Many political observes are pointing out that Bin Laden’s hideout was so obvious that the Pakistanis had to have known that the chief of al-Qaeda was living there. Did the Pakistanis know? The answer appears to be obvious. But new information from documents released by Wikileaks raises another serious question: Shouldn’t we have known?
A file dated September 18, 2008, shows that Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who replaced Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as Al-Qaeda’s third-in-command, told his interrogators at Guantanamo Bay that he was tasked with finding safe havens for Osama Bin Laden. Al-Libbi, who was captured in 2005, offers the first hint that Abbottabad was being used to refuge top Al-Qaeda officials.
“In mid-2003, detainee [al-Libbi] moved his family to Abbottabad and worked between Abbottabad and Peshawar,” the document states. His family was moved in mid-2004 to Bajaur.
This fact should have immediately placed the city on the long list of havens in Pakistan where Bin Laden could be hiding. If al-Libbi felt safe there, it is reasonable to assume that he’d also assume it’d be a suitable spot for his leader. The capturing of other top Al-Qaeda leaders in affluent areas outside of the tribal areas, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, should have indicated that there was a strong possibility that Bin Laden would go to the same types of areas. After all, he’d obviously want to get out of range of the drones that were killing members of his group left and right in the tribal areas.
According to the information in the press, the name of Osama Bin Laden’s live-in courier was discovered in 2007. Two years later, the general region of his location was found out and in August 2010, the compound was identified as his home.
We need to be asking why this order of events didn’t happen in reverse.
Once Abbottabad was marked as a safe haven for a top Al-Qaeda leader, why didn’t the compound come under heavy surveillance from its construction in 2005 until August 2010 as a likely hiding spot for Bin Laden or another very important terrorist operative? If it was under surveillance, we would have noticed the suspicious movements of at least one courier which would indicate the importance of the site.
It is hard to believe that analysts looking at satellite imagery of Abbottabad wouldn’t notice how suspicious the compound was. It cost $1 million, was three stories high and was nearly two football fields long. It had 18-foot walls topped off with barbed wire. There were two security entrances and cameras outside and few windows. It was built on a narrow road and is eight times larger than the surrounding homes. Yet, whoever lived there didn’t want telephone lines or an Internet connection and burned their trash instead of having it picked up like everyone else. This compound should have been readily identifiable as a location of very significant importance through satellite photos alone.