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

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

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.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid