Foreign Policy Blogs


Bin Ladin is dead. Again. In the last ten years he has been reported “killed” at least four times. The only difference this time was that the President of the United States announced the death of the number one terrorist in the world. Above all, this time he was killed not in Tora Bora, not Karra Kurrum, but Abbottabad – close to an army garrison in Pakistan. As expected, his killing has raised questions, and more questions, and still more questions every time a new statement is added to the swirl of fact and myth that is turning the bin Laden raid into the stuff of legend.

Basically, a foreign national has been killed by another foreign army. What does Pakistan have to do with this, then? Nothing and everything. And this nothing yet everything has placed Pakistan between a rock and a hard place.

If Pakistan admits that it helped US forces kill bin Laden it fears a backlash from the different militant organizations with in its boundaries, and if it denies any such cooperation then it will be labeled a supporter of Al Qaeda.

For this reason Pakistan – which is defined as the Pakistan Army and the agencies, including the infamous ISI – stayed silent. So silent that it’s scary. It’s the silence before the storm. This storm is not necessarily directed at the US, the CIA, Afghanistan or India. The tempest could be directed at foreign militants. Remaining silent was a wise approach and the best strategy so far for Pakistan. Be aware of that silence. The pendulum could swing either way. The forces that actually control Pakistan — and I’m not referring to politicians — could back any horse at this point. Or spread the wager across the board. Only time will tell.

The US media has been hammering Pakistan day and night. The media should consider Pakistan’s tight spot here. The US needs help, not just rooting terrorist networks out of Pakistan but in Afghanistan as well. It’s not easy for a country to sustain repeated bombardments, knowing that it depends on the country doing the bombing for large quantities of foreign aid. Already, a number of politicians and the Pakistani media are defining the bin Laden raid as another example of infringement of sovereignty and using bin Laden’s death to goad the US to pull out of Afghanistan. Rock, meet hard place. If only the US media understood that.

Then there have been conflicting reports coming out of various US departments. But the fact is that the raid could not have succeeded without the ISI’s help. Clearly bin Laden’s time was up. Given the ISI’s deserved reputation for treachery and intrigues, wouldn’t there have been a strong and deep bunker under that mansion to hide bin Laden? Or a maze of tunnels to help him and his family escape? Bin Laden was trapped, with the local support on the ground.

Obama said last night that he got confirmed reports of bin Laden’s location last week. I looked out for events that happened last week. President Obama was busy dealing with Trump’s nonsense, while the Pentagon was hosting ISI chief General Pasha. Coincidence? I don’t think so. There must have been a deal, a tit for tat.

Pakistan’s religious quarters have already started to question then authenticity of the killing. Above all, they have started asking US to wrap up their “war” and leave the region. Which again the US or NATO cannot afford to do. Not yet at least. The US has to deal with Afghanistan, Karzai, the Taliban, the Quetta shura…and the list goes on.

So let’s not get carried away here. The war is not over yet. Bin Laden killing has improved Obama’s approval ratings, but bin Laden’s death has hardly put a dent on al Qaeda. Keeping in mind that Al Qaeda’s’s real ideological inspiration is al-Zuwahiri, who’s still very much alive. And probably on the ISI’s watch list too.