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

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

America's Most Exotic Presidential Pets

From alligators to bears, the White House has been home to some unusual presidential pets over the years 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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs