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Entries Tagged as 'Osama bin Laden'

Who Strains the US-Pakistan Relationship?

David Frum December 1st, 2011 at 9:08 am 31 Comments

I’m beginning to think we need to learn the Urdu word for chutzpah. The US discovery that Pakistan for years gave shelter to Osama bin Laden is now being taken as an example of American strain on the US-Pakistani relationship.

Oh and by the way, has Pakistan ever apologized for supporting the killers of US soldiers inside Afghanistan? Thought not…

Meet the Man Looking for bin Laden’s Body

July 16th, 2011 at 12:00 am 20 Comments

Treasure hunter Bill Warren wants to launch an expedition at sea to find Osama bin Laden’s body.

“Yeah, he was a bad man, but I have a compassionate heart,” says the author of Shipwrecks and Discoveries. “It might have been better if we had cremated him and given the ashes to the Arabs.

However, in Islam it is “haram” – meaning, forbidden by religious law, to burn anything endowed with a “soul” – so doing so may have unnecessarily enraged practicing Muslims.

Warren said he has received an e-mail from the bin Laden family wishing him luck on the trip and that they are interested in giving the body a proper ground burial if he retrieves it.

Warren’s compassion for the terrorist leader’s family may also be fueled by hopes for a profitable documentary based on his search. And if you want to join the search as a tourist, you can – for $5,000 per person, meals included. Yet even beyond the documentary and the tour business, Warren has an even larger ambition expedition, one  many might consider explosive: Warren expresses some doubt that it truly was Osama bin Laden who was killed on April 29 by U.S. Navy Seals. If Warren, a Christian conservative, discovers that bin Laden’s was not the body that was thrown into the sea, he hopes that Obama would be removed from office immediately.

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Pakistan Cozies Up to China

June 3rd, 2011 at 11:10 am 7 Comments

Thinking “outside-the-box” (as they say) is one of the more difficult – and valuable – functions of those in charge of countries, and armies or businesses.

A great example of thinking outside the box is one cited by retired Maj. Gen. Lew MacKenzie (who, coincidentally, specializes is such thinking). In WWII, when bomber command was suffering horrendous losses, scientists and exerts were summoned to determine how better to protect bombers from enemy fire.

All returning bombers from raids over Germany were examined as to where they’d been hit by anti-aircraft fire. Onionskin overlays showed massive hits common to all returning aircraft. Overlays also showed great white spaces on the aircraft where no hits had been registered.

Air Force types immediately urged reinforcing the parts of bombers that had received heavy fire, while “outside-the-box” thinkers urged reinforcing those areas of returning bombers that received no hits.

The thinking was it was bombers that were hit in areas that didn’t show on the returning bombers that were the casualties. When those areas were reinforced, the casualty rate of aircraft dropped accordingly.

But for this outside-the-box thinking, bombers would have been reinforced on areas that showed considerable damage when they returned.

Thinking outside the box was prevalent in the U.S. Civil War, when non-military people became soldiers and were not conditioned to think along conventional lines. Instead they devised tactics that were not necessarily according to the book.

For example, John Mosby’s irregular cavalry raided at night and disbanded by day, and were never caught by Union soldiers. Also, Mosby (and Nathan Bedford Forest) rejected the sword or sabre as a cavalry weapons, and adopted the newly invented revolver as more effective.

Right now, in the post-Osama bin Laden days, the United States is in a quandary about what to do about Pakistan –  always viewed as a necessary but unreliable and unstable ally.

This reality was intensified after the assassination of bin Laden, and the U.S. learned that for at least five years he had been living in relative comfort in Abbottabad, near a military camp and not in a Himalayan mountain cave.

This reinforced America’s concerns that its “ally” was playing a double-game, and that an alarming segment of Pakistan’s politicians, army and intelligence service was in cahoots with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Again, the question arose for the U.S. of how it should deal with Pakistan, other than its conventional mixture of warnings, threats, pandering and financing to persuade it to crack down on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Pakistan, embarrassed by the bin Laden escapade, suddenly has become more open to China helping it, probably to make the U.S. more compliant and generous.

Pakistan has “invited” China to build a naval base at Gwadar, on the Indian Ocean, near the mouth of the Persian Gulf. China had already invested close to $300 million in the port. In making the announcement, Pakistani PM Yousuf Gilani called China Pakistan’s “best friend.”

