killed, support for bin Laden in Pakistan dropped precipitously from a high of 52% in 2005 to just 18% in 2010, lower than 25% in Indonesia and 48% in Nigeria.

While many questions remain unanswered about the events before and during the US commando raid in Pakistani city of Abbottabad where Bin Laden was reportedly killed, it's important to put Osama's death in a broader context as laid out in a recent paper by the Pentagon's "Mr. Y" titled "A National Strategic Narrative". It's a wide-ranging and thought-provoking paper calling for reorienting American policy thinking from the current concept of "National Security" to "National Prosperity and Security".

An important step toward re-establishing credible influence and applying it effectively is to close the “say-do” gap. This begins by avoiding the very western tendency to label or “bin” individuals, groups, organizations, and ideas. In complex systems, adaptation and variation demonstrate that “binning” is not only difficult, it often leads to unintended consequences. For example, labeling, or binning, Islamist radicals as “terrorists,” or worse, as “jihadis,” has resulted in two very different, and unfortunate unintended misperceptions: that all Muslims are thought of as “terrorists;” and, that those who pervert Islam into a hateful, anti-modernist ideology to justify unspeakable acts of violence are truly motivated by a religious struggle (the definition of “jihad,” and the obligation of all Muslims), rather than being seen as apostates waging war against society and innocents. This has resulted in the alienation of vast elements of the global Muslim community and has only frustrated efforts to accurately depict and marginalize extremism. Binning and labeling are legacies of a strategy intent on viewing the world as a closed system.

Who is Mr. Y? It is a pseudonym for US Navy Capt Wayne Porter and US Marine Col Mark "Puck" Mykleby who are active serving military officers. The paper offers a disclaimer that "Mr. Y is a pseudonym for CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark "Puck" Mykleby, USMC who are actively serving military officers. The views expressed herein are their own and do not reflect the official policy or position of the U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps, the Department of Defense or the U.S. government".

According to Foreign Policy magazine, "Mr. Y" pseudonym "is a takeoff on George Kennan's 1946 "Long Telegram" from Moscow (published under the name "X" the following year in Foreign Affairs) that helped set containment as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union".

The authors are senior members of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff who say they wrote the "Y article" in a "personal" capacity, but it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without official sanction.

Relative to the latest developments, it's important to emphasize Mr Y's argument "to accurately depict and marginalize extremism" without alienating Muslim allies like Pakistan. To make this point further, let me offer the following quotes from a Washington Post Op Ed by President Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan:

"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."

"Only hours after bin Laden’s death, the Taliban reacted by blaming the government of Pakistan and calling for retribution against its leaders, and specifically against me as the nation’s president. We will not be intimidated. Pakistan has never been and never will be the hotbed of fanaticism that is often described by the media.

Radical religious parties have never received more than 11 percent of the vote. Recent polls showed that 85 percent of our people are strongly opposed to al-Qaeda. In 2009, when the Taliban briefly took over the Swat Valley, it demonstrated to the people of Pakistan what our future would look like under its rule — repressive politics, religious fanaticism, bigotry and discrimination against girls and women, closing of schools and burning of books. Those few months did more to unite the people of Pakistan around our moderate vision of the future than anything else possibly could."

Here's how President Obama acknowledged Pakistan's role in the Abbottabad operation in his May 1 speech televised live from the White House:

"Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was. That is what we’ve done. But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Tonight, I called President Zardari, and my team has also spoken with their Pakistani counterparts. They agree that this is a good and historic day for both of our nations. And going forward, it is essential that Pakistan continue to join us in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates."

After all is said and done, I think OBL's killing is at best a Pyrrhic victory for America, unless it's followed by a fundamental reorientation of US policy posture as advocated in Mr. Y's "A National Strategic Narrative" in its concluding paragraph:

"This Narrative advocates for America to pursue her enduring interests of prosperity and security through a strategy of sustainability that is built upon the solid foundation of our national values. As Americans we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or to proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole, or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions. Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity of effort, coherency and constancy of purpose. We will pursue our national interests and allow others to pursue theirs, never betraying our values. We will seek converging interests and welcome interdependence. We will encourage fair competition and will not shy away from deterring bad behavior. We will accept our place in a complex and dynamic strategic ecosystem and use credible influence and strength to shape uncertainty into opportunities. We will be a pathway of promise and a beacon of hope, in an ever changing world."

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Appeasement in Swat

ISI Rogues-Real or Imagined?

Daily Carnage in Pakistan

King's Hypocrisy

India's Guantanamos abd Abu Ghraibs

Obama McCain Debate on Pakistan Policy


Riaz Haq said...

There's a constant stream of anti-Pakistan hateful commentary coming from my fanatical Indian readers on this post.

But the following blog post beats it all:

Here's an Indian blogger
Prashant Agrawal's fantasy to emulate American raid in Abbottabad that killed Bin Laden, as published by Wall Street Journal:

India’s prime minister greets the Mi-25 helicopters carrying Indian Navy MARCOS commandos. He shakes hands with the returning troops, congratulates and thanks them. For the photographers, he holds up his thumbs, “Mission Accomplished”-style. The MARCOS are returning from Pakistan where they took out some of India’s, and the world’s, most wanted terrorists.

That was the story that didn’t happen yesterday or the week before or the month before or the year before or the decade before that. It’s the story that some, perhaps many, Indians have wished to read. It hasn’t happened but the chances of it happening have gone up slightly.

How interesting!

I had heard of India’s “Israel Envy”, a phrase coined by former Indian minister Sashi Tharoor.

I guess the gung-ho Indians like this Indian blogger are now suffering from India’s “America Envy”.

Unknown said...

That being said about our Israel or America envy, but why do you think that would be a bad idea ?, just because the commandos were Indians and not Americans ? How does that make any difference who kills when the killed is an accepted terrorist by both the countries.

Nauman said...

Can you mind telling how the most hated person managed to live feets away from military establishment for years. Either pak's intelligence is worthless, or they are biggest liars.
Also what does it tell about Pak's defence if Americans can get deep inside Pak territory and take out OBL.

Anonymous said...

Bharti upper casts and their media are in over-drive trying to implicate Pak as Osama's accomplice. Same thing happened after 9/11 to no avail. Expressions of pure hate like these are useful and should clarify Pak's long-term thinking

vicks1980 said...

Dear Riaz, being one of your "fanatical" readers from across the border, I know your tendency to trash India at every opportune moment. At this point of time however, I don't think it'd be a wise idea to look at the criticism emanating from Indian bloggers and start gnashing your teeth. Not just "fanatical", "gung ho" Indian bloggers, but any number of rational, sane observers across the world are unable to comprehend just how the world's most wanted man manage to live a stone's throw away from 'Pakistan's equivalent of Sandhurst' in an expensive mansion. And in a place which no more than 2 hours from the national capital. If I were you,I'd also be deeply depressed( as Imran Khan has rightly said)to see the flagrant violation of Pakistan's sovereignty that the US has committed without so much as a whimper from the Pakistani establishment, let alone a shot fired at the foreign troops carrying out a commando operation next to a military academy. Instead, what you have is the disgraceful spectacle of the Pakistani President writing in the Washington Post explaining to the American people his loyalty to the US. This is what should get your blood boiling, Riaz, not Indian bloggers' comments. At the moment, you're only proving those Indians right who say that Pakistan has an unhealthy obsession with India. I know that despite your dislike of us Indians, you do post our comments on your blog. Hoping you will do the same with this one.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Musharraf's interview with Reuters:

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf called Osama bin Laden's death on Monday a "positive step" but criticized the United States for launching the raid on the al Qaeda leader within his country's borders.

Musharraf, who lost power in 2008, told Reuters that Pakistani intelligence ought to have known bin Laden was living near Islamabad. He also said al Qaeda supporters may take revenge against the United States and Pakistan.

Describing the killing as a victory for the people of Pakistan, Musharraf said: "It's a very positive step and it will have positive long-term implications."

"Today we won a battle, but the war against terror will continue," Musharraf said in Dubai, where he has a home.
Musharraf said, however, that the operation had infringed on his nation's sovereignty: "It's a violation to have crossed Pakistan's borders," he said in an interview.

Musharraf also criticized Pakistan's intelligence apparatus for failing to find bin Laden, whose group staged the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

"It's an intelligence failure," said Musharraf, who quit office to avoid impeachment charges. "The intelligence ought to have known."

Pakistani authorities were told the details of the raid on bin Laden only after it had taken place, highlighting a lack of trust between Washington and Islamabad.

Musharraf called bin Laden's decision to hide near the capital, rather than in the remote regions of the country where he was thought to be hiding, "an intelligent act."

At the same time, Musharraf admitted that the attack came at a time when al Qaeda's influence in Pakistan -- a front line in the United States' fight against Islamist militancy -- had been replaced by growing Taliban influence.

"Osama is a person who declared war on Pakistan and many of the terrorist acts have been linked with al Qaeda, therefore it's a victory for Pakistan," said Musharraf.

Zen, Munich, Germany said...

riaz, I understand your anger at the worthless trash posted by some Indian bigmouths. This is one of the unwanted side effect of Web 2. The content is user driven and as India has the biggest english speaking crowd on the planet, however hopeless that English accent may be, they would write in English.
Having said that, I echo the opinion of another poster that this may be the most inappropriate moment to defend Pakistan, even if you are a Pakistani. Being a Pakistani-American makes it only even more difficult. It is not that it was a top secret that Pakistan was a haven for terrorists, but that fact that someone like OBL who is unfit to live in any civil society was living just 100 km from Islamabad! Keep it up :-)
Having said this, we should see the so called War on terror in the light of murderous campaign by USA against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan which ultimately killed 100 times more civilians than 9/11.
I wish the people in your part of teh world gets more rational foe their own sake, otherwise they would always be pawns in the hands of foreign actors - be it agents of Wahhabi darkness or CIA.

Faruq said...

I don't think this is a pyrrhic victory. It's a tactical victory not a strategic one. The americans will extract a big price for finding Osama in a garrison town. Maybe a fundamental reorientation of Pakistani policy like giving up the haqqani network.

I really don't know, my guess is as good is anyone else's.

Riaz Haq said...


I don't think you understand the great cost at which this "tactical" victory has come. Since this war started on 911, it's cost many trillions of dollars and put US in deep debt to the Chinese and the rest of the world. It's not a sustainable situation.

Riaz Haq said...

There is a lot of talk in the US media about leads obtained through interrogation of Khalid Shaikh Mohammad (KSM) that helped track down OBL, but it's a shame that nobody mentions that fact that KSM and dozens of other AQ leaders were arrested by Pakistan's ISI and handed over to the US. That's the reason why AQ has been attacking Pakistani state and Pakistani citizens.

Reader said...

How about you refer to today's News headline:

Pakistan either incompetent or involved: CIA chief

Doesn't it surprise you that across all Pakistani officials it was only Musharraf who found the courage to speak against the violation of airspace.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are a few excerpts from an interesting Op Ed by By Paul Craig Roberts:

In a propaganda piece reeking of US Triumphalism, two alleged journalists, Adam Goldman and Chris Brummitt, of the Associated Press or, rather, of the White House Ministry of Truth, write, or copy off a White House or CIA press release that "Osama bin Laden, the terror mastermind killed by Navy SEALs in an intense firefight, was hunted down based on information first gleaned years ago (emphasis added) from detainees at secret CIA prison sites in Eastern Europe, officials disclosed Monday."

How many Americans will notice that the first paragraph of the "report" justifies CIA prisons and torture? Without secret prisons and torture "the terror mastermind" would still be running free, despite having died from renal failure in 2001.

How many Americans will have the wits to wonder why the "terror mastermind" -- who defeated not merely the CIA and the FBI, but all 16 US intelligence agencies along with Israel's Mossad and the intelligence services of NATO, who defeated NORAD, the National Security Council, the Pentagon and Joint Chiefs of Staff, the US Air Force, and Air Traffic Control, who caused security procedures to fail four times in US airports in one hour on the same day, who caused the state-of-the-art Pentagon air defenses to fail, and who managed to fly three airliners into three buildings with pilots who did not know how to fly -- has not pulled off any other attack in almost ten years? Do Americans really believe that a government's security system that can so totally fail when confronted with a few Saudi Arabians with box cutters can renew itself to perfection overnight?

How many Americans will notice the resurrection of the long missing bin Laden as "terror mastermind" after his displacement by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the Guantanamo prisoner who confessed to being the "mastermind of 9/11" after being water-boarded 183 times?

Americans are too busy celebrating to think, a capability that seems to have been taken out of their education.

Americans are so enthralled over the death of bin Laden that they do not wonder why information gleamed years ago would take so long to locate a person who was allegedly living in a million-dollar building equipped with all the latest communication equipment next to the Pakistani Military Academy. Allegedly, the "most wanted criminal" was not moving from hide-out to hide-out in desolate mountains, but ensconced in luxury quarters in broad daylight. Nevertheless, despite his obvious location, it took the CIA years to find him after claiming to have gained information of his whereabouts out of captives in secret prisons. This is the image of the CIA as the new Keystone Cops.

Ashmit (India) said...

Here's a story from your trsuted source - Xinhua. This story about strained ties and Leon Panetta's remarks about "incompetence" of Pakistan.

ISLAMABAD, May 4 (Xinhua) -- The death of Osama bin Laden in a Monday U.S. military operation in Pakistan has caused serious rift between the two close allies as both have come up with mistrust, analysts said Wednesday.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry Tuesday expressed deep concerns and reservations on the manner in which the U.S. commandos carried out the operation near the city of Abbottabad "without prior information or authorization from the Government of Pakistan".

Shortly after Pakistan's statement, CIA Director Leon Panetta said Pakistan was either incompetent or involved in sheltering Osama bin Laden when one looks at the country's role in Osama bin Laden's whereabouts.


But the CIA Chief was not impressed about Islamabad's quest and expressed doubts in an interaction with the U.S. lawmakers about the role of Pakistan.

Hasan Raza, a local analyst, told Pakistan's Geo television that Osama's presence in Pakistan has widened the already-existed trust gap between the two allies and now the U.S. lawmakers are even calling for aid suspension to Pakistan.

Lt. Gen. (retd) Hamid Gul, former intelligence chief in Pakistan, said that the U.S. has also conducted raids in Pakistan in the past. "The operation to kill bin Laden was not something new. It is quite unfortunate that we have permitted the United States to establish its bases and freely operate its forces in Pakistan," Gul told Duniya TV in a recent program.

It is the view of some local analysts that Pakistan and the U.S. had never been trusted allies and the mistrust caused by the U.S. operation near the country's biggest military academy has once again proved this.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry statement on Tuesday highlighted that taking advantage of much superior technological assets, CIA exploited the intelligence leads given by its intelligence agencies to identify and reach Osama bin Laden. But the American leaders have not yet acknowledged Pakistan's this role in the whole episode which led to the elimination of the al-Qaida founder in a small Bilal Town where the compound of Osama bin Laden is located.


The recent statement by the CIA chief that Pakistan is either involved in sheltering Osama bin Laden or incompetent is likely to cause anger among Pakistani establishment, said Nisar, adding that the CIA chief's statement would pull apart the two nations, whose cooperation is thought to be key to defeat the militants in Pakistan and also in the neighboring Afghanistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some interesting comments by Jeremy Scahill, a journalist who has researched and written extensively about CIA and JSOC, as published on Democracy Now website:

Also, on the issue of the helicopter, I mean, we understand that it was what’s called a Little Bird helicopter, which is a very lightweight helicopter that Blackwater types and JSOC types have often used in Iraq and, to an extent, in Afghanistan. The reports are that it was then destroyed by the U.S. forces after it went down. And the official line is that it was a mechanical failure. There are other reports that say that it was brought down by some kind of arms fire from within the compound, and we probably won’t know that. I would concur with what Mosharraf is saying. I mean, the idea that U.S. Special Ops forces are operating in Pakistan without the knowledge of the Pakistani government is, in fact, ludicrous. And that’s why, when this deal was originally brokered by Musharraf and McChrystal, the public posture had to be that the Pakistanis would deny it.

Let’s remember, too, that this killing of Osama bin Laden takes place just months after Raymond Davis, who was a man who straddled the world of both the CIA and Special Operations forces, killed two men in Lahore, Pakistan, and then, after weeks of controversy, was eventually taken out of the country after payments were made to the families of his victims. One of the things that Raymond Davis is suspected of having done inside of Pakistan was having communications with people in the tribal areas, but also potentially targeting Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is a terrorist organization behind the Mumbai bombings that has been designated by the U.S. as a state sponsor of terrorism and that the U.S. accuses of having very close ties to the ISI. So, the timing of this operation coming as soon as it did after this epic scandal with Raymond Davis, perhaps the most serious crisis between Pakistan and U.S. governments in a decade, or maybe even since the ransacking of the U.S. embassy in Islamabad in 1979, is curious, to say the least.

But I think there’s two questions here. Were the Pakistanis giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden in this town that Mosharraf has just described, a heavily populated town with big military presence? And what was the full role of the Pakistani government in ultimately killing Osama bin Laden? Because it was Special Ops forces and not the CIA, it would indicate that there had to have been very high-level discussions between the U.S. and Pakistan about this, but the Obama administration says no intelligence was shared with any government, including the Pakistani. So this mystery, I think, is going to continue to deepen.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn report about Indian Army chief VK Singh claiming the ability to do what the US Navy Seals reportedly did in Abbottabad:

LUCKNOW: Indian Army Chief General V.K. Singh said on Wednesday that India’s armed forces were competent to carry out an operation similar to the one conducted by the US in Pakistan against Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.

“I would like to say only this that if such a chance comes, then all the three arms (of the military) are competent to do this,” Gen Singh told reporters, according to the Press Trust of India. The general was asked whether the Indian armed forces could successfully carry out an operation as the US forces conducted against Bin Laden in Abbottabad.

In reply to another question, Gen Singh said: “Whether the US sought permission or not (from Pakistan) has to be asked from them.”—Online

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Paul Craig Roberts poking holes in the US admin's story of the raid in Abbottabad:

The US government's bin Laden story was so poorly crafted that it did not last 48 hours before being fundamentally altered. Indeed, the new story put out on Tuesday by White House press secretary Jay Carney bears little resemblance to the original Sunday evening story. The fierce firefight did not occur. Osama bin Laden did not hide behind a woman. Indeed, bin Laden, Carney said, "was not armed."

The firefight story was instantly suspicious as not a single SEAL got a scratch, despite being up against al Qaeda, described by former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld as "the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."

Every original story detail has been changed. It wasn't bin Laden's wife who was murdered by the Navy SEALs, but the wife of an aide. It wasn't bin Laden's son, Khalid, who was murdered by the Navy SEALs, but son Hamza.

Carney blamed the changed story on "the fog of war." But there was no firefight, so where did the "fog of war" come from?

The White House has also had to abandon the story that President Obama and his national security team watched tensely as events unfolded in real time (despite the White House having released photos of the team watching tensely), with the operation conveyed into the White House by cameras on the SEALs helmets. If Obama was watching the event as it happened, he would have noticed, one would hope, that there was no firefight and, thus, would not have told the public that bin Laden was killed in a firefight. Another reason the story had to be abandoned is that if the event was captured on video, every news service in the world would be asking for the video, but if the event was orchestrated theater, there would be no video.

No explanation has been provided for why an unarmed bin Laden, in the absence of a firefight, was murdered by the SEALs with a shot to the head. For those who believe the government's story that "we got bin Laden," the operation can only appear as the most botched operation in history. What kind of incompetence does it require to senselessly and needlessly kill the most valuable intelligence asset on the planet?

According to the US government, the terrorist movements of the world operated through bin Laden, "the mastermind." Thanks to a trigger-happy stupid SEAL, a bullet destroyed the most valuable terrorist information on the planet. Perhaps the SEAL was thinking that he could put a notch on his gun and brag for the rest of his life about being the macho tough guy who killed Osama bin Laden, the most dangerous man on the planet, who outwitted the US and its European and Israeli allies and inflicted humiliation on the "world's only superpower" on 9/11.....

Mayraj said...
Saudi card in Osama kill ‘Advice’ turns Pakistan around

Riaz Haq said...

Here's BBC's Soutik Biswas on Indian reaction to recent events in Pakistan:

Sections of the Indian media and some pundits have been gloating about the fact that Osama Bin Laden was eventually found and killed in Pakistan by the US.

It is a familiar, triumphal "we-told-you-so" line, reminding the world that Pakistan was a haven for terrorists.

Some experts - egged on by a hysterical sabre-rattling media - have even been suggesting that India should also go into Pakistan and take out people like the cleric Hafiz Mohammad Saeed who have been blamed for plotting attacks against India. Foreign affairs guru Fareed Zakaria describes it as the rhetoric of India's strategic elite with its "Cold War fantasies".

Not surprisingly, this has evoked a harsh reaction from Pakistan Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir who warned against such "misadventures" which could lead to a "terrible catastrophe", and headlines in the Indian newspapers as 'Hit by US, Pakistan barks at India'.

Much of this reckless talk, of course, has its roots in the grievous losses India has suffered in violence planned and executed by groups across the border, climaxing in the nightmare of the 2008 Mumbai (Bombay) attacks. But, as many seasoned experts say, India needs to keep its calm and pursue a more hard-nosed pragmatic policy towards Pakistan.

So it is heartening to hear from sources in the Indian government that India believes in a more reasoned and sober approach to Pakistan.

India cannot, say the sources, use what they call a "giant swatter" approach to Pakistan, like the US. "Unlike US, we live next door to Pakistan, our ties are deeper, and we were once the same country," they say. Also, nuclear-armed Pakistan is no pushover, and India could burn its fingers badly if it attempted an operation like the one which took out Bin Laden.

Will Bin Laden's killing have an impact on India-Pakistan talks, which got off the ground in recent months after a long frozen silence?

Not really, say Indian authorities. ....

Anand Jodhani said...

Mr Haq

Can u for one moment stop picking out selective commentary from the zillion newspapers around the world to suit your ideas.

Whats your take on the recent events? Don't you think that OBL had government support for living in Abbottabad for 5 years? Or u 2 think its a complete failure of Pak intelligence for not having been able to see right under its nose?

Riaz Haq said...

It is alleged that Pakistan learned from the American BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missile that crashed in Pakistani territory during a US attack on Bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998. Now there are reports of US helicopter stealth tech in Pakistani hands after the Abbottabad raid:

Despite the crash of one of the U.S.'s Black Hawk stealth helicopters, the aircraft which had previously been a well-kept secret may have been key to the success of the raid that led to Osama bin Laden’s death.

One of the helicopters was blown apart during the assault, but photographs of the tail section that remained in Pakistan show modifications to quiet noise and reduce chances of radar detection.

The New York Times reports that people in the helicopter industry said the rear section looked nothing like the tail of a regular Black Hawk helicopter. They said it looked like the Black Hawk had added some of the features of the proposed stealth helicopter Comanche, which was canceled by the Pentagon in 2004.

Another reported that the downed helicopter had five or six blades in its tail rotor, as opposed to the usual four in a Black Hawk. That may have permitted operators to slow the rotor speed and reduce the familiar chop-chop sound made by most helicopters.

Daniel Goure, a defense specialist at the Lexington Institute think tank, said the helicopter crash may have been caused by the unusual aerodynamics which came from the aircraft's modifications.

"It could be much more difficult to fly at slow speed and landing than you would expect from a typical Black Hawk," Goure said to the Huffington Post.

It had been thought that the Navy SEAL teams in the attack had used modified MH-60 Black Hawk or Sea Hawk helicopters in the raid of the compound.

Mail Online reports the Black Hawk has a crew of three or four and can carry 11 soldiers prepared for combat. It first began flying in 1978.

It has been alleged that during the killing of bin Laden, the SEALS involved were able to use the Air Force's secretive RQ-170 pilot-less drone, which has been known as 'The Beast of Kandahar'.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Nation on the possible departure of Pakistan's intelligence chief Gen Shuja Pasha:

ISI Director General Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha held a meeting with CIA station chief Mark Carlton in Islamabad on Friday, a private TV channel reported. According to sources, the ISI DG in meeting with the CIA station chief protested over not taking Pakistan into confidence on May 2 raid in Abbottabad. The intelligence officials have given a clear message to Washington that the United States will be responsible for consequences in case of repeat of such operation within Pakistani territory, sources added.
Online adds: To allay both domestic and international anger and dismay over the presence of Osama bin Laden in a military cantonment town close to the capital, senior Pakistani officials said that ISI Chief General Ahmad Shuja Pasha may step down soon.
According to a news report published in ‘The Daily Beast’ and ‘Newsweek’, they maintain that an important head has to roll and soon. The Daily Beast quoted Pakistani officials said the most likely candidate to be the fall guy is Lt-Gen Ahmad Shuja Pasha.
These high-level sources, who refused to be quoted or named, say that it’s nearly a done deal. Savvy Pakistani analysts who have close connections to the military agree. “It would make a lot of sense,” says retired Lt-Gen Talat Masood. “It’s in his (Pasha’s) personal and the national interest to take the heat off.”
The US choppers had hovered over the town during the 40 minute-long operation in the town, and then returned to Afghanistan without a response. “People are outraged,” says Masood. “They see this as the fault of the military in which they have invested so much trust.”

Mayraj said...
Osama bin Laden mission agreed in secret 10 years ago by US and Pakistan
US forces were given permission to conduct unilateral raid inside Pakistan if they knew where Bin Laden was hiding, officials say

aamsvad said...

These are traumatising moments for Pakistan and its people. We as Indians should avoid any signs of glee as it is unwise.India/Indians need to examine how the bin Laden incident could be used as one more argument to convince Pakistan of the need to give up the path of terrorism.
B- Raman,
please throw some light on Pak alumni post bin-laden incident.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a former US (COIN) counter terrorism official comparing ISI with Hoover's FBI as reported in The Desert Sun:

“I would believe it to be highly improbable that someone from ISI didn't know he was there.” retired special agent for U.S. Army counter-intelligence Jim Biesterfeld said Tuesday, referring to Pakistan's equivalent of the CIA, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency. “As improbable as the sun not rising tomorrow.”

Biesterfeld, a Menifee resident who specialized in counterterrorism in the Middle East during his Army career, said he believes it likely the ISI knew of bin Laden's general whereabouts but didn't share with Pakistan's political leadership.

ISI officials “do pretty much what they want to do” with little executive oversight and “have their own agenda,” Biesterfeld said.

He compared the ISI to the FBI under its longtime director J. Edgar Hoover, who operated almost totally independently from oversight. “They know where all the bodies are buried,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are summary and salient points of Anatol Lieven's Pakistan: A Hard Country:

In the past decade Pakistan has emerged as a country of immense importance. Large, heavily populated, strategically placed between Iran, Afghanistan and India, Pakistan has since its creation just over sixty years ago been pulled in several different, irreconcilable directions.

In the wake of Pakistan's development of nuclear weapons, Osama Bin Laden's presence in its unpoliceable border areas, its shelter of the Afghan Taleban, and the spread of terrorist attacks by groups based in Pakistan to London, Bombay and New York, there is a clear need to understand this remarkable and highly contradictory place.

Far from seeing Pakistan as the failed state often portrayed in the media, Lieven's extraordinary new book instead treats it as a viable and coherent state that, within limits and by the standards of its own region rather than the West, does work. Lieven argues strongly against US actions that would risk destroying that state in the illusory search for victory in Afghanistan.

This work is based on a profound and sophisticated analysis of Pakistan's history and its social, religious and political structures. Lieven has interviewed hundreds of Pakistanis at every level of society, from leading politicians and soldiers to village mullahs and rickshaw drivers. In particular, his examination of the roots of popular sympathy for the Taleban in Pakistan draws on the testimony of people whose views are rarely consulted by Western analysts.

1. For most of the years since 1947, Pakistan has had higher economic growth rates than did India. Pakistan does not have the same pockets of extreme poverty, or for that matter the extreme wealth. The level of economic equality in Pakistan is relatively high.

2. Charitable donations run almost five percent of gdp, one of the highest percentages in the world and this reflects the emphasis on alms-giving in Islam.

3. A good quotation from a businessmen: “One of the main problems for Pakistan is that our democrats have tried to be dictators and our dictators have tried to be democrats.”

4. Agriculture pays virtually no tax and the government lends lots of money to businesses and doesn’t seriously ask for it back. As a result Pakistan collects far less revenue than does India, even comparing areas of comparable per capita income. If Pakistan were a state of India, it still would be considerably richer per capita than India’s poorest regions, such as Bihar.

5. The Pakistani state is nonetheless a lot more stable than most people think. In part this is because of the conservative structure of kinship and landholder power in the country.

6. The main threats to the future of Pakistan have to do with ecology and water, not politics.

7. The end of the book has a very interesting discussion about how U.S. actions in Pakistan affect different coalitions, feelings of humiliation, relative status relationships, etc.

Definitely recommended, as are Lieven’s books on the Baltics and Ukraine.


Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan's first Hindko language film festival has been launched in the city of Abbottabad, in an attempt to restore its image after the Bin Laden raid, according to the BBC:

The quiet hill resort achieved global notoriety after US commandos killed al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, who was hiding there, in a covert mission.

As tourism has taken a hit, a group of amateur film-makers decided to launch the cultural event.

Hindko is the language of the Hazara region, in which Abbottabad is located.

"We wanted to show the world that Abbottabad is not a terrorist haven, but a centre of culture and creativity," said one of the festival organisers, Amjad Khan.

He told the BBC that the decision to hold the festival was taken two days after the killing of Bin Laden.

The six-day festival features six of more than 20 Hindko films so far produced.

The movies being shown are produced by Hazara Productions, a company set up by a group of local actors and directors in 2005.
'Clean entertainment'

The Bin Laden operation shocked the residents of this peaceful town and there is a fear that it will scare away the seasonal tourists who fuel the local economy.

The festival began with a showing of Night on the Stonemill, a 2005 production that tells the comic story of two errant college students who get into trouble with the police, and finally with their parents.

The festival opened with music and dancing to attract the crowds, but they have had mixed success.

During the week, the audience only filled half of the 400-seat auditorium.

"Cinema is dead in Pakistan, and the current generation doesn't know what it's like to watch a good quality film in a proper theatre," explains Amjad Khan.

Women and children have been turning up at the festival because, he says, many see these movies as "clean family entertainment, as opposed to the largely vulgar Pakistani cinema".

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Prof Anatol Lieven's "Pakistan- A Hard Country" as published by the National newspaper of UAE:

Until now there has never been a military mutiny from below. Every military coup has been carried out by the serving chief of the army staff, including Musharraf, backed by a solid majority of the high command. The loyalty of the military to its commanders is cemented by the material benefits of military service, but also by a deep conviction that it is the discipline and unity of the army that preserves Pakistan as a country.

The further down one goes in the officer corps, the more its members are lower middle class, less westernised and more religious - not surprising because the vast majority of Pakistanis are conservative Muslims. However, in the words of Tanvir Naqvi, a retired lieutenant general: "Officers suffer from the same confusion as the rest of our society about what is Islamic and what it is to be Muslim. The way I have read the minds of most officers, they certainly see this as a Muslim country, but as one where people are individually responsible to God, for which they will answer in the life hereafter, and no one should try to impose his views of religion on them. Very few indeed would want to see a Taliban-style revolution here, which would destroy the country and the army and let the Indians walk all over us."

