Wednesday, May 4, 2011

What Did Pakistan Know About Bin Laden?

Osama bin Laden was killed on May 2, 2011. While many people are rejoicing that the world’s most wanted man is dead there are some serious questions arising as to what the Pakistani government knew of the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

Things are quite fishy, seeing has how Bin Laden was found in Abbottabad, Pakistan. Abbottaabad is a town which “is home not only to the military academy but to a large number of retired and active military officers. “ [1] Since it is a large town with a nearby military academy, there is speculation that the Pakistani government might have been known where Bin Laden was. To its credit, Pakistan has launched an internal investigation to find out how Bin Laden could have lived so close to a military academy without the government knowing it. [2]

The Pakistani government states that they knew nothing of Bin Laden’s whereabouts, with Pakistan’s president rejecting such accusations.

Asif Zardari, Pakistan's president, has rejected accusations his country is sheltering armed fighters.

"Such baseless speculation may make exciting cable news, but it doesn’t reflect the fact that Pakistan had as much reason to despise Al Qaeda as any other nation," Zardari said.

"The war on terrorism is as much Pakistan’s war as it is America's." [3]

Suspicion still lingers, however, as the Pakistani intelligence agencies “are normally very sharp in sniffing out the presence of foreigners, especially in towns with a heavy military presence.” [4] The intelligence agencies may have been slacking on the job, yet, at the same time, the ISI has been accused for several years of aiding terrorist organizations. One such accusation was from the US Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates. Gates, in a May 2009 interview with 60 Minutes, suggested that “the ISI maintains links with groups like the Afghan Taliban as a ‘strategic hedge’ to help Islamabad gain influence in Kabul once U.S. troops exit the region.” [5] There was also a recent accusation in where Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Admiral Michael Mullen accused the Pakistani military of “supporting the Haqqani network, the virulent wing of the Taliban that is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers in eastern Afghanistan.” [6]

While there may be doubt as to whether or not the Pakistani government or its intelligence agencies knew the whereabouts of Bin Laden, there is no doubt that due to the nature of events, US-Pakistani relations will change. As of now “American officials no longer regard Pakistan’s leaders with a great deal of trust, if they ever did.” [7] This incident may bring back memories of how the Pakistani government allowed “Taliban and al-Qaida members to flee across the border when U.S. troops invaded Afghanistan in the fall of 2001” and their possible support of Afghan Taliban. [8]

This distrust of the Pakistani government is ironic as while the US has reasons to not trust Pakistan, at the same time, they need to work with the Pakistani government in apprehending terrorists. Currently, “many analysts contend that while the U.S. may rethink its partnership with Pakistan, it's not about to break it off.” [9] While the US Congress has stated that if the Pakistani government knew about Bin Laden, that its $1.3 in aid will be docked, [10] the US still needs Pakistan’s diplomatic cooperation to “help the Obama administration in future efforts to shut down terror financing in other countries where al Qaeda operates.” [11]
At the end of the day, the US still needs Pakistan to fight in its war on terror. Whether the Pakistani government supported or didn’t support Bin Laden may not change that.


3: Ibid

7: Ibid

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