As well, Gilani has visited Beijing to close a deal for 50 multi-role JF-17 Thunder jets to augment its aging fleet of some 40 F-16 fighter jets acquired from the U.S. in the 1980s.

All this cozying up to China, has the U.S. uneasy, as well as India.

Concern is how to match or deflect China’s interest in Pakistan, and vice-versa. Conventional thinkers in the State Department and Pentagon, as well as in the White House, worry at the effect. Tenuous as relations are, how can they placate Pakistan as an unreliable ally yet offset China’s growing influence – and how much will it cost?

That’s the dilemma facing conventional thinking in foreign affairs.

“Outside-the-box” thinking might say: Don’t do anything. Let China and Pakistan do what they will. Each, inevitably, will be a pain in the neck for the other. Both regimes are devious, tricky, suspicious. Both are a pain in the neck, both are dangerous, neither is capable of trust.

From an America point of view, Pakistan has nothing the U.S. wants or needs: No oil, no resources, mostly mountains and 300 million Muslims, half of whom are potential jihadists.

If China thinks it is stealing a march on the Americans by expanding its influence in Pakistan — let it. One thing can be guaranteed – China doesn’t like Muslims. Look how it treats its Uighurs, who are Muslims but not jihadists, and there are only 8.5 million of them.

If China has trouble dealing with its Uighurs, look at the potential problems dealing with the interests of some 200 million Pakistani Muslims.

And look at potential problems Pakistan faces dealing with China, with no America as a counter-balance. Pakistan is a nuclear power. So is China. So is India. China is unlikely to be happy with a nuclear Pakistan threatening India, and vice-versa.

As far as Afghanistan is concerned, when the U.S. and NATO withdraw troops this year, Taliban infiltration from Pakistan is inevitable. The only unknown is how effective the Afghan National Army and security forces will be – the National Army and police force. Hopes are higher than expectations.

If the Taliban and al-Qaeda surge in Pakistan, let it become a problem for the Pakistani PM’s newest “best friend” – China.

China’s economic well-being and future is so interlocked with the U.S. and Western developed countries, that the last thing it wants is destabilization. China wants to win, it plans ahead, thinks long term gain rather than short profit. And it has patience.

Pakistan is nothing but trouble for whoever depends on it.

So let the Chinese have a go.

This sort of thinking is anathema to those who guide our foreign affairs at the moment. But it shifts some of our problems to the Chinese, and would save unknown billions that the U.S. now invests in Pakistan with very little return.

America’s Pakistan Problem

David Frum May 27th, 2011 at 10:00 am 14 Comments

Hillary Clinton visited Pakistan on Friday (Pakistan time). According to the New York Times:

[US] officials described [the visit] as an effort to measure Pakistan’s commitment to fighting Islamic extremism after the killing of Osama bin Laden badly strained relations with the United States. It did not appear to go well.

No, I bet not. Two friends who know Pakistan well recently offered this joking description of the US-Pakistan relationship. “It’s like having a girlfriend who is unsure of her sexual orientation. And who suffers from multiple personality disorder. And one of her personalities wants to kill you.”


Terror’s New Home Base

May 13th, 2011 at 9:21 am 2 Comments

The biggest surprise for the Americans in their successful assassination of Osama bin Laden, medical is that he was living in that Abbottabad compound in for at least five years.

They, sovaldi sale and everyone else, thought he was squirreled away in a cave in the Himalayas, not in rough but comfortable surroundings 800 meters from an army camp.

The Pakistani government is embarrassed that bin Laden was found living in relative comfort, but there’s little in their reaction that indicates shame. Rather, they are miffed that the American SEAL team went in without telling them.

Parliamentarians cheered Prime Minister Yousuf Gilani when he warned of dire consequences if the U.S. ever again sent troops into Pakistan without permission.

There’s a certain amount of play-acting going on by all parties.

President Barack Obama’s surprise and shock that Osama bin Laden was living in civilized surroundings may be genuine, but certainly the U.S. administration is under no illusions about Pakistan’s unreliability as an ally.

One can’t blame the Pakistani government. It doesn’t know what’s going on in its own country, and has limited power. It’s a country so deeply splintered and divided, that there is neither trust nor confidence.

Taliban and al-Qaeda factions control the loyalty of many; government efforts to assert dominance over regions is done cautiously and tentatively to avoid what could easily disintegrate into civil war.

Without doubt, factions inside the Pakistan army and intelligence service – the notorious ISI – not only knew of bin Laden’s presence, but protected him. The Americans also knew this, hence their stealthy raid to kill him.

Threats by the Pakistani government of serious consequences if the U.S. contemplates another raid is probably window-dressing. If intelligence gathered at the compound reveals more al-Qaeda big shots, likely they’ll also be taken out.

The real message of Pakistan’s (witting and unwitting) complicity with al-Qaeda and the Taliban is that America’s, Canada’s and NATO’s efforts to bring democracy to Afghanistan are pointless and doomed.

These “enemies” are now rooted in Pakistan – and largely invulnerable. At the moment, Afghanistan is mostly cleared of Taliban, but they seep in from Pakistan.

The U.S. can’t invade Pakistan. Must keep it as an unreliable ally. The problem is how to withdraw forces from Afghanistan, without the Taliban and al-Qaeda returning?

Before the Soviet invasion, Afghanistan had a king who was tolerated by warlords who ran the various regions. A central government hasn’t the strength to control the regions, especially since the Afghan army and national police are questionable entities.

In the past, regional warlords provided immunity from Taliban influence, and security for those who lived under the sway of the warlord.

If foreign troops depart Afghanistan, where is the guarantee that the Taliban or something similar won’t return? There is no guarantee – unless U.S. and other troops remain in the country. And this ain’t going to happen.

With Pakistan in a state of perpetual conflicting agendas, prospects for peace and security in Afghanistan are a crap shoot.

As long as America supplies Pakistan with $3 to $7 billion a year, it’ll remain a dubious ally – and if Osama bin Laden’s designated successor, Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri, is located, he’ll be killed, — with or without Pakistan’s approval.

So, perhaps, will be the U.S.-born radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, ranting on You Tube from Yemen. That still won’t save Afghanistan for democracy.


Bin Laden’s Kid Lashes Out

May 12th, 2011 at 12:26 pm 14 Comments

One’s first reaction is that it’s a joke – a parody to attract attention.

But no. It’s apparently for real. If so, it shows how hopeless it is to try and convince some that what they believe makes no sense.

In a statement on behalf of the family, Omar bin Laden, the 30-year-old son of Osama, complains that the assassination of his father “blatantly violated” international law, ignored the presumption of innocence and the right of everyone to a fair trial.

In the absence of photos or videos, Omar and his brothers “are not convinced” that their father is dead. They are offended that he was killed rather than arrested to be “tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world.”

They want Osama put on trial as Saddam Hussein and Slobodan Milosevic were.

Omar also says it was “unworthy of the special forces to shoot unarmed female members… and one of his (Osama’s) sons.”

Omar also complains that if indeed Osama was buried at sea (“unwitnessed burial at sea”), the family was deprived of “performing religious rights of a Muslim man.”

If answers are not forthcoming within 30 days, Omar says the case will be taken to the International Criminal Court at the Hague, and the International Court of Justice.

“The UN must take notice of the violation of international law and assist us . . . .”

The effrontery of the bin Laden family is dazzling.

Prior to 9/11, Omar lived with his father in Afghanistan, but opposed his father’s fixation on religious violence. He is believed to now live in Qatar with a British wife.

There’s something disquieting about Omar’s curious statement – apparently delivered to the New York Times through Jean Sasson, an American author who helped write the 2009 memoir by Omar and his mother, Najwa Ghana: Growing Up bin Laden.

Omar insists his father “never hesitated to condemn any violent acts made by anyone, and expressed sorrow for the victims of any and all attacks.” Nonsense.

It’s puzzling how this view can be justified with what Osama bin Laden masterminded — not only in the deaths of some 3,000 on 9/11, but the deaths of 224 in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salam, the USS Cole in Aden, and the other terrorist acts both planned and aborted for various reasons.

The family puts it this way: “As he (Omar) condemned our father, we now condemn the President of the United States for ordering the execution of unarmed men and women.”

The bin Laden family is a large one—some 600 people. Osama bin Laden’s father was a contractor and friend of Saudi Arabia’s King Ibn Saud who awarded him the contract to build and repair all mosques as well as royal palaces.

Apparently Osama’s father Mohammed was married over 20 times, had three permanent wives, and one rotating wife – sort of a replacement that could be turned in or exchanged on a monthly basis. Osama has something like 54 brothers and sisters.

The family disowned him and Saudi Arabia revoked his passport in 1991 for anti-government actions and after he opposed American troops being allowed to use Saudi territory in the first Gulf War.

The only likely effect of the bin Laden siblings’ dispute with how their father was killed, and their doubts that he was killed, is that it may persuade President Obama to okay the release of photos of his corpse.


Get Tough With Pakistan

May 11th, 2011 at 12:59 pm 23 Comments

A month after Pakistan’s foundation in 1947, the American journalist Margaret Bourke-White interviewed the founder of the world’s first Islamic republic. She wanted to understand how the country would survive. But if she expected to be told about an impressive array of policies, she was disappointed. The answer was less complicated: Pakistan would survive, Mohammed Ali Jinnah replied, because it was too important to fail. America would not allow Pakistan to fall to the Russians. “This brave new nation,” Bourke-White concluded, “had no other claim on American friendship than this—that across a wild tumble of roadless mountain ranges lay the land of the Bolsheviks.”

Six decades on, that template continues to ensure the survival of Pakistan. Its ruling elite believes that America, terrified by the potential cost of dealing with nuclear Pakistan’s failure, will always pay the price for its survival. So instead of contrition and conciliation in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s discovery in Abbottabad, Washington received a contemptuous lecture on the sanctity of Pakistan’s sovereignty – accompanied by the deliberate release of the CIA station chief’s name in Islamabad.

Pakistan’s brazenness catches the breath. But there is method to what looks like madness. This is a high-stakes gamble by Pakistan’s military-intelligence chiefs. Having been exposed as the principal guardian of al Qaeda’s chief for the last six years, Pakistan is attempting preemptively to diminish the leverage Washington has acquired over Islamabad. By being shrill, by refusing to cooperate, by threatening to retaliate, Pakistan is shifting the focus away from the question of its complicity – and hoping that, rather than assume the role of prosecutor, Washington will scramble to play the pacifier.

A decade ago, at the height of its fury, Washington threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the Stone Age if it so much as refused to cooperate in the war against al Qaeda. Today, trapped in the labyrinth of Af-Pak, it stares with impotent rage as Islamabad refuses even to grant access to bin Laden’s associates – congratulating itself on bin Laden’s killing, but still stuck in an alliance with his custodians.

Washington now has two options. The first is to return to business-as-usual. Washington can carry on pretending that Pakistan’s behavior can be altered with more incentives. This will make it easier for President Barack Obama to initiate a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. But far from repairing Afghanistan, the purpose of America’s mission will have been to secure the country for Pakistan. The Taliban leaders presently hibernating in Pakistan’s mountainous north will, with the ISI’s support, eventually return Afghanistan to its pre-2001 condition.

There are influential voices in the West which continue to exhort us to recognize and respect Pakistan’s “interests” in Afghanistan. But having fought the forces of medieval barbarity for a decade, can we hand Afghanistan back to those who foisted – and wish to re-impose – the worst elements of the Taliban upon the Afghans? To accommodate Pakistan’s “interests” in Afghanistan is to consign Afghans to a future of servitude – and to turn their country into an untrammeled training ground and launching pad for Pakistan’s relentless jihad against India. It should surprise no one that 91% of Afghans view Pakistan unfavorably.

The second option is for America to repudiate the myth of Pakistan’s indispensability and embrace the country which most Afghans view favorably: India. Washington has all along been aware of India’s overwhelmingly positive contribution to Afghanistan’s development. New Delhi is the fifth-largest donor of civilian aid to Kabul. It has constructed the new parliament building, the Palace of Democracy; trained the country’s parliamentarians; and donated aircraft to resuscitate Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana. Its workers are engaged in major infrastructure projects ranging from highways and electricity grids to dam projects, telecommunications, and the expansion of a TV network.

As Gen. Stanley McChrystal wrote in his assessment of the mission in 2009, “Indian activities largely benefit the Afghan people.” Yet India was denied a larger role for fear, in Gen. McChrystal’s words, of “Pakistani countermeasures in Afghanistan and India.” This, to borrow David Frum’s words, was the geopolitical equivalent of locking up Martin Luther King, Jr., for fear of the Ku Klux Klan’s “countermeasures”.

Washington must now seek an all-out alliance with India. It makes no sense for the US and India to function as practical strangers in Afghanistan in order to mollify forces that threaten the existence of both these secular democracies. For Pakistan, the indulgent era of bottomless bribes and easy exonerations must come to an end. Pakistan must be held to account. This does not mean going to war. It means taking concrete measures to blunt the power of the military-intelligence camorra that rules Pakistan:

  1. Washington must identify and pursue Pakistan’s military and intelligence officials who collude with extremists of any stripe.
  2. It must impose severe travel restrictions on senior officers of the Pakistan army and the ISI – and their personal assets in the west must be identified and frozen.
  3. Washington should make it clear to Islamabad that it will no longer plead its cause with India.
  4. The ISI must be declared a terrorist organization. At least five Americans were killed in the attack on Mumbai in 2008 – an attack sponsored by the ISI. And according to the CIA, the 2008 bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul – the deadliest since the Taliban’s fall in 2001 – was planned and executed in concert with the ISI. Afghanistan’s former foreign minister, Rangin Spanta, has confirmed that the “same sources’’ were behind the repeated attack on the Indian embassy in 2009.
  5. Finally, Pakistan must be told in no uncertain terms that if it does not act against the terrorists in its midst, then those likely to be affected by their actions have the right to intervene in self-defense.

Pakistan can no longer presume a place in the comity of nations. It must earn it.

Follow Kapil on twitter: @kapskom


Pakistan: Pariah State to Investors

David Frum May 10th, 2011 at 10:28 am 7 Comments

Domestic Pakistani investors have shrugged off their government’s reckless courting of confrontation with the United States.

International investors are not so sanguine reports the FT:

If the US Department of State follows up on its pledge to pay $25m in reward money for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden, then perhaps somebody, somewhere, is in line for a mega-windfall, equivalent to more than half of the money foreign institutional investors have put into Pakistan’s stock market so far this year.

$50 million in equity investment in the first four months of 2011 for all of Pakistan?

In the depression year of 2009, Bangladesh – long thought of as the basketcase of Asia – attracted $700 million, down from over $1 billion before the global economic crisis began.

We are familiar with the problem of rogue states. Pakistan seems in danger of turning itself into a pariah state.


Pakistan’s Markets Not Worried About Rift With U.S.

David Frum May 10th, 2011 at 9:25 am 1 Comment

Pakistani investors seem strangely unworried about possible consequences to their country from being caught harboring bin Laden. Or by their government’s decision to respond to the embarrassment by denial and confrontation rather than apology and conciliation.

The Karachi stock market gained about half a percent on Monday as investors put aside concerns over possible fallout of Osama Bin Laden’s killing in Pakistan, traders said.

The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE)-100 Index gained 52.72 points, or 0.44 percent, to close at 11,932.68 points with volumes jumping 14 million to 78.651 million shares in what was seen as an indication of interest ahead of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s address to the parliament, they said.

“The session was good in the sense that we saw interest in many shares other than Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL),” said Qasim Ali Shah, head of equities at Global Securities. “Engro Corporation and Pakistan State Oil (PSO) were in the limelight.” The KSE-30 Index was down 76.83 points to 11,609.34 points. Shares of 354 companies were traded out of which 144 advanced, 125 receded, while 85 remained unchanged.


Five Questions About Bin Laden’s Killing

David Frum May 9th, 2011 at 10:54 am 32 Comments

1) Was there an informant inside the Osama Bin Laden compound? Might that explain why there’s so much confusion in the White House account of the action – there is a fact they are anxious to conceal?

2) Was OBL in fact under some kind of Pakistani house arrest? Was he the prisoner of some kind of internal deal among Pakistani factions: the Islamicists unwilling to surrender him to the Americans, the Westernizers determined to neutralize him?

3) Did some person in the Pakistan state provide information to the US about OBL? Is that why the story is confused? Is that why the US seems reluctant to take strong action against Pakistan for harboring OBL?

4) Is the US government really as puzzled as it claims as to the identity of the OBL harborers?

5) If information about bin Laden was provided to the US by someone inside the Pakistan state, was it a Westernizer – seeking improved relations with the US? Or might it have been an Islamicist, looking to accelerate the US departure from Afghanistan and to hasten the day when Pakistan could reassert its authority over Afghanistan through its proxy, the Taliban?