This is a critically important point. Along with discipline and loyalty, fear of India is drummed into the Pakistani soldier from the first day he enters the military. Quite apart from the hideous internal consequences of revolution and civil war in Pakistan, fear that India would use this to crush the country is deeply felt and deeply credible.
Given these constraints, for significant parts of the Pakistani military to mutiny, a situation would have to be created in which their obedience to the high command came into direct conflict with their feelings of personal and collective honour as Pakistani Muslim soldiers. The US raid to kill bin Laden would be such a scenario - if US troops were to turn raids into Pakistan into a regular strategy. Were that to happen, then, or so I have been told by officers at every level, sooner or later Pakistani troops would open fire on their US counterparts - and if ordered not to do so, might very well mutiny."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story of Gen Kayani vowing to clean house:

Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who like the civilian government has publicly expressed anger over the secret U.S. raid, was so shaken by the discovery of bin Laden that he told U.S. officials in a recent meeting that his first priority was “bringing our house in order,” according to a senior Pakistani intelligence official, citing personal conversations with Kayani.

“We are under attack, and the attackers are getting highly confidential information about their targets,” said the official, who, like others, would speak only on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter.

Pakistan’s top military brass claimed to have purged the ranks of Islamists shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Since then, the nation’s top officials have made repeated public assurances that the armed forces are committed to the fight against extremists and that Pakistan’s extensive nuclear arsenal is in safe hands.

But U.S. officials have remained unconvinced, and they have repeatedly pressed for a more rigorous campaign by Pakistan to remove elements of the military and intelligence services that are believed to cooperate with militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, on a previously unannounced visit to Islamabad on Friday, emphasized U.S. demands for greater cooperation in the war against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other violent Islamist organizations that have taken root in Pakistan. Standing beside Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Clinton said the United States would be looking “to the government of Pakistan to take decisive steps in the days ahead.”

It is unclear how authentically committed Kayani and other top military leaders are to cleansing their ranks. U.S. officials and Pakistani analysts say support by the nation’s top military spy agency for insurgent groups, particularly those that attack in India and Afghanistan, is de facto security policy in Pakistan, not a matter of a few rogue elements.

But Kayani is under profound pressure, both from a domestic population fed up with the constant insurgent attacks and from critics in the U.S. government, who view the bin Laden hideout as the strongest evidence yet that Pakistan is playing a double game.

U.S. officials say they have no evidence that top Pakistani military or civilian leaders knew about bin Laden’s redoubt, though they are still examining intelligence gathered during the raid. Some say they doubt Kayani or Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, head of the military’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, had direct knowledge; others find it hard to believe they did not, particularly because Kayani was head of the ISI in 2005, when bin Laden is believed to have taken refuge in Abbottabad.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Wall Street Journal report on insider involvement by Pakistani military personnel in terror attacks:

ISLAMABAD—Pakistani investigators probing last week's attack by the Taliban on a naval base in Karachi have detained a former navy commando and two other people, in further signs of concern about the infiltration of radical Islamist groups into the country's armed forces.

Pakistani investigators Friday picked up Kamran Ahmed Malik, 36 years old, along with his brother, Zaib Ahmed, from a middle-class neighborhood of Lahore, the capital of Punjab province, according to security officials in the city.

Another person was earlier detained in Faisalabad, an industrial town near Lahore, and held for questioning. None of the men have been formally charged.

Mr. Malik, a former commando, was dismissed from the navy in 2003 on disciplinary grounds after serving in the force for almost ten years. He had been treated for mental disorders before being dismissed, security officials said.
Investigators are looking into whether Mr. Malik developed a network inside the Mehran base, where he was stationed while serving in the navy.

"We are probing whether he helped the terrorists in providing the details of the base or if he was in touch with any of his former colleagues inside," a Lahore-based security official said. "We are also investigating about his possible contacts with extremist and militant groups."

Mr. Malik was suspected by Pakistani officials to have links with al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Punjab-based sectarian group linked to the Pakistan Taliban. Mr. Malik couldn't be reached for comment.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the investigations are focusing on whether the militants had been provided help from inside.

Pakistan's navy is generally regarded as less permeated by conservative Islamic groups than other branches of the armed forces.

The push by radical groups to indoctrinate members of the armed forces with Islamist teachings, begun in earnest in the 1980s during the military rule of Gen. Zia ul-Haq, was centered largely on the army.

Other security services have been dealing with mounting radicalism. In January, the governor of Punjab province was shot dead by a member of his elite police bodyguard, who was a member of an Islamist group.

"I believe that the lower cadre of the armed forces has been infiltrated by Islamic militant groups, though at a small level till now," says defense analyst, Saad Mohammad, a retired army brigadier. "There is an urgent need to carry out screening of lower cadre and change recruitment policy."

The latest attack was the biggest yet on Pakistan's navy, which isn't on the front lines of Pakistan's war against Taliban militants, although it takes part in a U.S.-led antiterrorism naval task force in the Arabian Sea.

In the weeks before the Mehran siege, the Taliban had targeted naval buses in Karachi with roadside bombs, possibly because they provided a soft target. More commonly, militants have struck at army targets, sometimes using insiders to help carry out attacks.

The army for three years has been fighting the Pakistan Taliban in the country's mountainous northwest border regions with Afghanistan.

In October 2009, Islamic militants attacked the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi, leading to a 22-hour commando operation. It was masterminded by a militant commander who had served in the army medical corps.

Former President Pervez Musharraf twice escaped assassination bids in 2003 planned by Islamic militants in which serving army personnel were implicated.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from a BBC report on the killing of Pak journalist Saleem Shahzad:

The funeral has taken place in Karachi of murdered Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, whose body was found on Tuesday two days after he went missing.

The 40-year-old father of three vanished after leaving home in Islamabad to appear on a television talk show.

He had recently written an article about al-Qaeda infiltration into Pakistan's navy.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has condemned the murder.

Earlier a Human Rights Watch researcher said he had "credible information" that Shahzad was in the custody of Pakistani intelligence.

Mr Shahzad made a career writing about the various Islamist militant networks operating in Pakistan and warned human rights campaigners before his disappearance that he had been threatened by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). It has denied any involvement.

Journalists have held protests across Pakistan to condemn the killing, with sit-ins and marches held in Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.
He reported that the militant group had launched the deadly assault on the Mehran base in Karachi, the headquarters of the navy's air wing, on 22 May because talks had failed over the release of several naval personnel arrested on suspicion of links to al-Qaeda affiliates.

At least 14 people were killed and two navy warplanes destroyed.

On Monday, a former navy commando and his brother were detained for their alleged role in helping plan the raid, which embarrassed the military.

Mr Shahzad's body was found in a canal in Mandi Baha Uddin in Pakistan's northern Gujarat district.

Earlier, Human Rights Watch researcher Ali Dayan Hasan said Mr Shahzad had recently complained about being threatened by the ISI.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official told the Associated Press it was "absurd" to say that the ISI had anything to do with his death.

Mr Shahzad worked for the Italian news agency Adnkronos International (AKI) and was Pakistan bureau chief for Asia Times Online.

Riaz Haq said...

There is a split in the Obama admin on CIA's drone attack campaign in Pakistan, according to the Wall Street Journal:

WASHINGTON—Fissures have opened within the Obama administration over the drone program targeting militants in Pakistan, with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan and some top military leaders pushing to rein in the Central Intelligence Agency's aggressive pace of strikes.

Such a move would roll back, at least temporarily, a program that President Barack Obama dramatically expanded soon after taking office, making it one of the U.S.'s main weapons against the Pakistan-based militants fighting coalition troops in Afghanistan.

The program has angered Pakistan, a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants. The debate over drones comes as the two sides try to repair relations badly frayed by the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis by CIA contractor Raymond Davis in January, a wave of particularly lethal drone strikes following Mr. Davis's release from Pakistani custody in March, and the clandestine U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden on May 2.

The White House National Security Council debated a slowdown in drone strikes in a meeting on Thursday, a U.S. official said. At the meeting, CIA Director Leon Panetta made the case for maintaining the current program, the official said, arguing that it remains the U.S.'s best weapon against al Qaeda and its allies.

The result of the meeting—the first high-level debate within the Obama administration over how aggressively to pursue the CIA's targeted-killing program—was a decision to continue the program as is for now, the U.S. official said.

Another official, who supports a slowdown, said the discussions about revamping the program would continue, alongside talks with Pakistan, which is lobbying to rein in the drone strikes.

Most U.S. officials, including those urging a slowdown, agree the CIA strikes using the pilotless aircraft have been one of Washington's most effective tools in the fight against militants hiding out in Pakistan. The weapons have killed some top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders and left militants off balance in a swath of mountainous territory along the Afghan border with Pakistan where they once operated with near impunity. No one in the administration is advocating an outright halt to the program.
The pushback by some U.S. officials against the drone program comes as U.S. diplomats and officials serving in Pakistan express dissatisfaction with what they see as the generally hostile tenor of the U.S.'s policy toward Pakistan.

These diplomats and officials say the deep vein of anti-Americanism that runs through Pakistani society forces its elected and military leaders, including army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, to distance themselves from Washington to avoid a popular backlash.

"What's worrying a lot of us is whether we're turning people who should be our natural allies into our adversaries," said a U.S. diplomat in Pakistan.

A senior U.S. official said the key is figuring out what level of drone strikes can satisfy U.S. security needs and at the same be tolerated by the Pakistanis. "I think we underestimate the importance of public opinion in Pakistan to our detriment," the official said. The Pakistanis have "a legitimate concern."

Islamabad has proposed narrowing the scope of the CIA program to target militants that have been agreed to by both sides, a Pakistani official said.

Riaz Haq said...

Ilyas Kashmiri, a top Pakistani militant and senior Al Qaeda operative, reportedly has been killed in a US drone strike in the tribal territory of South Waziristan, according to press reports and a statement from the group he headed, reports Christian Science Monitor:

A Newsweek profile headlined “Is Ilyas Kashmiri the New Bin Laden?” said he “has the experience, the connections, and a determination to attack the West – including the United States—that make him the most dangerous Qaeda operative to emerge in years.”

A Pakistani intelligence official said Kashmiri was among nine militants killed in the strike. While identifying individuals killed in such attacks can be difficult, a fax from the militant group he was heading – Harakat-ul-Jihad al-Islami's "313 Brigade" – confirmed Kashmiri was "martyred" in the strike.

Described by U.S. officials as Al Qaeda's military operations chief in Pakistan, he was one of five most-wanted militant leaders in the country, accused in a string of attacks, including the 2008 Mumbai massacre.

Kashmiri also has been linked to last month's assault on a Pakistani naval base in Karachi.

He is also accused of masterminding several raids on Pakistan police and intelligence buildings in 2009 and 2010, as well as a failed assassination attempt against then-President Pervez Musharraf in 2003. The US Department of State says he organized a 2006 suicide bombing against the US consulate in Karachi that killed four people, including an American diplomat.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistani Ambassador to the United States Husain Haqqani defended his nation's decision to detain five informants who aided the CIA in tracking down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden on ABC This Week:

"Pakistan has rounded up more than 30 people as part of the investigation about the Osama bin Laden compound," Haqqani said. "As far as the concern that there are people amongst the people that we have rounded up who are informants for the CIA, we will deal with them as we would deal with a friendly intelligence service, and we will resolve this to the satisfaction of our friends, as well as to our own laws."

Haqqani said the government took such action to get a better grasp of the operation's details.

"No one has been punished," Haqqani said. "Basically this is an exercise in trying to find out what has happened."

The Pakistani Ambassador maintained that Pakistani intelligence aided in the capture and killing of bin Laden, and assured that both the U.S. and Pakistani militaries are making the capture of the newly-named head of al Qaeda Ayman al-Zawihiri a top priority.

"The U.S side and Pakistan are working together on any information that any side has," Haqqani said. "Whatever we do, we will do jointly."

Riaz Haq said...

Abbottabad and PNS Mehran are giving pause to Indian security establishment to think how they would deal with similar situation. Here's an Indian blogger Sudip Mukherjee:

1. What If India Is Attacked In Operation Geronimo Style?

Josy Joseph Times Of India Article
If someone were to sneak in and carry out a special forces raid, like the Americans did in Abbottabad to take out Osama bin Laden, the Indian response may not be very different from that of Pakistan, sources in the security establishment said.
In the wake of such a disappointing realization, the government has begun discussing ways to improve India's response mechanisms, including designating 'first responders' for such eventualities.

The Abbottabad raid is now under intense scrutiny by the security establishment at the highest levels, and by individual organizations such as intelligence agencies and the military. Each of them is studying it from their own perspective, but collectively their inputs "would help improve Indian security architecture", a senior official said.

Government at the highest levels is "seized of the reality" that Indian security response would not be very different from that of Pakistan, and is setting in motion reviews at various levels to improve its response mechanisms, a senior official involved in the exercise told. While the overall architecture of defence against intrusions is known, such as the role of IAF and Army, there are still huge gaps. What is not clear is "who would respond how and when if an Abbottabad-like intrusion" were to happen, he said.

Another official pointed out that the details of response of various agencies as soon as first shots were fired in Abbottabad are of great value to the security establishment. While the Kakul Military Academy and other security installations tightened their own security as soon as the gunshots rang out from the Abbottabad compound, there was no designated agency that was meant to reach the particular spot to take on the "intruder", the official said. Josy Joseph Times Of India Article
If someone were to sneak in and carry out a special forces raid, like the Americans did in Abbottabad to take out Osama bin Laden, the Indian response may not be very different from that of Pakistan, sources in the security establishment said.
In the wake of such a disappointing realization, the government has begun discussing ways to improve India's response mechanisms, including designating 'first responders' for such eventualities.

The Abbottabad raid is now under intense scrutiny by the security establishment at the highest levels, and by individual organizations such as intelligence agencies and the military. Each of them is studying it from their own perspective, but collectively their inputs "would help improve Indian security architecture", a senior official said.

2. India Prepares To Pre-empt Terror Attack On Its Air bases

'The (May 22) terror attack on Pakistan Navy air base at Mehran in Karachi was a wake-up call. In light of the incident, we are taking measures to improve security at all air bases across the country on top priority,' the Indian Air Force (IAF) chief, Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik, told reporters here on the margins of a conference here.

As the world's fourth largest air force after the US, Russia and China, the IAF has 60 operational air bases across the country under seven commands, with 170,000 personnel and 1,600 aircraft of different types, including fighters, transports and helicopters.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Daily Telegraph story on CIA's use of vaccination to confirm bin Laden presence in Abbottabad:

Having traced a bin Laden courier to a walled compound in the town of Abottabad, agents wanted to confirm the al-Qaeda leader was living there before raiding it.

They began a complicated ruse by recruiting a senior Pakistani government doctor to offer Hepatitis B vaccinations to local people, according to the Guardian and American newspapers.

A nurse working for the program was then admitted to the compound to give vaccinations to the children there.

The CIA hoped to obtain DNA from the children and match it to that of bin Laden's sister who had died at a hospital in Boston last year. It is not known how successful the scheme was.

The doctor involved was reportedly detained by Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence agency weeks after the US raid on the compound in early May, in which bin Laden was killed.

Officials in the US are said to have intervened in an attempt to secure the doctor's release.

The Pakistani authorities and the CIA did not comment on the report.

Relations between the two countries — awkward at the best of times — have hit new lows after American special forces launched a covert raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May.

Pakistan has expelled US military personnel and delayed visas for diplomatic staff.

The US has now halted $800 million (£500 million) in assistance in protest at Pakistan's decision to expel military trainers, and in frustration at the perceived slow pace of hitting militant hide-outs in North Waziristan.

Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI, said withholding aid would simply turn public opinion more "caustic" and delay any large-scale campaign against militants.

“Why should they go into North Waziristan now? They were making commitments to do it, but these threat, master and slave treatment, this arm twisting, will not work,” he said.

Pakistan has long promised to launch a major ground offensive in North Waziristan, a rugged tribal area home to militants with the Haqqani network, from where they launch cross-border attacks on international forces in Afghanistan.

US officials have raised the issue repeatedly with their Pakistani counterparts, who say they are still trying to put down insurgencies elsewhere and are not ready to deal with a terrorist backlash likely to result from opening a fresh front.

Holding back aid is unlikely to increase co-operation and could strengthen those in the government who argue that Washington is a fickle ally who can’t be trusted, said Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the US.

