Intelligence: Leave No One Behind

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September 13, 2011: Over the last four months, Pakistan has arrested several Pakistanis who aided the U.S. in finding Osama bin Laden, and has banned others from leaving the country. American intelligence officials want to get many of these helpful Pakistanis out of Pakistan, both to safeguard and reward them. This is crucial for future intelligence operations. If a country can demonstrate that it takes care of those who help, more will be willing to step forward. Otherwise, local help will be hard to find.

Meanwhile, Pakistan continues to deny, at least publically, that it knew Osama bin Laden was hiding out in a military town (Abbottabad), surrounded by retired generals and less than a kilometer from the national military academy. But the U.S. believed senior people in the Pakistani military, and its intel organization (ISI), knew. American officials are accusing Pakistani officials that they were either in on the bin Laden sanctuary deal, or were incompetent. This is why Pakistan was given no advance warning of the raid. The Pakistanis were apparently informed once the raid was underway, and Pakistani troops assisted by cordoning off the bin Laden compound, and taking possession after the Americans left (less than an hour after they arrived.)

Increasingly, over the past few years, the U.S. has presented the Pakistani government with clear evidence of the Pakistani army and intel services playing both sides. Pakistan either denied the evidence or promised something would be done, but did nothing (or very little.) After the May 2nd raid, the Pakistani military announced that they were investigating the bin Laden situation, but there is little confidence that anything (beyond more lies and deception) would come from that. The U.S. is pressuring Pakistan to actively help determine the extent of pro-terrorist activity in the ISI and army. So far, Pakistan has resisted this, probably because the ISI is seen as the holder of many secrets, including some that could be embarrassing (or worse) to Pakistani politicians trying to investigate the ISI.

The situation gets worse for the Pakistani generals. Since the bin Laden raid, more Wikileaks documents have come out, showing captured al Qaeda claiming that ISI and Pakistani troops supported Islamic terrorists in India and helped them get across the border into Kashmir so that they could "kill Indians". Pakistan has always denied this, although the evidence against Pakistan has grown year by year since the 1990s.

There is no hard evidence that the Pakistanis were complicit in hiding bin Laden in town just north of their capital, at least none has been made public. Lots of documents were taken during the bin Laden raid. It’s pretty certain that not all the interesting stuff in those documents has been made public. For one thing, it’s difficult to believe that the bin Laden docs didn’t settle the issue of what kind of Pakistani support al Qaeda has been getting over the years. Perhaps the U.S. and Pakistan are still negotiating over what Pakistan will do for the U.S. to ensure that embarrassing items about Pakistan are not revealed right now.

There is already considerable evidence that some Pakistani military personnel and organizations were in on it. What is certain about the Pakistani military is that they are very corrupt, not very effective (they have lost every war they were in) and consider themselves a caste apart in Pakistan. The military considers themselves as the only disciplined organization in an otherwise chaotic nation. That's why the military periodically takes over, then lets democracy resume control after 5-10 years (once the generals are reminded that running a dictatorship in Pakistan is very difficult). But the failure to even detect the American raiders, much less interfere with the raid, has enraged many Pakistanis. It's not just the Americans who want answers.

But at the moment, the most important thing about the bin Laden raid is that the U.S. get its local helpers out of the country, and out of trouble.

 

 


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