Pakistan hid Osama bin Laden. What punishment does it get?
After receiving $20 billion in U.S. aid over the past decade, Pakistan is unmistakably America’s worst “ally,” having committed the ultimate betrayal: Hiding Osama Bin Laden. Now, Pakistan is angrily protesting the raid that killed him, refusing to give access to 11 of those arrested in his compound and is supporting terrorists likely to try to avenge his death. Pakistan is not an ally worth defending as President Obama did in his address to the country; it is an enemy worth punishing.
It is inconceivable that the Pakistani government did not know of Bin Laden’s presence at the Abbottabad compound that was obviously designed to hide someone of enormous importance. It is now known that Bin Laden’s next-door neighbor, living only 80 yards away, was Major Amir Aziz, a senior army officer. The country’s premier military academy is about a mile away, which General Petraeus visited in February of last year. Many retired intelligence and military personnel live in the affluent city and it is only an hour away from Islamabad.
The Pakistani government is reacting to the exposure of its guilt by bashing the raid, with its officials describing it as “cold-blooded.” The upper house of its parliament is accusing the U.S. of violating the country’s sovereignty and the government is threatening “disastrous consequences” if there are any more unilateral raids. The army has announced that it will reduce the number of U.S. troops in the country to “minimum essential” levels and the Army Chief of Staff said there will be a “review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States” if another raid is carried out. Pakistan may also forbid future drone strikes, as it was pushing for an end to them shortly before Bin Laden was killed.
President Obama’s announcement that Bin Laden had been killed was designed to protect relations with Pakistan from the inevitable outrage.
“It’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, Bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people…it is essential that Pakistan continues to join us in the fight against Al-Qaeda and its affiliates,” Obama told the nation.
Senator John Kerry does not downplay Pakistan’s treachery but cautions against jeopardizing the relationship. Senator Richard Lugar has not shied away from pointing his finger at the Pakistani government but likewise said, “Distancing ourselves from Pakistan would be unwise and extremely dangerous.”
It is true that Pakistan’s limited cooperation has been critical to the prosecution of the War on Terror. More than two-thirds of the killings and arrests of Al-Qaeda members have occurred on Pakistani soil. However, there is a clear pattern of the highest terrorists living in comfortable areas under the control of the Pakistani government, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Ramzi Binalshibh, called the “20th hijacker.” As Richard Miniter writes, “Bin Laden’s mansion-hideout in Pakistan was not the exception, but the rule.”
No amount of limited cooperation can make up for the fact that Pakistan is guilty of the greatest sin of hiding Bin Laden; an offense that was the primary reason for the U.S. military’s overthrow of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Pakistan will not give the U.S. access to 11 of those arrested from Bin Laden’s compound and is threatening to become even less cooperative in the fight against terrorism. The Pakistani government is also sponsoring radical Islamic terrorists including the Taliban that are battling U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and will seek to carry out retaliation for Bin Laden’s death.
A September 2007 government document listed Pakistan’s ISI intelligence service as one of 65 “terrorist and terrorist supporting entities.” The ISI was named alongside Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas and Hezbollah. Yet, there is an eagerness to preserve the relationship with the government that is in charge of the ISI. U.S. intelligence has concluded that the ISI gives the Taliban “strategic planning guidance” and its S-Wing directly supports the Taliban’s Shura Council in Quetta, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; all forces actively sponsoring terrorism and killing American soldiers. The director of the ISI from 1987 to 1989, Hamid Gul, is a close friend of these three groups and others including Al-Qaeda.
A British think-tank determined that “There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall [Taliban] insurgent campaign” and in the words of the author, it is “official ISI policy” that is approved of by the top government officials. Up to 7 of the 16 members of the Taliban’s Shura Council are ISI agents, which means that the ISI not only supports the Taliban but plays a significant role in directing it. A senior Taliban source reported that in early April 2010, President Zardari and a senior ISI official even met with 50 top imprisoned Taliban members and told them that they’d be released once foreign pressure was alleviated.
Documents released by WikiLeaks further detail Pakistan’s duplicity. They show that the ISI participates in meetings with the Taliban to organize the dispatching of fighters to Afghanistan, directly recruited terrorists in Peshawar and even discussed the assassinations of Afghan officials. A Taliban commander says the ISI pays the families of suicide bombers and the bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul is blamed on the ISI in one file. The intelligence agency is also reported to have offered $15-30,000 to those who murder and kidnap Indians in Afghanistan in 2007. The Afghan government claimed that the ISI dispatched a three-man terrorist cell to kill President Karzai in 2008.
Another group fully-backed by the Pakistani government is Lashkar e-Taiba, whose leader has publicly mourned Bin Laden’s death. It is the group that carried out the November 26, 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 164 people and is in bed with Al-Qaeda. It is a top candidate to try to carry out a retaliatory attack. The current chief of the ISI has been accused of being involved in the Mumbai attacks and the group freely operates in Pakistan under the name of Jamat ud-Dawa. Around the time of the Mumbai attacks, Lashkar e-Taiba said it ran over 200 schools and many hospitals and charities. Only a handful of these have been closed.
On October 11, 2001, President Bush declared a “war against all those who seek to export terror and a war against those governments that support or shelter them.” The Pakistani government has supported and sheltered the most wanted terrorist. As American soldiers are in harm’s way in Afghanistan, it supports those trying to kill them. As terrorists groups mourn Bin Laden’s death and undoubtedly plan a response, it gives them safe harbor.
This is not an “ally” worthy of $20 billion in aid. The U.S. cannot allow the government that protected the murderer of 3,000 innocent Americans in a single day to go unpunished.