“If you still need the relationship, which clearly the United States does, then it really doesn’t make sense to take action at this time because it leaves the United States with less, not more, influence with the Pakistani military,” she said. “Co-operation cannot be coerced by punitive actions.”

For its part, the Pakistani military has played down the cut in aid.

Military figures insist it will make no difference to their ability to take on militants or delay their long-standing promise to launch a ground offensive in North Waziristan.

“We will continue to fight this war with or without them,” said a senior security official. “Without them we will do it in our own sweet time.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from Time Magazine blog on US decision to cut $800 million in military aid to Pakistan:

So while Pakistan's military brass wanted their relationship with the U.S., they would not pursue it at the expense of their own national interest. Hence, for example, their refusal to act against Afghan Taliban forces inside Pakistan even when they were launching offensives against the Pakistani Taliban (those militant groups who were targeting the Pakistani state). As far as Pakistan's generals are concerned, their country has made massive sacrifices to support the U.S. campaign -- twice as many Pakistan security personnel as Americans have been killed in clashes with militants since the U.S. invaded Afghanistan. And while U.S. officials routinely scold Pakistan for inadequate attention to the threat of militant jihadism on its own soil, many Pakistani leaders see that domestic insurgency as having been unleashed in response to Islamabad's support for the U.S. in Afghanistan, and believe it will only die down once the Americans withdraw from an invasion many Pakistani leaders have always believed was ill-considered and perilous to their own interests.

It's hard to imagine Pakistan changing its ways, now, in response to a public tightening of U.S. pursestrings. If anything, Pakistan will be tempted to do whatever it can to hasten the Americans' departure from Afghanistan -- on terms favorable to Islamabad.

And, of course, it has some leverage of its own if it chooses to push back further than it already has done since the Abottabad raid in response to the U.S. funding cut. First and foremost, there's the fact that some 60% of the supplies on which the NATO mission in Afghanistan depends are delivered by road through Pakistan. Last September, Pakistan responded to the killing of two of its soldiers by a U.S. military helicopter by closing a key border crossing for nearly two weeks. That created a massive backlog of supply trucks, many of which were destroyed in attacks by local Taliban allies. And in the wake of the Bin Laden raid, Pakistan's parliament discussed cutting those supply lines in retaliation for the violation of their sovereignty.

The U.S. military has been preparing for such an eventuality by opening more expensive supply routes through Afghanistan's northern neighbors, which now carry 40% of the traffic (previously, some 95% had gone through Pakistan). The U.S. military's aim is reduce Pakistan's share of the supply traffic to 25% by year's end, although the northern routes raise the cost of sustaining supply levels.

And in the longer term, Pakistan is deepening its historic strategic ties with China, based on a common rivalry with India, and hoping to see Beijing fill some of the gap left by a retraction of U.S. support. China's own strategic ambitions in the Indian Ocean may give it an incentive to do just that -- it's already helping Pakistan develop its port and naval facilities.

Both sides, then, have been making preparations for the sort of deterioration in ties that have emerged this week. And while Washington may see Pakistan's basket-case economy and the threat of instability that poses as dictating greater cooperation by Islamabad in order to secure U.S. aid, Islamabad may see the precarious U.S. position in Afghanistan and the American desire for an expeditious but credible exit plan -- and even concerns over cutting loose a nuclear-armed ally, no matter how troublesome -- as setting limits on just how far the U.S. is willing to push Pakistan. In light of the combination of public sentiment and perception of national interests in Pakistan, it ought to surprise no observer of this high stakes poker game if Pakistan's response to Washington anteing up is not to fold, but rather to double down.

Riaz Haq said...

In a CNN interview, Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA's Osama bin Laden unit, says al Qeada is much bigger than it was on 9/11.

Riaz Haq said...

Former U.S. intelligence chief Dennis Blair said Friday the U.S. should stop its drone campaign in Pakistan, and reconsider the $80 billion a year it spends to fight terrorism.

Here's an excerpt from an AP report on Blair opposing drone attacks in Pakistan:

He pointed out that 17 Americans have been killed inside the US by terrorists in the decade since Sept. 11, including the 14 killed in the Ft. Hood massacre, while car accidents and daily crime combined have killed some 1.5 million people during the same 10 years.

Riaz Haq said...

While Bin Laden is said to have lived undetected in Abbottabad, Pakistan for 5 years until his killing by the CIA in May, Whitey Bulger, another man on FBI's 10 Most Wanted, lived undetected in the United States for 17 years until he was arrested in June, according to UK's Telegraph newspaper.

Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's Ambassador in Washington, compared the two situations in a conversation with The Atlantic:

I just got off the phone with Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, who was adamant that Pakistan assisted the U.S. in locating Bin Laden, and who responded to criticism that Pakistan should have been able to locate Bin Laden by noting American law enforcement's difficulty in capturing wanted criminals inside the U.S. He made specific reference to the notorious Boston gangland figure James J. "Whitey" Bulger: "If Whitey Bulger can live undetected by American police for so long, why can't Osama Bin Laden live undetected by Pakistani authorities?" Haqqani asked. Bulger, the former head of Boston's Winter Hill gang, was added to the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List in mid-1999, two months after Bin Laden himself first appeared on the list. Haqqani continued, "The fact is, Mafia figures manage to do this sort of thing in Brooklyn, and Pakistan is a country that does not have the highly-developed law enforcement capabilities that your country possesses."

Haqqani went on to say, "President Obama has answered the question about Pakistan's role. It wouldn't have been possible to get Bin Laden without Pakistan's help. People are piling on this one, but the fact is, it is very plausible for someone to live undetected for long periods of time."

Riaz Haq said...

US sources say the special forces soldiers killed by the Taliban today were from the Navy Seal unit which killed Osama Bin Laden, but are "unlikely" to be the same personnel, according to the BBC:

Thirty US troops, said to be mostly special forces, have been killed, reportedly when a Taliban rocket downed their helicopter in east Afghanistan.

Seven Afghan commandos and a civilian interpreter were also on the Chinook, officials say.

US sources say the special forces were from the Navy Seal unit which killed Osama Bin Laden, but are "unlikely" to be the same personnel.

This is the largest single US loss of life in the Afghan conflict.

The numbers of those killed have now been confirmed by the Nato-led mission in Afghanistan.

The Chinook went down in the early hours of Saturday in Wardak province, said a statement from President Hamid Karzai's office.

It was returning from an operation against the Taliban in which eight insurgents are believed to have been killed.

A senior official of President Barack Obama's administration said the helicopter was apparently shot down, Associated Press news agency reports.

An official with the Nato-led coalition in Afghanistan told the New York Times the helicopter was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says it is rare for the Taliban to shoot down aircraft.

The Taliban say they have modified their rocket-propelled grenades to improve their accuracy but that may not be true, our correspondent says.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an MSNBC report about US contingency plans to "secure" Pakistani nuclear weapons:

It’s no secret that the United States has a plan to try to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons -- if and when the president believes they are a threat to either the U.S. or U.S. interests. Among the scenarios seen as most likely: Pakistan plunging into internal chaos, terrorists mounting a serious attack against a nuclear facility, hostilities breaking out with India or Islamic extremists taking charge of the government or the Pakistan army.

In the aftermath of the bin Laden raid, U.S. military officials have testified before Congress about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and the threat posed by “loose nukes” – nuclear weapons or materials outside the government’s control. And earlier Pentagon reports also outline scenarios in which U.S. forces would intervene to secure nuclear weapons that were in danger of falling into the wrong hands.

But out of fear of further antagonizing an important ally, officials have simultaneously tried to tone down the rhetoric by stressing progress made by Islamabad on the security front.

Such discussions of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, now believed to consist of as many as 115 nuclear bombs and missile warheads, have gotten the attention of current and former Pakistani officials. In an interview with NBC News early this month, Musharraf warned that a snatch-and-grab operation would lead to all-out war between the countries, calling it “total confrontation by the whole nation against whoever comes in.”

“These are assets which are the pride of Pakistan, assets which are dispersed and very secure in very secure places, guarded by a corps of 18,000 soldiers,” said a combative Musharraf, who led Pakistan for nearly a decade and is again running for president. “… (This) is not an army which doesn't know how to fight. This is an army which has fought three wars. Please understand that.”

Pervez Hoodboy, Pakistan’s best known nuclear physicist and a human rights advocate, rarely agrees with the former president. But he, too, says a U.S. attempt to take control of Pakistan’s nukes would be foolhardy.

“They are said to be hidden in tunnels under mountains, in cities, as well as regular air force and army bases,” he said. “A U.S. snatch operation could trigger war; it should never be attempted.”

Despite such comments, interviews with current and former U.S. officials, military reports and even congressional testimony indicate that Pakistan’s weaponry has been the subject of continuing discussions, scenarios, war games and possibly even military exercises by U.S. intelligence and special operations forces regarding so-called “snatch-and-grab” operations.

“It’s safe to assume that planning for the worst-case scenario regarding Pakistan nukes has ready taken place inside the U.S. government,” said Roger Cressey, former deputy director of counterterrorism in the Clinton and Bush White House and an NBC News consultant. “This issue remains one of the highest priorities of the U.S. intelligence community ... and the White House.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Tony Bennett statement and apology about 911 as reported by ABC News:

Tony Bennett recorded “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” in 1962, but with his recent comments about terrorism and the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, he left behind some controversy.

Appearing on “The Howard Stern Show” Monday to promote his new album, “Duets II,” the singer ended up discussing his military service during World War II and the impact it had on him.

“The first time I saw a dead German, that’s when I became a pacifist,” he said.

Sixty-five years after leaving his military life behind, Bennett has sold more than 50 million albums and developed some definite opinions about other wars involving the United States.

“To start a war in Iraq was a tremendous, tremendous mistake internationally,” he said.

Howard Stern then asked Bennett about how the United States should deal with terrorists, specifically those responsible for the 2001 attack on the World Trade Center.

“But who are the terrorists? Are we the terrorists or are they the terrorists? Two wrongs don’t make a right,” Bennett said.

In a soft-spoken voice, the singer disagreed with Stern’s premise that the 9/11 terrorists’ actions led to U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“They flew the plane in, but we caused it,” Bennett responded, “because we were bombing them and they told us to stop.”

One day later, the 85-year-old singer took to his latest stage, Facebook, and wrote, ” There is simply no excuse for terrorism and the murder of the nearly 3,000 innocent victims of the 9/11 attacks on our country.”

Bennett also cited his World War II experience as shaping his position that “war is the lowest form of human behavior.

“I am sorry if my statements suggested anything other than an expression of my love for my country, my hope for humanity and my desire for peace throughout the world,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Reuters' blog post talking about Pakistan nuclear weapons as a deterrent not just against India but also the United States:

Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been conceived and developed as a deterrent against mighty neighbour India, more so now when its traditional rival has added economic heft to its military muscle. But Islamabad may also be holding onto its nuclear arsenal to deter an even more powerful challenge, which to its mind, comes from the United States, according to Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer who led President Barack Obama’s 2009 policy review on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Pakistan and the United States are allies in the war against militancy, but ties have been so troubled in recent years that some in Pakistan believe that the risk of a conflict cannot be dismissed altogether and that the bomb may well be the country’s only hedge against an America that looks less a friend and more a hostile power.

Last year the Obama administration said there could be consequences if the next attack in the West were to be traced backed to Pakistan, probably the North Waziristan hub of al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups.No nation can ignore a warning as chilling as that, and it is reasonable to expect the Pakistan military to do what it can to defend itself.

Riedel in a piece in The Wall Street Journal says Pakistan’s army chief Ashfaq Kayani may well have concluded that the only way to hold off a possible American military action is the presence of nuclear weapons on its soil and hence the frenetic race to increase the size of the arsenal to the point that Pakistan is on track to become the fourth largest nuclear power after the United States, Russia and China.

Last month’s military action in Libya, the third Muslim nation attacked by the United States in the ten years since 9/11, can only heighten anxieties in Pakistan. Indeed Libya holds an opposite lesson for Pakistan’s security planners. This is a country that gave up a nuclear weapons programme - ironically assisted by Pakistan’s disgraced nuclear scientist A.Q.Khan – under a deal with the West following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Suppose for a moment that Colonel Muammar Gaddafi had held on its nuclear weapons, would there have been air strikes then ?

Indeed none of the three countries attacked by the United States had nuclear weapons including, as it turned out, Iraq although the whole idea of invading it was to eliminate the weapons of mass destruction. You could further argue that this perhaps is the one reason why the United States hasn’t taken on North Korea because of its advanced nuclear programme with a bomb or two in the basement.

Kayani and the generals have therefore concluded the only reason the United States may hesitate to use force against Pakistan, should ties break down completely, will be because of the 100-odd weapons it has. It only makes sense to expand it further to make the Americans think twice before launching an action.

But such nuclear brinkmanship cannot come without consequences of its own, and one of them will be India reviewing its nuclear posture. A Pakistan battling a deadly Islamist militancy and beset with economic difficulties but on a fast track to expand its nuclear weapons programme is a nightmare scenario. Riedel says India has exercised restraint on its weapons program me, but seeing an acceleration in the Pakistani efforts, it may well step up production of its own.....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report in The Hill on Ron Paul's criticism of US policy in Pakistan:

GOP presidential hopeful Ron Paul said Sunday that the U.S. military is inciting a civil war in Pakistan.

The Texas Republican said the civilian casualties resulting from the Pentagon's drone attacks over Pakistan and other countries only create more enemies at the expense of homeland security.

"Sometimes they miss and sometimes there's collateral damage. And every time we do that, we develop more enemies," Paul said on Fox News Sunday.

"We're dropping a lot of drone missile/bombs in Pakistan and claim we've killed so many, but how about the innocent people [who have] died? Nobody hears about that. This is why the people of Pakistan can't stand our guts and why they disapprove of their own government," he said.

"We're bombing Pakistan and trying to kill some people, making a lot of mistakes, building up our enemies, at the same time we're giving billions of dollars to the government of Pakistan," he added. "We're more or less inciting a civil war there, so I think that makes us less safe.

"For everyone you kill, you probably create 10 new people who hate our guts and would like to do us harm."

The eight-term Republican reiterated his calls for a $1 trillion cut in federal spending in year one if he reaches the White House, and rejected the notion that those reductions could undermine the country if programs like medical research and development (R&D) are eliminated.

"If you take all these resources out of the hands of the government, that doesn't mean the money isn't going to be spent. It means that the individuals are going to be spending it," he said.

"You would have much more R&D and it would be better directed if investors and the market makes these decisions, because believe me, the politicians and the bureaucrats aren't smart enough to know what you should be investing in."

Paul also weighed in on the sexual harassment allegations dogging fellow-GOP presidential contender Herman Cain, saying the focus on the scandal "dilutes the real debate."

"The media's blown that way out of proportion," Paul said. "I don't like these distractions."

Riaz Haq said...

Guardian report on yet another innocent victim of US drone attacks in Pakistan:

Last Friday, I met a boy, just before he was assassinated by the CIA. Tariq Aziz was 16, a quiet young man from North Waziristan, who, like most teenagers, enjoyed soccer. Seventy-two hours later, a Hellfire missile is believed to have killed him as he was travelling in a car to meet his aunt in Miran Shah, to take her home after her wedding. Killed with him was his 12-year-old cousin, Waheed Khan.

Over 2,300 people in Pakistan have been killed by such missiles carried by drone aircraft such as the Predator and the Reaper, and launched by remote control from Langley, Virginia. Tariq and Waheed brought the known total of children killed in this way to 175, according to statistics maintained by the organisation I work for, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

The final order to kill is signed allegedly by Stephen Preston, the general counsel at the CIA headquarters. What evidence, I would like to know, does Mr Preston have against Tariq and Waheed? What right does he have to act as judge, jury and executioner of two teenage boys neither he nor his staff have ever met, let alone cross-examined, or given the opportunity to present witnesses?

It is not too late to call for a prosecution and trial of whoever pushed the button and the US government officials who gave the order: that is, Mr Preston and his boss, President Barack Obama.

There are many people whom I know who can appear as witnesses in this trial. We – a pair of reporters, together with several lawyers from Britain, Pakistan and the US – met the victim and dozens of other young men from North Waziristan for dinner at the Margalla hotel in Islamabad on Thursday 27 October. We talked about their local soccer teams, which they proudly related were named for Brazil, New Zealand and other nations, which they had heard about but never visited.
The next morning, I filmed young Tariq walking into a conference hall to greet his elders. I reviewed the tape after he was killed to see what was recorded of some of his last moments: he walks shyly and greets the Waziri elders in the traditional style by briefly touching their chests. With his friends, he walks to a set of chairs towards the back of the hall, and they argue briefly about where each of them will sit. Over the course of the morning, Tariq appears again in many photographs that dozens of those present took, always sitting quietly and listening intently.

Tariq was attending a "Waziristan Grand Jirga" on behalf of drone strike victims in Pakistan, which was held at the Margalla hotel the following day. As is the Pashtun custom, the young men, each of whom had lost a friend or relative in a drone strike, did not speak. For four hours, the Waziri elders debated the drone war, and then they listened to a resolution condemning the attacks, read out by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer from the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. The group voted for this unanimously.

Neil Williams, a volunteer from Reprieve, the British legal charity, sat down and chatted with Tariq after the jirga was over. Together, they traveled in a van to the Pakistani parliament for a protest rally against drone strikes led by Imran Khan, a former cricketer, and now the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf political party.

The next day, the group returned home to Waziristan. On Monday, Tariq was killed, according to his uncle Noor Kalam.

The question I would pose to the jury is this: would a terrorist suspect come to a public meeting and converse openly with foreign lawyers and reporters, and allow himself to be photographed and interviewed? More importantly, since he was so easily available, why could Tariq not have been detained in Islamabad, when we spent 48 hours together? ....

Riaz Haq said...

US CIA's fake vaccine ploy to get bin Laden has hurt Pakistan's polio fight, reports the Wall Street Journal:

The United Nations says a reportedly fake vaccination campaign conducted to help hunt down Osama bin Laden has caused a backlash against international health workers in some parts of Pakistan and has impeded efforts to wipe out polio in the country.

A number of families across Pakistan refused vaccinations from July, when news of the reportedly fake campaign broke, to September, said Dennis King, chief of polio vaccinations in Pakistan for Unicef. "Following the early reports, some families in the provinces did refuse to have their children vaccinated citing the fake campaign as the cause," Mr. King said.

The refusals, he added, have declined since September due to vigorous campaigning by international and local health workers to ensure families they are working only to vaccinate against polio, a disease eradicated in most of the world but still prevalent in Pakistan.

Pakistan military intelligence in July detained a local doctor, Shakeel Afridi, on charges of involvement with the reportedly fake vaccination campaign, supposedly involving vaccine against hepatitis B. Pakistan officials believe the campaign was an attempt to get DNA samples from bin Laden's family to confirm his location in a house in Abbottabad.

In May, U.S. Navy SEALs raided the house, killing bin Laden. A Pakistani judicial committee has recommended Dr. Afridi be charged with treason, which carries the death penalty. He hasn't been made available to comment since his arrest.

The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which Pakistani officials say carried out the purportedly fake program, hasn't publicly commented. Officials familiar with the bin Laden operation say the CIA did indeed institute a mock vaccine program with a local doctor who had previously been an informant in the tribal areas. The plan was to obtain DNA from residents of the Abbottabad compound as they got a vaccine injection, helping confirm bin Laden's presence there....
Ghulam Rasool, a laborer from Khyber, found out in March that his 18-month-old son had polio after militants had warned off health workers.

"I know my child's future has been ruined, but I won't let it happen to my other kids," he says. "Now I have brought eight children of my extended family to Peshawar to get them vaccinated despite threats."

Senior Pakistani health officials condemn Mr. Afridi's role as unethical.

"Everybody in the medical profession resented his deceptive role. Defeating polio in Pakistan is challenging anyway, and this created negative associations," says Janbaz Afridi, deputy director at Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's provincial health department in Peshawar.

Pakistan is one of the last significant polio reservoirs in the world, imperiling global eradication efforts, Unicef warns.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from Mansoor Ijaz's Op Ed in latest issue of Newsweek:

I have a history of involvement in back-channel diplomacy, particularly between the governments of Pakistan and India on the subject of Kashmir and nuclear proliferation, but it is still important to ask why, in this instance, Haqqani chose to come to me. Perhaps because he had tried other interlocutors to deliver the same message and had been refused. Perhaps because the basis of his request—an alleged coup plot—was only a concocted threat and he needed someone who couldn’t verify the postulation in the short time frame required by the ambassador for action. What I am certain of is that Haqqani believed I was the most plausibly deniable back channel he could use. He knew I was disliked by many in Islamabad’s power circles for my strong anti-establishment views. Haqqani also knew I had the connections to get the message quickly and quietly to Mullen. He knew I maintained friendships with former CIA director James Woolsey, former U.S. national-security adviser Gen. James L. Jones, Reagan “Star Wars” commander Lt. Gen. James Abrahamson, and others.
A few days before the Mullen denial was posted on Foreign Policy’s blog, The Cable, Haqqani changed his BlackBerry handset for the third time since May. Maybe he hoped that changing PINs would erase his damning conversations from my handset. Unfortunately for him, they remain preserved—now in a bank vault—in exactly their original form on my original device as he and I exchanged them. The constant changing of handsets raised the disturbing specter that Haqqani had persuaded his friends in the U.S. intelligence community to assist him in “scrubbing” his BlackBerry records because my disclosures were not just about to lose him his job, but could potentially uncover sensitive matters of U.S. national interest as well. After all, I was not the only entry on Haqqani’s BlackBerry contact list. Other BlackBerry chats could prove highly embarrassing or prove complicity and culpability if they were made public by Supreme Court action in Pakistan.
Haqqani made just one critical mistake—seconding me into his scheme. I dislike the brinksmanship and heavy-handed role that Pakistan’s military and intelligence organizations have played throughout the nation’s history, and have said so over and over again. Democracy cannot exist in a police state managed by a thuggish intelligence agency. But I dislike even more feudal civilian cabals that feign love for democracy only to orchestrate their grandiose schemes on important security issues through abuses of power that simply cannot be tolerated in an open society.

Pakistan is much stronger as a result of the disclosures that have arisen after the memorandum became the unintended focus of global media attention. Its frenetic, even chaotic media did their jobs well. Some suffered threats. Yet Pakistani reporters toughed it out. They saw a smokescreen and decided to disperse it. It is this hunger for transparency that the people of Pakistan will now use to choose leaders who serve only the people, not themselves.

Pakistan’s military men may not allow civilian supremacy just yet, but a serious transition seems to be underway to at least make civilian institutions strong enough to coexist on an even footing with the Army in the intermediate term. One day, those civilian institutions may indeed be strong enough to protect Pakistan’s truest national interests: not Kashmir, Afghanistan, and nuclear bombs, but the availability of education, the expansion of trade ties, and the provision of energy to a frustrated nation eager to find prosperity.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's WSJ excerpts on Iran shooting down American stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel also used in bin Laden raid in Pakistan:

WASHINGTON—Iran said on Sunday that it shot down a U.S. stealth drone near the country's eastern border, but U.S. officials in Afghanistan said the craft could instead be an unmanned reconnaissance plane that veered off course and crashed last week.

Iran's official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted a military official who said Tehran had downed an RQ-170 Sentinel, the U.S. Air Force's stealth drone.

U.S. and NATO officials wouldn't say what kind of American drone had disappeared, but U.S. officials said there was no indication that the aircraft had been shot down by the Iranians. One American official said the drone likely suffered from a mechanical failure.

American officials said they believe that after the remote pilots lost control of the aircraft, the drone crashed in an unknown location.

On Sunday afternoon, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's command in Afghanistan said the Iranians may have been referring to an unmanned craft lost while flying a mission over western Afghanistan "late last week."
The RQ-170 Sentinel was the type of stealth drone used to conduct surveillance on the compound used by Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, before the May raid by Navy SEAL commandos that killed the al Qaeda leader.
Defense analysts have speculated in the past that the Sentinel, built by Lockheed Martin Corp., was based in Afghanistan not just to conduct secret missions into Pakistan but also for surveillance of Iranian military sites.

The stealth drone was originally part of the Air Force's classified fleet and its existence was officially denied.

But the service now makes available a fact sheet about the aircraft.

The drone is a wing-shaped aircraft, like the stealth bomber, a design that is supposed to make it less visible to radar.

The number of Sentinels that the Air Force operates remains a closely guarded secret.

The "RQ" designation is used for unarmed drones, such as the RQ-4 Global Hawk. But some analysts have said the U.S. might try to arm the airframe at some point in the future.

Iran claims to have its own fleet of unarmed drones, but U.S. officials question Tehran's ability to conduct even short-range reconnaissance with unmanned aircraft.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Washington Post story on tensions within Obama admin on relations with Pakistan:

Nonstop crises between the United States and Pakistan this year have fueled tensions within the Obama administration over what kind of relationship the two countries should have and who should be in charge of it.

The State Department has long smarted over the preeminence of military and intelligence priorities, which seems to leave diplomacy in a distant third place. The result, diplomats say, is that there is little goodwill to cushion blows such as the U.S. airstrike last month that left two dozen Pakistani soldiers dead along the Afghanistan border.

More than a week after the attack, President Obama called Pakistan’s president on Sunday to say that the deaths were “regrettable,” stopping short of an apology that many in Pakistan have called for.

The airstrike has cast a shadow over a major diplomatic gathering Monday in Bonn, Germany, that the administration hoped would help facilitate plans to wind down the Afghanistan war. Pakistan has said that it will not attend the meeting, which brings together more than 100 countries and international organizations and whose agenda includes regional and Afghan development and peace talks with the Taliban.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will lead the U.S. delegation, unsuccessfully appealed for a change of heart in a telephone call Saturday to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

The U.S.-Pakistan breach has also set back Obama administration attempts to improve the brittle relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan President Hamid Karzai told Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine on the eve of the Bonn meeting that he thought Kabul’s closest neighbor was trying to sabotage the possibility of peace negotiations.
Until his retirement in September, Adm. Mike Mullen, who was chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the most public face of the bilateral relationship. Mullen’s trips to Pakistan for face-to-face meetings with Pakistan’s army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, were far more frequent than Clinton’s visits with the civilian authorities.

When an exasperated Mullen publicly accused Pakistan’s military of supporting Afghan insurgent groups in congressional testimony just before leaving office, some State Department officials said they felt blindsided.

On a subsequent visit to Pakistan in October, Clinton insisted on leading a delegation that included CIA Director David H. Petraeus and Mullen’s replacement, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey.

But the State Department’s efforts to assert at least the appearance of control over U.S. policy are regularly undermined by a steady stream of congressional visitors to Pakistan who “all want to visit Kayani,” an administration official said. “They don’t want to talk to their civilian counterparts” in Pakistan’s Parliament, “and they only want to stay a few hours,” the official said.

Retired Maj. Gen. Mahmud Ali Durrani, a former national security adviser to Gilani and Pakistani ambassador to the United States, agreed with that reality and the impression it leaves in Pakistan. “You look at the visitors from Washington,” Durrani said. “They would go and spend time with the president, then most of the serious discussions they had with the army chief.”

“In my view,” he said, “there is one and only one issue” between Pakistan and the United States, “and that is counterterrorism. And that is in the lap of the security establishment. So that, in itself, is a problem.”

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Tech Lahore blogger analysis of what Iran can learn from the US RQ-170 it has captured:

1. Airframe and low-observable design: While this is by no means the most important piece of information that can be gleaned from this drone, being in possession of a confirmed LO platform does allow someone to analyze it completely and replicate it. As far as the physical elements of design which contribute to stealth go, Iran should be able to get 100% of that information simply by observing, measuring and modeling this aircraft.

2. Materials: Reverse engineering many materials is entirely possible by studying their chemical composition. For example, RAM coatings....

3. Propulsion: There are two elements here; first, the engine itself, and second the techniques used to reduce the engine’s heat/sound signature. Let me tackle the first one here. I don’t know how advanced the power plant in the RQ-170 is, but reverse engineering a complex jet engine may not be possible in a short timeframe....

4. Techniques used for signature reduction: The RQ-170 design will likely employ numerous techniques to reduce the heat (IR) signature emanating from the engine or other active sources in the aircraft. It would also likely use techniques to reduce audio signature. Iran can definitely get a lot of value by studying the design, materials used and techniques employed to achieve this signature reduction. The Iranians have their own stealth project, the “Sofre Mahi”. This analysis could help them advance that stealth fighter development effort.

5. The actual audio signature of the RQ-170: This speaks more to detecting the presence of aircraft like the RQ-170 in future. For example, does the engine of the ’170 give off a particular “whine”, i.e. does it have a distinct audio signature? Depending on whether this is a high frequency, it could be possible to deploy audio sensors particularly tuned to listen for this pitch as a means for detection.

6. The all-aspect radar signature of the RQ-170: No design is perfect. There may be certain aspects which produce a higher signature than others. Now that Iran can study the full response profile of an RQ-170, it may learn more about how to detect these aircraft in future using radar configurations.

7. The cameras: This would be a huge asset for the Iranians in two ways. First, they will now know the exact capabilities of this surveillance platform in terms of resolution, light spectrum performance and numerous other aspects. This means they could plan on how to evade such surveillance. ....

8. The transceivers: There will be numerous transceivers on board and each of these will give the Iranians lots of information that can be used to develop cyber warfare capabilities to neutralize US drones, and also the means to eavesdrop on US communications. For example, the satellite transponder will tell the Iranians exactly which frequencies are used by US drones for sat link-up. Could the Iranians deploy balloon-based transmitters that “jam” or “spoof” these frequencies and deploy these over their own country, thus making it difficult for these drones to have a clean sat linkup? ...

9. The algorithms: This is a tough one. One line of thought says that it would be impossible to extract any “code” from this platform. Perhaps. But another line of thinking says that the processors and controllers employed in military projects are not much different to those available commercially. Yes, they have much higher tolerances and quality standards, but a lot of the basic technology is the same. ...

10. Encryption: This would apply both to the radio/satellite transceiver links as well as to any data or code stored on the RQ-170s own systems. ......

Riaz Haq said...

Here are NY Times editorial excerpts on Obama's kill list:

How can the world know whether the targets chosen by this president or his successors are truly dangerous terrorists and not just people with the wrong associations? (It is clear, for instance, that many of those rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks weren’t terrorists.) How can the world know whether this president or a successor truly pursued all methods short of assassination, or instead — to avoid a political charge of weakness — built up a tough-sounding list of kills?

It is too easy to say that this is a natural power of a commander in chief. The United States cannot be in a perpetual war on terror that allows lethal force against anyone, anywhere, for any perceived threat. That power is too great, and too easily abused, as those who lived through the George W. Bush administration will remember.

Mr. Obama, who campaigned against some of those abuses in 2008, should remember. But the Times article, written by Jo Becker and Scott Shane, depicts him as personally choosing every target, approving every major drone strike in Yemen and Somalia and the riskiest ones in Pakistan, assisted only by his own aides and a group of national security operatives. Mr. Obama relies primarily on his counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan.

To his credit, Mr. Obama believes he should take moral responsibility for these decisions, and he has read the just-war theories of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas.

The Times article points out, however, that the Defense Department is currently killing suspects in Yemen without knowing their names, using criteria that have never been made public. The administration is counting all military-age males killed by drone fire as combatants without knowing that for certain, assuming they are up to no good if they are in the area. That has allowed Mr. Brennan to claim an extraordinarily low civilian death rate that smells more of expediency than morality.

In a recent speech, Mr. Brennan said the administration chooses only those who pose a real threat, not simply because they are members of Al Qaeda, and prefers to capture suspects alive. Those assurances are hardly binding, and even under Mr. Obama, scores of suspects have been killed but only one taken into American custody. The precedents now being set will be carried on by successors who may have far lower standards. Without written guidelines, they can be freely reinterpreted.

A unilateral campaign of death is untenable. To provide real assurance, President Obama should publish clear guidelines for targeting to be carried out by nonpoliticians, making assassination truly a last resort, and allow an outside court to review the evidence before placing Americans on a kill list. And it should release the legal briefs upon which the targeted killing was based.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Counterpunch Op Ed on Obama's snub for Zardari & Pakistan at Chicago's NATO summit:

This is a sharp rebuke, given the level of ongoing support that Pakistan has provided to the U.S./NATO war in Afghanistan, which has lasted more than 10 years. Mr. Zardari was apparently under some serious pressure to capitulate. According to an Article in the Christian Science Monitor on May 22, there were high hopes for a deal when he attended the NATO meeting. It appears, however, that he offered to reopen the routes, without demanding the cessation of the Drone Strikes, at a price about 20x higher than what the U.S./NATO had been paying before the routes were closed, an offer unlikely to be accepted . Meanwhile, back in Pakistan, according to any number of sources, Prime Minister Gilani has been convicted by the powerful Supreme Court of Pakistan for refusing to reopen an old corruption case against President Zardari. Their government is in a very vulnerable position.

This is not a happy circumstance in a country where the civilian government has frequently been removed by a military coup, and Mr. Zardari’s father in law was actually executed by Zia al Haq, the military dictator, supported by the U.S., who removed him from office. From the viewpoint of the Pakistani government, this is a defeat any way you look at it. If even the reputedly corrupt Asif Zardari cannot bring himself to reopen the supply routes while the drone strikes continue to wreak havoc on the civilian population of North Waziristan, and cause upheaval in the general population of Pakistan, then it might be time to revisit the policy. However, the self proclaimed Masters of the Universe do not see it that way. This is their world and they will have their way. Violence, humiliation and oppression are their tools of choice. The lives of individuals have no meaning for them, and their mantra of freedom and democracy is meant to drown out the cries of the impoverished and brutalized masses of their victims. As you may imagine, an insult to a already debased opponent was hardly an adequate response to the refusal of a chattel to provide the expected services. So, that wasn’t the end of the affair.
Mr. President, I have to ask, “What Principles are reflected here? It would appear that Mr. Obama is playing God. Seduced by the power of the Presidency, and at the same time barred from constructive domestic action, President Obama has turned to the minute details of day to day issues of life and death for strangers on the far side of the planet who do not have it in their power to protect themselves from his personally structured version of state terrorism. And last week, his eminence apparently decided to teach the Pakistanis a lesson about defying the mighty powers of the American Olympians. Perhaps, Mr. Obama, you would deign to look down from your lofty post and say a few words of comfort to little Fatima and the dozens of others like her.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET Op Ed by Yousuf Nazar on Pak foreign policy imperatives:

Now, as the US prepares to unwind its costly misadventure in Afghanistan, which failed to defeat the Talibans, Pakistan must seize the initiative to help shape the events to the maximum possible extent it can. The immediate near-term goal has to be the attainment of peace and stability in Afghanistan which faces an uncertain future and possibly civil war. This cannot be achieved by working with the US alone. Regional powers particularly China, Russia, India, and Iran have a natural stake in a peaceful Afghanistan. None of them has ever been comfortable with Pakistan’s close relationship with the Talibans. While China and Russia have been basically happy to let the US fight the Talibans, India and Iran have provided hundreds of millions of dollars to Afghanistan since 2002. Although it may be a bitter pill to swallow, peace is not possible without the Talibans. But it is also inconceivable without the participation of the non-Taliban groups and support of the regional powers. Pakistan may have the greatest leverage with the Talibans but that is not enough to secure peace. Actually, the war has hurt Pakistan so much, it would be wise to engage even India in a multilateral peace effort. Pakistan’s establishment should treat it as a lesser evil compared to the confused policies and hostile attitude of the US military establishment. Ultimately, durable peace in the region would rest more on Indo-Pak relations than the so-called AfPak or US with its diminishing influence, although it would remain the biggest military power for decades. But for now, it is on the retreat.

More importantly, at a broader and strategic level, Pakistan must redefine security to include energy, water, and economic security. Pakistan has pushed itself into a corner where the West considers it relevant mainly because it is a politically unstable nuclear power in a troubled region. It does not figure much in the US Middle East policy, which is focused on nuclear non-proliferation, energy security, Israel, and preventing Iran from building a nuclear bomb. Pakistan needs to have friendly ties with Iran which is not only an important neighbor but a potential source of energy having one of the five largest hydrocarbon reserves in the world. Although the proposed Pak-Iran gas pipeline has been a sore point in Pak-US relations, Pakistan’s Middle East policy should focus on its energy needs with strictly a neutral stance vis-à-vis the dangerous and destabilising regional rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran. Pakistan cannot afford to be a battle ground of proxy conflicts and must do all it can to prevent that.

South Asia is one of the least developed regions in the world and conflicts have held it back from realising its full potential. Pakistan needs friendly relations with India to access a big market but also to find a peaceful solution for its water needs because armed conflict is just not an option. Paradoxically, it is not the alliance with the US but the recent estrangement (perhaps a blessing in disguise) that has led the military establishment to support normalisation process with India.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a report on John Kerry's response to demand for cutting aid to Pakistan during his Senate confirmation hearing:

Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., opposed cutting foreign aid to Pakistan by arguing, among other things, that the Pakistanis haven’t gotten enough credit for their assistance in the operations that led to the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Kerry was responding to Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who suggested that the United States demand that Pakistan release Dr. Shakeel Afridi, whom they arrested after he helped the United States find bin Laden. Kerry noted the logistical support Pakistan provides to the Aghanistan war before suggesting that Pakistan helped American forces get bin Laden.

“Our folks were able to cooperate on the ground in Pakistan,” Kerry said during his first hearing about his nomination to replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. “That’s one of the ways we were able to get Osama bin Laden. I don’t think the Pakistanis have frankly gotten credit, sufficiently, for the fact that they were helpful. It was their permissiveness in allowing our people to be there that helped us to be able to tie the knots that focused on that. To some degree — not exclusively, obviously, but to some degree.”

Kerry also pointed out that the Pakistanis “have lost some 6000 people just in the last year in their efforts to go after terrorists.”

Afridi was arrested after working as a CIA informant to help find bin Laden, who was living in a compound in Abbottobad, Pakistan, before Navy Seals killed him. He told Fox News that he has been tortured for helping with the operation.

“I tried to argue that America was Pakistan’s biggest supporter – billions and billions of dollars in aid, social and military assistance — but all they said was, ‘These are our worst enemies. You helped our enemies,’” Afridi said, describing the response he got from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.

The State Department has called for his release. “We believe that the prosecution and conviction of Dr. Afridi sends the wrong message about the importance of our shared interest in taking down one of the world’s most notorious terrorists,” a spokesperson told Fox.

The U.S. military didn’t tell Pakistan that the raid would take place due to fears that they would warn bin Laden. “It was decided that any effort to work with the Pakistanis could jeopardize the mission,” then-CIA director Leon Panetta said in May 2011. “They might alert the targets.”

Pakistan reportedly granted China access to the stealth helicopter that crashed during the bin Laden raid.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts of NY Times summary of “The Way of the Knife: The C.I.A., a Secret Army, and a War at the Ends of the Earth” by Mark Mazzetti:

More than two years later, the Raymond Davis episode has been largely forgotten in the United States. It was immediately overshadowed by the dramatic raid months later that killed Osama bin Laden — consigned to a footnote in the doleful narrative of America’s relationship with Pakistan. But dozens of interviews conducted over several months, with government officials and intelligence officers in Pakistan and in the United States, tell a different story: that the real unraveling of the relationship was set off by the flurry of bullets Davis unleashed on the afternoon of Jan. 27, 2011, and exacerbated by a series of misguided decisions in the days and weeks that followed. In Pakistan, it is the Davis affair, more than the Bin Laden raid, that is still discussed in the country’s crowded bazaars and corridors of power.
Back in Washington, Ambassador Haqqani was summoned to C.I.A. headquarters on Feb. 21 and taken into Panetta’s spacious office overlooking the agency’s campus in Langley, Va. Sitting around a large conference table, Panetta asked Haqqani for his help securing Davis’s release. “If you’re going to send a Jason Bourne character to Pakistan, he should have the skills of a Jason Bourne to get away,” Haqqani shot back, according to one person who attended the meeting.
Munter said he believed that the C.I.A. was being reckless and that his position as ambassador was becoming untenable. His relationship with the C.I.A. station chief in Islamabad, already strained because of their disagreements over the handling of the Davis case, deteriorated even further when Munter demanded that the C.I.A. give him the chance to call off specific missile strikes. During one screaming match between the two men, Munter tried to make sure the station chief knew who was in charge, only to be reminded of who really held the power in Pakistan.
On the streets and in the markets of Pakistan, Raymond Davis remains the boogeyman, an American killer lurking in the subconscious of a deeply insecure nation. On a steamy summer night last summer, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed — the head of Lashkar-e-Taiba and the reason Davis and his team were sent to Lahore in the first place — stood on the back of a flatbed truck and spoke to thousands of cheering supporters less than a mile from Pakistan’s Parliament building in Islamabad. A $10 million American bounty still hung over Saeed’s head, part of a broader squeeze on Lashkar-e-Taiba’s finances. But there he was, out in the open and whipping the crowd into a fury with a pledge to “rid Pakistan of American slavery.” The rally was the culmination of a march from Lahore to Islamabad that Saeed ordered to protest American involvement in the country. The night before the march reached the capital, six Pakistani troops were killed by gunmen riding motorcycles not far from where the marchers were spending the night, leading to speculation that Saeed had ordered the attack.

But Saeed insisted that night that he was not to blame for the deaths. The killers were foreigners, he told the crowd, a group of assassins with a secret agenda to destabilize Pakistan and steal its nuclear arsenal. With a dramatic flourish, he said he knew exactly who had killed the men.

“It was the Americans!” he shouted to loud approvals. “It was Blackwater!” The cheers grew even louder. He saved the biggest applause line ...

Riaz Haq said...

Kathy Gannon of The Associated Press reported in September that militants from Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province, were massing in the tribal areas to join the Taliban and train for an anticipated offensive into Afghanistan this year. In Punjab, mainstream religious parties and banned militant groups were openly recruiting hundreds of students for jihad, and groups of young men were being dispatched to Syria to wage jihad there. “They are the same jihadi groups; they are not 100 percent under control,” a former Pakistani legislator told me. “But still the military protects them.”...

The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from Bin Laden’s house during the raid suggested otherwise, however. It revealed regular correspondence between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban. Saeed and Omar are two of the ISI’s most important and loyal militant leaders. Both are protected by the agency. Both cooperate closely with it, restraining their followers from attacking the Pakistani state and coordinating with Pakistan’s greater strategic plans. Any correspondence the two men had with Bin Laden would probably have been known to their ISI handlers.

Bin Laden did not rely only on correspondence. He occasionally traveled to meet aides and fellow militants, one Pakistani security official told me. “Osama was moving around,” he said, adding that he heard so from jihadi sources. “You cannot run a movement without contact with people.” Bin Laden traveled in plain sight, his convoys always knowingly waved through any security checkpoints.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Carlotta Gall of New York Times talking to "New Republic" about her book "The Wrong Enemy: American in Afghanistan":

Carlotta Gall's blockbuster story in The New York Times Magazine this week claims that the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) had knowledge of Osama Bin Laden's hiding place in Abbottabad. According to Gall, the ISI and Pakistan's military establishment also supported the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The piece is an excerpt from her new book, The Wrong Enemy: American in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, which argues that the failing American mission in Afghanistan is largely the result of Pakistani duplicity, which has consisted of the country taking American aid dollars while still covertly supporting the Taliban and other extremist groups.

Gall has reported extensively from Pakistan and Afghanistan for The New York Times, and is currently the newspaper's North Africa correspondent. We spoke by phone this week about the details of Pakistan's relationship to Bin Laden, the war in Afghanistan, and the long, depressing history of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Isaac Chotiner: What is the newest or biggest revelation about Bin Laden and his relationship with the ISI?

Carlotta Gall: The ISI was actually running a special desk within the organization to handle Bin Laden, which meant hide him and talk to him. They knew he was there and protected him. That has never been said before by anyone. I only have one source but it’s very convincing source and it had to be said and put out there.

IC: You took some criticism for the single source but there were two other interesting revelations. The first is that when you brought the issue of Pakistani knowledge up with American officials, who don’t want to criticize a nominal ally, they were sympathetic to what you had heard.

CG: Yes.

IC: And the second point, which I found the most convincing, was that Bin Laden was communicating with ISI assets, such as Hafiz Saeed, who is the head of a Pakistani extremist group. The point, I think, is that he wouldn’t be communicating with these people if he was concerned about the ISI finding him.

CG: Yes, he was communicating with people that the ISI talks to and is in close touch with.

IC: Do you have any sense of the substance of those communications, for example how much Bin Laden was revealing about where he was or what he was up to?

CG: There was a cell phone in the compound that revealed numbers to other connections in Pakistan. There were letters between him and Mullah Omar and him and Hafiz Saeed, and those are two people very close to the ISI. It is inconceivable to anyone who follows all this that the ISI did not know he was corresponding with them.

IC: But do you think he was communicating where he was?

CG: We know from the Americans that his courier was going to Peshawar and talking to people and bringing black flash drives with news and email for Bin Laden.
IC: You seem to be saying that we have made too many excuses for Pakistan, but what would full-on confrontation look like? That is very scary.

CG: I hope I am not suggesting that. Some people think I have it in for Pakistan. I don’t. I think the right course is diplomacy and pulling out of Afghanistan but still supporting both those countries and trying to move them to a better place. More openness with their people is required. You have to run a better government with more democracy and more openness. You have to discuss this. They need civilians to come in and get a grip on the country.

Riaz Haq said...

CNN security analyst says no evidence to support NY TIMES's Carlotta Gall's claims about Pakistan knowingly hiding bin Laden

The bin Laden story in the New York Times magazine is an extract from Gall's forthcoming book, "The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014."
Gall makes two astonishing claims in her Times magazine piece.
The first claim: An unnamed Pakistani official told her, based on what he had in turn heard from an unnamed senior U.S. official that "the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad." ISI is Pakistan's powerful military intelligence agency.
The second claim: "The ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: bin Laden...the top military bosses knew about it, I was told."
It is, of course, hard to prove negatives, but having spent around a year reporting intensively on the hunt for al Qaeda's leader for my 2012 book "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad," I am convinced that there is no evidence that anyone in the Pakistani government, military or intelligence agencies knowingly sheltered bin Laden.

How did I arrive at this conclusion?
On three reporting trips to Pakistan I spoke to senior officials in Pakistan's military and intelligence service. They all denied that they had secretly harbored bin Laden. OK, you are thinking: "But they would say that, wouldn't they?"
Well, what about the dozens of officials I spoke to in the U.S. intelligence community, Pentagon, State Department and the White House who also told me versions of "the Pakistanis had no idea that bin Laden was hiding in Abbottabad"?
During the course of reporting for my book I spoke on the record to, among others, John Brennan, now the CIA director and then President Obama's top counterterrorism adviser; then CIA Director Leon Panetta and his chief of staff, Jeremy Bash; then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton; then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen; then Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. James Cartwright; then director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Michael Leiter; then senior director for counterterrorism at the National Security Council, Nick Rasmussen; then head of policy at the Pentagon, Michele Flournoy; Michael Vickers, who was then the civilian overseer of Special Operations at the Pentagon; Tony Blinken, who is now the deputy national security adviser; and Denis McDonough, who held that position before Blinken.
These officials have collectively spent many decades working to destroy al Qaeda, and many are deeply suspicious of Pakistan for its continuing support for elements of the Taliban. But all of them told me in one form or another that Pakistani officials had no clue that bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.
Indeed, an early debate between senior national security officials at the White House, once CIA intelligence established that bin Laden could be hiding in Abbottabad, was whether to mount a joint U.S.-Pakistani raid on bin Laden's suspected hideout.
This plan was rejected because the officials were concerned that such a joint operation carried the risk that word would leak out about the bin Laden intelligence. This debate would have been moot if the Pakistanis already knew bin Laden was living in Abbottabad.
And, by the way, if the U.S. government had any evidence that the Pakistanis were knowingly sheltering bin Laden, as Gall claims, why cover this up?

