News / Asia

    Bin Laden Raid Raises Questions About Pakistan

    The bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
    The bin Laden compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan
    Gary Thomas

    It had long been assumed in many quarters that Osama bin Laden was hiding in some remote part of Pakistan’s tribal areas, perhaps in a small village or isolated cave.  But he was found not in a cave but in a well-protected, high-walled compound in Abbottabad, a Pakistani city that is home to several major military installations, including the officers’ military academy.  The bin Laden raid has put new tensions on an already strained U.S.-Pakistan relationship.

    The discovery of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad has raised sharp questions, the key one being, was he hiding, or was he being hidden by accomplices in Pakistan’s military or intelligence service?  

    Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri said the question is still open. "They were either knowledgeable or they’re incompetent.  And I think we’re not sure yet which it is," she said.

    Shaun Gregory, director of the Pakistan Security Research Unit at Britain’s University of Bradford, says it is inconceivable that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, the ISI, did not know bin Laden was there. "Is it really believable that this famous guy, [nearly 2 meters tall], moves around and manages to evade the United States for 10 years and the ISI, if we’re to believe that they’re hunting him?  I think the answer to that is no," he said.

    The ISI has been repeatedly accused of aiding some militant groups, notably the Afghan Taliban and Kashmiri separatist groups like Lashkar-i-Taiba.  Pakistan has repeatedly denied that charge.

    However, retired Australian Army officer Brian Cloughley, who served as military attaché in Islamabad and keeps in close contact with the Pakistani military, says the ISI keeps up contact with militant groups for intelligence purposes.  He says he got this on no less authority that the Pakistani army chief, General Asfaq Kayani, whose previous job was director of the spy agency.

    "All this stems from the fact that ISI - and Kayani told me this personally when he was DG [director-general of] ISI - ISI does talk to the bad guys.  Now, this isn’t as stupid as it sounds.  And as Kayani said to me, I do it because I like to know where they are.  If I don’t talk to them, they’re going to go right underground, and I’ll never know where they are," he said.

    But even if the ISI was aiding certain groups, it was widely assumed it would not protect the world’s most wanted man. However, Shaun Gregory says Osama bin Laden, a Saudi by birth, had powerful backers in his ancestral homeland. "You mustn’t lose sight of the relationship between rich and powerful Saudis and rich and powerful people in Pakistan, including in the military. There’s a whole sort of clandestine network here and relationship here that we simply don’t see in the Western media, that the Saudis give vast amounts of money to Pakistanis for certain things. My understanding is that Raymond Davis, for example, the blood money that was paid for him was paid by the Saudis. I think there’s some very powerful interests in Saudi that wanted to keep bin Laden safe," he said.

    Davis is a reported CIA contractor who was arrested in Pakistan for killing two men he said were attempting to rob him.  He was released after the families of the victims were paid $2.4 million from undisclosed sources, but the case further soured already strained U.S.-Pakistani relations.

    It was also accepted wisdom that bin Laden would be in some remote part of Pakistan’s tribal areas.  Analyst Larry Goodson of the U.S. Army War College says he does not know if bin Laden was hiding or being hidden in Abbottabad.  But he adds that, given that U.S. aerial drones were searching high and low for the al-Qaida leader, being where he was found makes sense. "I’ll just say that whether he was hiding or being hidden, Abbottabad kept him far from the border, away from being easily hit by any kind of unmanned [aerial] vehicle, and where whoever was involved in the hiding could keep a good eye on him. So that’s why I think he was where he was," he said.

    Lisa Curtis, South Asia Research Fellow at the Heritage Foundation, says building a fortified compound like bin Laden’s would have aroused suspicion, or at least curiosity, in the area and would - or should - have come to the attention of authorities. "It really defies credulity that they did not know more about who was in that compound, what they were doing.   It seems very difficult to understand that. And I think that what we can say is that they were not prioritizing the hunt for bin Laden, or perhaps turning a blind eye," she said.

    But Brian Cloughley says large fortified compounds are not so unusual as to draw scrutiny.   The area is full of well-to-do people, including former military officers, who value privacy. "They’ve all got compounds.  Small houses are within high-walled compounds.  Everyone’s got high walls. There’s nothing unusual about it.  And the people who live in places like Abbottabad are naturally withdrawn-type people, they’re retiring people.  They don’t want interference. And they don’t interfere with other people," he said.

    Congressional hearings are planned on what Pakistan might have known about Osama bin Laden’s whereabouts, and some members of Congress have called for a re-evaluation of U.S. aid to Pakistan.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora