Osama Bin Laden, dead from a U.S. Navy Seal bullet to the head and one to the chest, and unceremoniously disposed at sea, and already the rumors and spin have begun. But, there are some facts that will remain tenable. There is no question that despite attempts at downplaying bin Laden’s significance, his death is of great symbolic value to the United States and in particular the families of the 2,819 innocent murdered victims from the towers, whose scattered 19,858 body parts underscore the reasons why Americans take this one “good kill” to heart. Al Qaeda may proclaim bin Laden martyrdom, and the Pakistani establishment press may attempt to diminish his importance, but it is an empty refrain, because bin Laden went out of this world violently, facing his nemesis the “Great Satan,” face-to-face before a bullet shut him up forever. Nothing can erase this perfect moment of justice for Americans.
Almost immediately the voices of anguish from al Qaeda apologists are ringing out: “Now Pakistani rulers, President Zardari and the army will be our first targets. America will be our second target,” grimly declares Ehsanullah Ehsan, a spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Then, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh weighed-in, “We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood;” Not to be outdone, General Musharraf called the operation by US forces to kill al Qaeda leader and 9/11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad near Islamabad “a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.” (source: Reuters).
Continuing the current spin from fact is the FCS (fake civil society) within Pakistan who are already centering on the fears of a threat of retaliation from al Qaeda for Pakistan and the U.S. to confuse the issue. Further, there are already appearing in print, attempts to portray the Pakistani military and ISI in a better light; as having more control than they in fact did in this operation. The myth of alleged ISI cooperation or “lack of resistance” in this successful hit is a falsehood. The ISI and Pakistan military were not involved, and were not in a position to give up bin Laden as some have suggested. This narrative is to weaken the perception of the U.S. involvement and retain the sense of power that the security establishment has over the people of Pakistan. Instead, Intelligence officials had been conducting lengthy reconnaissance work prior to receiving their key tip in August. Senior administration officials cite that, suspected 9/11 terrorists in custody including, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, identified a courier who had a close relationship with bin Laden. The courier’s identity was discovered four years ago, and subsequently, two years ago, CIA operatives identified areas in Pakistan where the courier and his brother were alleged to be staying. This was a secret operation undisclosed to the Pakistani security apparatus.
Further fabrications will attempt to diminish this watershed moment by insisting that al Qaeda is less important than it is. The apologists will remind us that the current struggles in the FATA, the Haqqani network in Kurram Agency, and LeT, Le J, are al Qaeda mutations that will be given new recruits and new energy. This is a common narrative to suggest that anything that is done swells the ranks of the terrorists. The truth is that these groups have been contained and continue to be contained and disrupted by the cloud of terror hovering above them, the Predator drone, and U.S. and allied forces in the region. The calling-off of recent strikes were only part of the overall strategy to keep bin Laden comfortable while tactical maneuvers were worked out for the successful assault. The mutations of al Qaeda notwithstanding, does not decrease one iota the importance of this high-value assassination within the heartland of Pakistan. BinLaden’s cover was sufficiently penetrated to allow this complex operation, and so there is a good reason to believe that the organization itself has been penetrated and compromised as well. Any way you look at it, Osama bin Laden’s death within the Abbottabad compound represents a major defeat to all Wahhabi/Salafi jihadists and global terrorist goals, in general.
The sad truth is that the security apparatus of Pakistan struggled against CIA operatives, not in harmony, but as adversaries in this and other secret ops, from Raymond Davis to the very neighborhood of the Abbottabad complex. Key intelligence was not distributed to the CIA from any Pakistani government official; the information was supplied by terrorist detainees noted above, that required years of undercover work in spite of Pakistani security forces, not because of them. So, this should not be seen as Pakistan providing a high-value target that was no longer necessary to protect. Nor should Pakistan officials be seen as giving the U.S government an opportunity to kill its ‘public enemy number one’ for continued monetary gain. In fact, according to the Guantanamo cables, the ISI was accused recently by U.S. Admiral Mike Mullen of having terrorist links, and named as a terrorist support entity by US officials. So, abrogating the confusion what might develop out of Right Wing FCS mythology, this event should be seen clearly as it is: the CIA and black ops surveillance, and intense investigation penetrated the determined efforts against them; efforts of the Pakistani military and ISI that had presumably sequestered bin Laden in luxury in a newly built compound 1000 yards from Kakul Military Academy; the same academy where ISI and military cadets graduate, within a community of retired military officials in Abbottabad, as every Pakistani knows is a mere 50 kms from the capital, Islamabad. Thus, this remains a victory for the United States and its allies- the Pakistani people are at the head of this list of beneficiaries.