Riaz Haq said...

Five scary Christopher Columbus quotes that let you celebrate the holiday the right way

1. Conquest: the perfect chaser for expelling Muslims and Jews. You don’t have to be an academic to link Spain’s colonial expansion abroad with its inquisition at home. Columbus made the connection himself. Of course he saw this as a good thing, not a bad one– a killer combo, if you will. He wrote to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain...

YOUR HIGHNESSES, as Catholic Christians and Princes who love the holy Christian faith, and the propagation of it, and who are enemies to the sect of Mahoma [Islam] and to all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Cristóbal Colon, to the said parts of India to see the said princes … with a view that they might be converted to our holy faith …. Thus, after having turned out all the Jews from all your kingdoms and lordships … your Highnesses gave orders to me that with a sufficient fleet I should go to the said parts of India …. I shall forget sleep, and shall work at the business of navigation, so that the service is performed.
2. These Natives are so nice, we’d be crazy not to enslave them! This excerpt from Columbus’ diary describes the Arawak people who greeted him and his men:

They … brought us parrots and balls of cotton and spears and many other things, which they exchanged for the glass beads and hawks’ bells. They willingly traded everything they owned… . They were well-built, with good bodies and handsome features…. They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron. Their spears are made of cane… . They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.
3. I was right about how easy that whole subjugation thing would be! In another letter to King Ferdinand, Columbus wrote

As soon as I arrived in the Indies, in the first island which I found, I took some of the natives by force, in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts. And so it was that they soon understood us, and we them, either by speech or by signs, and they have been very serviceable.
4. Rape! Columbus was such a mensch, he would let his men do whatever they wanted with the natives they captured. One of his men and a childhood friend of Columbus, Michele da Cuneo, describes in a letter how he raped a native woman:

While I was in the boat, I captured a very beautiful Carib woman, whom the said Lord Admiral gave to me. When I had taken her to my cabin she was naked—as was their custom. I was filled with a desire to take my pleasure with her and attempted to satisfy my desire. She was unwilling, and so treated me with her nails that I wished I had never begun. But—to cut a long story short—I then took a piece of rope and whipped her soundly, and she let forth such incredible screams that you would not have believed your ears. Eventually we came to such terms, I assure you, that you would have thought that she had been brought up in a school for whores.
5. Not so Christian. But the anecdote captured above was not some isolated incident of cruelty. Ironically, but in no way surprisingly, the Spanish who came to save the “heathens” from their idolatry, weren’t very Christ-like in their behavior. In his book The Devastation of the Indies. Bartolome de las Casas, the priest who accompanied Columbus on his conquest of Cuba, detailed the abuse and murder of the native population:

5. Not so Christian. But the anecdote captured above was not some isolated incident of cruelty. Ironically, but in no way surprisingly, the Spanish who came to save the “heathens” from their idolatry, weren’t very Christ-like in their behavior. ..

Riaz Haq said...

In Pakistan, despite the myth-making surrounding fundamentalism, the country is yet to develop a counter narrative to the anti-Western and pro-extremism agenda of militants. Following General Ziaul Haq's rule and Pakistan's involvement in the Afghan affairs, we are yet to turn the page on radicalism. Some accuse the madrassa culture for this, which has become a symbol of challenging the state through a parallel support system in the absence of robust national infrastructure. Others hint at the economic chasm between the haves and the have-nots, which is exploited by militants.

In such a context, the army introduced Sabawoon in 2009, an institution located in Mingora, Swat, which aims to deradicalise juvenile militants between the ages of 12 and 17, in order to rehabilitate them as productive members of society. A key objective here was to assist the millions who were displaced during the army's operation that attempted to expel the Taliban from Swat in 2009.

Sabawoon's underlying philosophy is to provide young people with a new chance at life.

During Operation Rah-e-Rast, several juvenile militants were apprehended or surrendered. They have been provided with education, vocational training and psychological counselling, as well as courses in ethics, patriotism and religious instruction. Once these individuals complete their training, they are absorbed into relevant occupations.

Sabawoon's most challenging task is to enable these young people to 'unlearn' what they have been taught about religion during their militancy training. Being captured at a young age by militants makes them sceptical to accepting an entirely contradictory doctrine at a later stage.

The second measure of success for the centre is following up on graduates and ensuring that they do not revert to their previous lives. Sabawoon's emphasis on imparting a secular curriculum geared towards harnessing professional skills, in addition to providing religious knowledge is praiseworthy. Being a first-of-its-kind endeavour to combat the menace of extremism, it provides a unique kind of intervention for young potential suicide bombers.

Through vocational training, it seeks to provide alternatives to bridge the poverty trap that is earmarked as a major the cause of extremism in the country. The question though is of scalability. In order to bring about transformation at a much wider level, it is vital to target juvenile militants across multiple geographical locations. The double-edged impact of madrassas is ubiquitous across the country, with young people systematically targeted across each province.

Therefore Sabawoon, rather than representing a single institution, must begin to symbolise a paradigm shift in the way of thinking represented by Pakistan's bureaucracy, private sector and military, through to its grass roots level organisations, when strategising counterterrorism techniques.

Secondly, when tackling root causes leading to the development of child soldiers and militants, the pitfall of 'madrassa closure' must be avoided, as it is likely to spark reactions among those who may view this as an anti-Islamic endeavour.

Instead, both the public and private sectors must begin effectively implementing regulations for professional registration of these institutions, monitor their standards and content of curriculum and demand accountability for non-adherence.

Whilst the Musharraf regime did attempt to undertake a madrassa reform plan, this was not successful. Following in Sabawoon's footsteps, other alternative interventions are the need of the hour.

Institutionalising counterterrorism will ensure that these productive options remain available to vulnerable individuals beyond a particular regime or leader.

In the lack of an effective deradicalisation framework for young militants (existing and potential), the country may witness another lost generation.

Riaz Haq said...

It’s hard to overstate the degree to which the killing of Osama bin Laden transformed American politics. From a purely practical standpoint, it enabled Obama to recast himself as a bold leader, as opposed to an overly cautious one, in advance of his 2012 re-election campaign. This had an undeniable impact on the outcome of that election. (‘‘Osama bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive,’’ Joe Biden was fond of boasting on the campaign trail.) Strategically, the death of bin Laden allowed Obama to declare victory over Al Qaeda, giving him the cover he needed to begin phasing U.S. troops out of Afghanistan. And it almost single-handedly redeemed the C.I.A., turning a decade-long failure of intelligence into one of the greatest triumphs in the history of the agency.

But bin Laden’s death had an even greater effect on the American psyche. Symbolically, it brought a badly wanted moment of moral clarity, of unambiguous American valor, to a murky war defined by ethical compromise and even at times by collective shame. It completed the historical arc of the 9/11 attacks. The ghastly image of collapsing towers that had been fixed in our collective minds for years was dislodged by one of Obama and his senior advisers huddled tensely around a table in the White House Situation Room, watching closely as justice was finally brought to the perpetrator.

The first dramatic reconstruction of the raid itself — ‘‘Getting bin Laden: What Happened That Night in Abbottabad’’ — was written by a freelancer named Nicholas Schmidle and published in The New Yorker just three months after the operation. The son of a Marine general, Schmidle spent a couple of years in Pakistan and has written on counterterrorism for many publications, including this magazine. His New Yorker story was a cinematic account of military daring, sweeping but also granular in its detail, from the ‘‘metallic cough of rounds being chambered’’ inside the two Black Hawks as the SEALs approached the compound, to the mud that ‘‘sucked at their boots’’ when they hit the ground. One of the SEALs who shot bin Laden, Matt Bissonnette, added a more personal dimension to the story a year later in a best-selling book, ‘‘No Easy Day.’’ Bowden focused on Washington, taking readers inside the White House as the president navigated what would become a defining moment of his presidency. And then there was ‘‘Zero Dark Thirty,’’ which chronicled the often barbaric C.I.A. interrogations that the agency said helped lead the United States to bin Laden’s compound.

It’s not that the truth about bin Laden’s death is unknowable; it’s that we don’t know it. And we can’t necessarily console ourselves with the hope that we will have more answers any time soon; to this day, the final volume of the C.I.A.’s official history of the Bay of Pigs remains classified. We don’t know what happened more than a half-century ago, much less in 2011.

There are different ways to control a narrative. There’s the old-fashioned way: Classify documents that you don’t want seen and, as Gates said, ‘‘keep mum on the details.’’ But there’s also the more modern, social-media-savvy approach: Tell the story you want them to believe. Silence is one way to keep a secret. Talking is another. And they are not mutually exclusive.

‘‘I love the notion that the government isn’t riddled with secrecy,’’ Hersh told me toward the end of our long day together. ‘‘Are you kidding me? They keep more secrets than you can possibly think. There’s stuff going on right now that I know about — amazing stuff that’s going on. I’ll write about it when I can. There’s stuff going out right now, amazing stuff in the Middle East. Are you kidding me? Of course there is. Of course there is.’’

Riaz Haq said...

More controversial is Hersh’s claim that Pakistan knew in advance about the SEAL team raid and allowed it to proceed, even helped facilitate it. This is the starkest departure from the standard story as it was reported previously. ...

Eleven days after the raid, an unbylined story appeared on GlobalPost, an American website specializing in foreign reporting. The dateline was Abbottabad; the story was headlined: ‘‘Bin Laden Raid: Neighbors Say Pakistan Knew.’’ A half-dozen people who lived near bin Laden’s compound told the reporter that plainclothes security personnel — ‘‘either Pakistani intelligence or military officers’’ — knocked on their doors a couple of hours before the raid and instructed them to turn the lights off and remain indoors until further notice. Some local people also told the reporter that they were directed not to speak to the media, especially the foreign media.

When I contacted the chief executive of GlobalPost, Philip Balboni, he told me he considered trying to aggressively publicize this narrative when he first posted it. ‘‘[B]ut that would have required resources that we did not possess at the time, and the information against it was so overwhelming that even we had to wonder if our sources were right,’’ he wrote me in an email.

Balboni put me in touch with the reporter, Aamir Latif, a 41-year-old Pakistani journalist. Latif, a former foreign correspondent for U.S. News and World Report, told me that he traveled to Abbottabad the day after bin Laden was killed and reported there for a couple of days. I asked him if he still believed that there was some level of Pakistani awareness of the raid. ‘‘Not awareness,’’ he answered instantly. ‘‘There was coordination and cooperation.’’

Latif, who kept his name off the original post because of the sensitivity of the subject in Pakistan, said that people in the area told him that they heard the U.S. helicopters and that surely the Pakistani military had, too: ‘‘The whole country was awake, only the Pakistani Army was asleep? What does that suggest to you?’’ Gall has also written that bin Laden’s neighbors heard the explosions at the compound and contacted the local police, but that army commanders told the police to stand down and leave the response to the military. The SEALs were on the ground for 40 minutes, but the Pakistani Army didn’t arrive until after they had left.

Gall’s best guess (and she emphasizes that it is just a guess) is that the United States alerted Pakistan to the bin Laden operation at the 11th hour. ‘‘I have no proof, but the more I think about it and the more I talk to Pakistani friends, the more I think it’s probably true that Kayani and Pasha were in on it,’’ Gall told me, referring to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was then the chief of the army staff, and Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, then the director general of the I.S.I. As for killing bin Laden, she said: ‘‘The scenario I imagine is that the Americans watched him and tracked him and never told the Pakistanis because they didn’t trust them, but when they decided to go ahead with the raid, I think they might have gone to Kayani and Pasha and said, ‘We’re going in, and don’t you dare shoot down our helicopters or else.’ ’’ (I should note that not every national-­security reporter, including some at The Times, agrees with Gall about the likelihood of high-level Pakistani complicity in either harboring bin Laden or helping kill him.)

Following Gall’s scenario to its logical conclusion, Pakistan would have faced an unappealing choice after the raid: acknowledge that it had cooperated and risk angering hard-liners for betraying bin Laden and abetting a U.S. military operation on Pakistani soil, or plead ignorance and incompetence.

‘‘The Pakistanis often fall back on, ‘We were incompetent,’ ’’ Gall said. ‘‘They don’t want their countrymen to know what they’re playing at. They fear there will be a backlash.’’

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan, Polio and the CIA
Jonathan Kennedy 8 September 2017

By the mid-2000s, Pakistan had almost eradicated polio: there were only 28 cases in 2005, 1.4 per cent of the global total. But there have been 380 in the last three years, 81 per cent of polio cases worldwide. More than half of them were in the semi-autonomous Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of northwest Pakistan, where only 2 per cent of the population live.

After the invasion of Afghanistan by American-led forces in 2001, many Taliban fighters relocated to the FATA, from where they launched cross-border attacks. The Pakistani army tried to bring the region under government control but the incursion aggrieved local communities, who joined forces with the militants. The CIA used drone strikes to support Pakistani military action from 2004 onwards. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, there have been 428 drone strikes, leading to between 2511 and 4020 fatalities.
Vaccination campaigns were suspected of being a smokescreen for collecting intelligence ahead of drone strikes. Organisations involved in the Pakistan Polio Eradication Initiative include the Pakistani state and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Polio vaccinators visit the FATA every few months, walking from door-to-door, offering to vaccinate children, and recording who has been vaccinated. The data is collected for public health purposes, but you can see how it might be misconstrued as intelligence gathering.

There have also been complaints that ‘billions of dollars’ are spent on vaccination campaigns when ‘polio infects one child in a million’, while malnutrition and diarrhoea receive far less attention from the international community despite causing much more suffering. Polio workers have been attacked and vaccination campaigns interrupted, reducing the number of children being immunised and leading to an increase in polio cases.

Between 2004 and 2012, the numbers of drone strikes and polio cases corresponded closely. Until mid-2008, the US carried out a small number of drone strikes to assist Pakistani military operations and there were relatively few polio cases. From mid-2008, the number of drones strikes increased rapidly, peaking in 2010 at 128. The number of polio cases also rose markedly, reaching 198 cases the following year. Drone strikes were reduced after 2012 because of concerns they were destabilising Pakistan and generating anti-American sentiment. Polio also decreased rapidly between 2011 and 2012.

But it increased sharply from 2012, hitting 306 cases in 2014. Before the assassination of Osama bin Laden in May 2011, the CIA organised a fake hepatitis B vaccination campaign in Abbottabad in a failed attempt to obtain his relatives’ DNA. When the story broke a few months later, it seemed to vindicate people’s suspicions of the polio programmes in the FATA. ‘As long as drone strikes are not stopped in Waziristan,’ one militant leader declared, ‘there will be a ban on administering polio jabs’ because immunisation campaigns are ‘used to spy for America against the Mujahideen’. More than 3.5 million children went unvaccinated as a result of the boycott and associated disruption, in which several health workers were killed. Polio increased in Pakistan and further afield, as the virus spread to Afghanistan and the Middle East.

The CIA have conducted only a handful of drone strikes in Pakistan in recent years and polio is now at an all-time low. But the plan to eradicate the disease may face further setbacks. ‘We can no longer be silent,’ President Trump said last month, ‘about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations, the Taliban and other groups that pose a threat to the region and beyond.’

Riaz Haq said...

Why al-Qaida is still strong 16 years after 9/11
September 10, 2017 8.40pm EDT
Much of the credit goes to al-Qaida’s extraordinary ability to both form alliances and sustain them over time and under pressure.

In my forthcoming book “Alliances for Terror,” I examine why a small number of groups, such as al-Qaida and IS, emerge as desirable partners and succeed at developing alliance networks.