The establishment press prefers to cast the United States as a hulking, dumb giant that is duped into emptying its pockets to buy Pakistani loyalty. Consider the pathetic role with which this casts both the U.S. and Pakistan. The reality is contrary to this simplistic notion. The United States’ economy is on the upswing; it did not become the most powerful nation in the world by being dumb and naïve. The U.S. is aware of the duplicitous role of many within the ranks of the Pakistani establishment, not to mention an ISI-backed Supreme Court. It is also aware of the resistance the America-friendly Zardari government gets, from the chattering class of upper class urban elites.
A quick survey of the Right Wing media, displays a trend to subtlety degrade this momentous event. Naysayers prefer fear-tactics that exaggerate and warn of the revenge coming the way of American citizens and the Pakistani democratic-minded Asif Zardari and, of course, the relentless demonization the PPP. None of these attempts should depreciate these hard-won gains we have made. Still the press will present crafted half-truths in anti-American zeal, within the establishment’s “liberal-progressive” English media and Urdu by the likes of Ansar Abbasi, Hamid Mir, the Urdu columnists, Orya Maqbool Jan, Irfan Siddiqi of Jang will be nonetheless recognized as spinning misconceptions in the Urdu press. I contend that more and more, Pakistan’s urban intelligentsia and the blatant Right Wing proxy investigative journalists are beginning to be seen for the dishonest analysis they provide.
The thinly veiled list of dubious players that the United States has fully recognized as involved in the double game include General Kayani, even though the U.S. does business with him; Lieutenant-General Ahmad Pasha, General Hamid Gul, the rakish, politically flip-flopping Imran Khan, who preaches radical religious values while hobnobbing with Western elites, and despite his Harvard awards, the misogynist Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary, who is Supreme League of Pakistan (SLOP) which is even alleged to be a political wing of ISI, all of whom do not elude U.S. officials nor, the Pakistani government for what they are – al Qaeda and Taliban enablers.
It is also true, but not a diminishing factor, that the death of al Qaeda’s leader will not diminish the struggle against the extant radical Islamists who, of course, remain a threat. CIA director Panetta says al Qaeda will “almost certainly” attempt to avenge bin Laden death. The new CIA General David Petraeus is a highly sophisticated, PhD, that will bring a broad perspective to this post and a great sense of responsibility. So, to suggest that regional Islamic radical groups cannot be contained is to ignore the progress made, able leadership, and our continued reliance on each other, despite the obstacles. There is not a Global Caliphate of Islamist Jihad, unless it exists in the dreams of the feckless Salafist existing in his own mind. There are instead disparate groups of sick mischief. The Lashkar-e-Toiba, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, TTP, Jaish-e-Muhammad, Jundullah, Sipah-e-Sahaba will remain splintered organizations from al Qaeda or homegrown by the security establishment. In assessing our future goals we should not ignore our past gains; the top operational planners killed and captured, the more than three thousand terrorist operatives arrested since Sept. 11, 2001, or forget the hundreds in detention at Guantanamo Naval Base, Cuba, and killed courtesy of Predator drones in Waziristan. To forget this is the motive of those that will now seek to reduce our enthusiasms in order to promote their agendas.
It is momentous occasions such as this that bring evil to the surface. The keen observer will soon identify those among us that are fighting terrorism, or are apologists for it. The recent assassin of Salmaan Taseer, for example, brought the likes of Ameer of Jamaat-e-Islami, Syed Munawar Hassan, and senior Barelvi leaders to the surface, including the various professors that called the assassin of Salmaan Taseer, Mumtaz Qadri, “‘Ashiqe Rasool Ghaziye Mulk (Lover of the Prophet, Commander of the Country).” If we listen they will tell us who they are; such remarks are typical of the element that needs to be identified and marginalized. Such is the responsibility of Pakistani citizens to watch their backs in this environment.
Some will have a subtle twist to the truth. The way one phrases a sentence, such as: “so-called war on terror,” serves to undermine the reality of killers in our midst. As if the hundreds of innocents killed or assassinated in Lahore, Islamabad, FATA and abroad are so much past history. The ruse is as follows: diminish the importance of Osama bin Laden, exaggerate the resultant threat of retaliation, accentuate the evils of the U.S., undermine the Pakistani leadership and PPP; emphasize the plight of Pakistan-as-victim of the Western world.