Understanding terrorist alliances is critical because terrorist organizations with allies are more lethal, survive longer and are more apt to seek weapons of mass destruction. Though terrorist partnerships face numerous hurdles and severing al-Qaida’s alliances has been a U.S. objective for over a decade, the fact is that these counterterrorism efforts have failed.

It was allies that enabled al-Qaida to survive the immediate aftermath of 9/11. The Afghan Taliban stood by al-Qaida after the attack, refusing to surrender bin Laden and thereby precipitating the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Fleeing, al-Qaida was able to turn to allies in Pakistan to hide its operatives and punish the Pakistani government for capitulating to U.S. pressure to crackdown on the group.

It was alliances that helped al-Qaida continue to terrorize. In October 2002, for example, al-Qaida’s ally in Southeast Asia, Jemaah Islamiyah, struck a bar and a nightclub in Bali, killing more than 200 and injuring more than 200 more, to brutally commemorate the first anniversary of 9/11.

And it was alliances that allowed al-Qaida to project viability. With the “prestige” that came with conducting 9/11, al-Qaida was able to forge more of them and indeed create affiliate alliances in which partners adopted its name and pledged allegiance to bin Laden.

Al-Qaida’s first and most notorious affiliate alliance, al-Qaida in Iraq, was formed in 2004 with Jordanian jihadist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Using the standing he accrued through his role in the insurgency in Iraq, Zarqawi then helped al-Qaida acquire its second affiliate in 2006, al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Then, in 2009, al-Qaida designated its branch in Yemen and Saudi Arabia as al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Its alliances spanned the Middle East and helped it to project power, despite the U.S. war on terrorism.

While al-Qaida still sought affiliates, by 2010, it modified how its alliances work.

Al-Qaida forged an alliance with al-Shabaab in Somalia, but did not publicly announce it or ask al-Shabaab to change its name. Bin Laden justified to al-Shabaab’s leader the shift to a less visible form of alliance as a way to prevent an increase in counterterrorism pressure or a loss of funds from the Arabian Peninsula. He privately expressed concerns that al-Qaida’s name “reduces the feeling of Muslims that we belong to them, and allows the enemies to claim deceptively that they are not at war with Islam.” Bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, saw the move as bin Laden capitulating to members of al-Qaida who worried about “inflating the size and the growth of al-Qaida.” After bin Laden’s death, Zawahiri publicly announced al-Qaida’s alliance with al-Shabaab, though al-Shabaab still did not adopt al-Qaida’s name.

Though al-Qaida’s alliance arrangements have varied, these relationships have helped it to survive the loss of its founding leader in 2011 and the ascent of a far less capable leader. Zawahiri’s rise to the helm of the group was the consequence of an alliance, specifically between his original Egyptian group, al-Jihad, and al-Qaida. The alliance culminated in a merger in 2001, with Zawahiri becoming bin Laden’s deputy and successor.

However, Zawahiri lacks bin Laden’s cachet or diplomatic savvy. He is a better deputy than a leader. His poor handling of the strife between jihadist group al-Nusra in Syria and its parent organization, the Islamic State in Iraq (previously al-Qaida in Iraq and now IS), led to the alliance rupture between al-Qaida and its affiliate in Iraq.

Riaz Haq said...

Sen Bernie Sanders: The War on #Terror ‘Has Been a Disaster for the #American People’ #Terrorism … via @thedailybeast

Sanders’ biggest foreign policy speech yet will defend the Iran Deal, call out Putin, and blast the struggle against global jihadism as giving terrorists ‘exactly what they want.’

Fresh from pulling the Democratic Party leftward on health care, Bernie Sanders wants to do the same on geopolitics. The independent socialist senator will use a Thursday speech at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri—where Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” address—to catalyze an intra-progressive debate on foreign-policy principles.
It’s a speech likely to make waves. Like U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn before him, Sanders will call the war on terrorism a “disaster,” The Daily Beast has learned.
“The Global War on Terror has been a disaster for the American people and for American leadership,” Sanders will say Thursday in perhaps his biggest foreign-policy speech to date, according to an excerpt seen by The Daily Beast.

Riaz Haq said...

Prince Charles: “I know there are so many complex issues, but how can there ever be an end to terrorism unless the causes are eliminated?” .....“Surely some US president has to have the courage to stand up and take on the Jewish lobby in the US? I must be naive, I suppose!”

Riaz Haq said...

Fugitive #Taliban leader Mullah Omar lived short walk from #American base, died and buried in #Afghanistan in 2013 , book reveals

The Taliban’s elusive one-eyed leader Mullah Omar lived within walking distance of US bases in Afghanistan for years, and American troops once even searched the house where he was hiding but failed to find a secret room built for him, a new biography claims.

The account exposes an embarrassing failure of US intelligence, which put a $10m bounty on Omar’s head after the 9/11 attacks in the US. Officials repeatedly suggested that, like the al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, he was hiding in Pakistan and died there.

It also upends the Taliban’s own account of their movement, revealing how Omar handed over practical control of the insurgency to his deputies in 2001, even though they claimed him as leader for the rest of his life, and for two years after his death in 2013.

While statements issued in his name were scrutinised around the world, he was living as a virtual hermit, refusing visits from his family, filling notebooks with jottings in an invented language and occasionally hiding from US patrols in irrigation tunnels.

Omar fell ill in 2013, coughing, vomiting, and eventually losing his appetite, but he refused any form of medical care. Omari offered to bring him a doctor or drive him to Pakistan, but Omar appeared resigned to his fate and died on 23 April.

Omari buried him that night, and made a video to show to Omar’s son Yaqub and half-brother Abdul Manan. They had not seen Omar since 2001, but travelled to his hideout several days later and insisted on opening the grave to confirm it was him.

They confirmed that it was Omar’s corpse buried in a simple grave in a remote corner of Zabul, but it would be two years before they admitted to their own fighters, and the rest of the world, that the one-eyed ascetic who once defined their movement had died.

Riaz Haq said...

Exclusive: #US #SpecialOps aviator reveals #BinLaden mission details for the first time: #American Chinook helicopter on its way back from Abbottabad was engaged 3 times by a #Pakistani F-16. #Pakistan felt like “metropolis United States". #Afghanistan

Crossing into Pakistan was emotional for everyone.

“You know, it’s almost like there’s a road sign, ‘Stop, take a picture of Welcome to Pakistan.’ Even the crew members in the back, were like, ‘We’re in, right? Pakistan?’ And I’m like, ‘Yep’,” Englen said.

The deeper they flew into Pakistan, the more it felt like “metropolis United States,” with power lines, towers, cultural lighting. The contrast was stark: they were in a completely different country, much more prosperous than Afghanistan.

"You could see lights coming off and on,” said Englen. “You could tell that we are waking up Pakistan, because this is not normal. An aircraft flying at roughly 11:30 to midnight is not normal, because they (Pakistan military aircraft) don’t play at night as much as we do. In fact, at all, sometimes.”

While the local populace was aware something was up (and began tweeting and calling 911), the special operations aviators weren’t getting indications that the Pakistani military or the Air Force was keen on what they were doing.

“But, it’s paramilitary, so we just knew that eventually they would. We made it to the objective without really causing too much of a ruckus over the 911 calls. (But,) once we crashed the aircraft, within the first 30 seconds of the mission, then that’s when we really woke up that entire valley,” Englen said.

Hearing “Black Hawk down” over the radio changed everything.

Englen’s single Chinook raced across Abbottabad to pick up the ground force and air crew, arriving within 10 minutes of the call.

As he landed under the mushroom cloud of the exploding Black Hawk, the flight lead and planner was pissed off.

“I think crashing a helicopter on one of the most important missions of our generation, and later being asked by the director of the CIA (Leon Panetta), ‘Why the hell did you crash?’ I think that’s enough said,” Englen stated.

“It was hotter than expected for the MH-60 crews, and it had more fuel than expected. And they’re throwing on more last minute ground force. So, that (Black Hawk) crew — that had the famous last words to my two MH-47 (Chinook) crews before leaving Jalalabad of, ‘Just get us gas, bitches’ — had miscalculated, and came into that courtyard and lost effective lift,” Englen explained.

“Now, in retrospect, we could have done it with two Chinooks, the entirety. And more than likely — I don’t want to ever second-guess anybody —but in this condition, we would not have crashed, because we (the Chinooks) have the lift,” Englen said.

On the objective, his crew chiefs on the ramp, hopped out do a head count.

"They've got to get the headcount right, to make sure (we've) got the right amount of fuel. Plus, remember, we had people already on board, and this 800-gallon fuel tank inside. So there wasn't a whole lot of space (on board)," Englen explained.

While they were loading up inside, the Chinook was vulnerable.

“There’s nobody to protect us (the aircraft and crew) while we’re on the ground. Ever. When we’re on the ground, it’s just us,” he said. “So just hit the stop watch.”

They were on the ground for probably a minute and a half. It sounds like nothing. But for special operations aviators of the 160th, that’s an eternity.

Riaz Haq said...

Book review: 'The Mirage' by Matt Ruff

I found myself thinking about Dick and “The Man in the High Castle” as I read Matt Ruff’s “The Mirage,” which offers an alternative universe of its own. Here, it’s not World War II that’s turned on its head but the War on Terror, with a fundamentalist America — a collection of rogue states and small theocracies — as the antagonists against a secular Islamic democracy called the United Arab States.

In such a world, 9/11 never happened; rather, it is 11/9, the mirror image, in which Christian terrorists “hijacked four commercial passenger jetliners … crash[ing] two of them into the Tigris and Euphrates World Trade Towers in downtown Baghdad, Iraq, and a third into the Arab Defense Ministry headquarters in the federal district of Riyadh. The fourth plane, which is believed to have been bound for either the Presidential Palace in Riyadh or, possibly, Mecca … crashed in Arabia’s Empty Quarter after its passengers attempted to retake control from the hijackers.” After these attacks, the UAS captures Denver, then launches a wider military campaign on the East Coast, establishing a “Green Zone” in the hostile environs of Washington, D.C.

This is a terrific setup, using fiction to take events and tweak them, albeit recognizably. Yet for all the enthusiasm Ruff brings to his efforts, the illusion never feels completely real. Why? A couple of reasons, I think, beginning with the proximity of the narrative to recent experience.

For me, the most effective alternate histories are the most organic, those that have an internal logic of their own. That’s what Dick did in “The Man in the High Castle” — or what William Gibson and Bruce Sterling did in “The Difference Engine,” Philip Roth in “The Plot Against America,” Michael Chabon in “The Yiddish Policemen’s Union” — to create a world that stands alongside the real one, while not depending on it, exactly, for all its context clues. Thus, while these novels feature historical players (Goebbels, Göring, or, in the case of Roth, Charles Lindbergh), they are not protagonists but more part of the social fabric.


I can buy Saddam Hussein as a John Gotti-like master of the underworld; that’s not so far from what he was in life. But while it’s funny, shocking even, to imagine Osama bin Laden as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, he behaves in a manner more befitting a terrorist than an elected official — even in this mirror world. Then there’s LBJ, who, in these pages, survives to become an American Saddam, as well as David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh, both part of the American insurgency, a fragmented movement led by, among others, Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney. The idea, I suppose, is to use the alternate landscape of the novel to comment on the absurdities of our situation, but it’s never quite clear what all these people have to do with one another or how they ended up within the same sphere.


To mitigate this, perhaps, Ruff creates his own form of chaos by evoking, à la Dick, a pathway back to the actual world. This takes the form of artifacts (a New York Times from Sept. 12, 2001, reporting a terrorist strike on Manhattan; Iraqi bank notes bearing Saddam’s image) that hint at the existence of a reality beyond that of the novel — another interesting idea but again one that isn’t fully developed, relying on coincidence, on supernatural phenomena to explain how the whole thing unfolds.

I don’t want to give too much away, but in the end, this leaves the imagined world a flimsy simulacrum, with no particular integrity of its own. The same is true of the history Ruff creates, interweaving throughout the book a series of pages from the Wikipedia-like “Library of Alexandria” (“a user-edited reference source”) that seek to answer context questions yet never explain convincingly how a tolerant secular Arab union arose out of the Ottoman Empire or how the U.S. descended into tribal war.

Riaz Haq said...

#POTUS #Biden announces the killing of #AlQaeda leader #AymanZawahiri in a #drone strike on #Kabul, #Afghanistan.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who sources say was killed by a US drone strike, Zawahiri, had remained a visible international symbol of the group — 11 years after the US killed Osama bin Laden.

At one point, he acted as bin Laden's personal physician.

Zawahiri comes from a distinguished Egyptian family, according to the New York Times. He eventually helped to mastermind the deadliest terror attack on American soil, when hijackers turned US airliners into missiles.

"Those 19 brothers who went out and gave their souls to Allah almighty, God almighty has granted them this victory we are enjoying now," al-Zawahiri said in a videotaped message released in April 2002.

It was the first of many taunting messages the terrorist — who became al Qaeda's leader after US forces killed bin Laden in 2011 — would send out over the years, urging militants to continue the fight against America and chiding US leaders.

Zawahiri was constantly on the move once the US-led invasion of Afghanistan began after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. At one point, he narrowly escaped a US onslaught in the rugged, mountainous Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, an attack that left his wife and children dead.

He made his public debut as a Muslim militant when he was in prison for his involvement in the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

He spent three years in prison after Sadat's assassination and claimed he was tortured while in detention. After his release, he made his way to Pakistan, where he treated wounded mujahadeen fighters who fought against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

That was when he met bin Laden and found a common cause.

"We are working with brother bin Laden," he said in announcing the merger of his terror group, Egyptian Islamic Jihad, with al Qaeda in May 1998. "We know him since more than 10 years now. We fought with him here in Afghanistan."

Together, the two terror leaders signed a fatwa, or declaration: "The judgment to kill and fight Americans and their allies, whether civilians or military, is an obligation for every Muslim."

The attacks against the United States and its facilities began weeks later, with the suicide bombings of US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 200 people and wounded more than 5,000 others. Zawahiri and bin Laden gloated after they escaped a US cruise missile attack in Afghanistan that had been launched in retaliation.

Then, there was the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen in October 2000, when suicide bombers on a dinghy detonated their boat, killing 17 American sailors and wounding 39 others.

The culmination of Zawahiri's terror plotting came on September 11, 2001, when nearly 3,000 people were killed in the attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. A fourth hijacked airliner, headed for Washington, crashed in a Pennsylvania field after passengers fought back.

Since then, Zawahiri raised his public profile, appearing on numerous video and audiotapes to urge Muslims to join the jihad against the United States and its allies. Some of his tapes were followed closely by terrorist attacks. In May 2003, for instance, almost simultaneous suicide bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed 23 people, including nine Americans, days after a tape thought to contain Zawahiri's voice was released.

The US State Department had offered a reward of up to $25 million for information leading directly to his capture. A June 2021 United Nations report suggested he was located somewhere in the border region of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and that he may have been too frail to be featured in propaganda.

Riaz Haq said...

today is the 21st anniversary of 9/11, and also of the entire media class losing their minds over Chomsky telling some uncomfortable truths about it


today is also the 49th anniversary of the first 9/11, a much worse act of state terror conveniently memory-holed by the Western media and political class because the US sponsored it: the fascist military coup against Chile's socialist government


as the media class began the "War on Terror" propaganda, in November 2001 Chomsky was pointing out that the US is the world's leading terrorist state and that "it's a great error to describe terrorism as the weapon of the weak: it's a weapon of the strong, and always has been."


right after 9/11 the first major part of the so-called "War on Terror" was the US empire's illegal invasion of Afghanistan under false pretenses, destroying the country and killing over 200.000 over the next 2 decades. The entire media class cheered it on


the next target of the "War on Terror" was Iraq, and here too the media class played a key role in manufacturing consent for the destruction of the country and the killing of over 1 million, which remains the greatest crime of the 21st century


despite the pervasive hysterical propaganda, there was also opposition to the "War on Terror" from ordinary people, most notably against the war on Iraq with the largest global demonstrations in history. Here is Corb