In addition, there is widespread misinformation that characterizes the United States as not an ally or friend, but rather an enemy of the state, which wishes to neutralize Pakistan in some way. The attempt to cast America as “imperialistic” plays well in the Middle East and South Asia. It plays to fears. Perhaps our own fault, our past questionable alliances during the Cold War, the Gulf War, and subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq allows the label to be used with impunity, even though the U.S. has no imperial motives in the vast region. Our alliance with the oppressive dictators (Zia), and oppressive governments (Saudi Arabia, Egypt), and our alliance with Israel are favorite targets of those that will attempt to discredit any progress made between Pakistan and the United States. My argument is that the U.S. has self-interests, as does Pakistan. Whether oil, gas, water rights, or other foreign strategic interests, nations are not saints-neither the U.S., nor Pakistan. There will always be conflicts of interest in the real geopolitical world. There are imperatives that may or may not conflict with religious, moral, ethical judgments, but the greater good between nations will be assessed in terms of a nation’s own self-interest, self-determination and right to exist in liberty. To suggest anything else is to be unrealistic.
If the US were imperialistic it would have assumed the Iraqi oil interests when it invaded Iraq a decade ago, and would have long since set up its own government in Iraq and Afghanistan. The facts instead are transparent: the United States is in South Asia, not to win a conventional war, but to insure no further attacks occurred in mainland U.S. and to destabilize al Qaeda, and its proxies, and this mission has been largely accomplished. The U.S. then set up an exit strategy. This is not a defeat, as the Soviet quagmire was. The new goal is to disrupt terrorists and inhibit their ability to do damage. The U.S. is not an enemy of Pakistan, but any alliance with Pakistan comes with the caveat that the security establishment is infiltrated with jihadist sympathizers, an extant Zia historic legacy exists, with all its Islamist baggage, and the failed “strategic depth” strategy that has bitten the hands that fed it, is something with which any ally will need to contend.
To repeat for emphasis, the Pakistanis military had no say in giving up Bin Laden. So, the misguided glorification of ISI or military strategists that some suggest helped to snag the master mind of al Qaeda, serves the interests only of those that will continue to sabotage the relationship of the U.S. and Pakistan. These narratives are to create fear of the U.S. in Pakistanis, and suggest that the U.S. is still concerned over Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities, as if we were still in the 1980s. The truth is that American strategy considers Pakistan’s nuclear capability to be a geopolitical stabilizer against India adventures. The U.S. prefers Pakistan’s influence over Afghanistan in the region.
The focus through all of this subterfuge above is that with all of our flaws, both Pakistan and the United States should acknowledge over and above the critical chatter, that we are involved in the same struggle against the specter of Islamist terrorism. This is not a competition for purity, of saints and sinners, nor, a battle waged between Christians and Islamics, but a partnership for two secular governments with mutual interests. There are no boots on the ground in Pakistan for a reason. The U.S. gives aid to Pakistan for reasons of mutual interest and goals. All petty insults against the U.S. aside, we remain allies. The United States drone attacks are not an affront to Pakistani sovereignty, but an efficient method of taking out high-value targets that the Pakistani military has refused to eliminate. Those Pakistanis that interpret our Foreign Aid as an attempt to buy friendship, alleviate anti-Americanism and allow drone attacks against militants in the tribal areas, underestimate the U.S. intelligence, just as the terrorists underestimate our resolve. It is in the best interests of American policy in the area to have a strong Pakistan. In addition, this momentous operation actually facilitates the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. As suggested above, the mission in Afghanistan was to defeat al Qaeda, not the Taliban, and with Osama bin killed, this mission, if not complete, has taken a different form.
In the interests of fairness, there must be acknowledgement of what the Pakistan Army has done right, and that has been positive in the war against fundamentalist insurgents. Many Pakistani Army soldiers and commanders have fought and led effective campaigns against Taliban and al Qaeda over the past decade. This is without question. Pakistan has been responsible for killing and capturing more terrorists than any other country “by a wide margin,” states White House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan. “There have been many, many brave Pakistani soldiers, security officials, as well as citizens, who have given their lives because of the terrorism scourge in that country,” Brennan said, calling the partnership with Pakistan “critically important to breaking the back of al Qaeda and eventually prevailing over al Qaeda as well as associated terrorist groups.” So, this overriding fact must accompany any criticism of the ISI and Pakistani military, that is giving credit where credit is clearly due, for what Pakistan has done right in counterterrorism cooperation.
It is hopeful for Pakistan that in light of the progressive movement that stands for pluralism and human rights, democratic and economic prosperity, and liberties for all, that with each defeat of radical elements, such as bin Laden, these forces for good within Pakistan will continue to spread their wings.