Inside Story

Who knew what in the hunt for Bin Laden?

We ask if it was Pakistani military's incompetence or complicity that led to the May 2011 killing of the al-Qaeda chief.

Last Modified: 10 Jul 2013 15:05
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The United States stands accused of an "act of war" while Pakistan is accused of "gross incompetence" after a report into the killing of the world's most wanted man is leaked to Al Jazeera's investigative unit.

... there seems to be a high level of incompetence but there is no complicity as far as the Pakistan government or intelligence agencies or the military were concerned ... 

Talat Masood, a Pakistani defence analyst

The 336-page report of the Abbottabad Commission, set up by the Pakistani government shortly after the US special forces killed Bin Laden in 2011, is based on interviews with 201 sources including members of his family and various officials.

It has offered a scathing critique of the hunt for Osama bin Laden - a military mission that humiliated Pakistan and strained relations with the US.

The report details the comprehensive failure of Pakistan to detect the presence of Bin Laden for almost 10 years, and accuses the US of an "act of war".

It blames gross incompetence and negligence at almost every level of Pakistan's security.

The commission also criticises Pakistan's leaders for failing to detect Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) activities on its soil and says it could not rule out that rogue Pakistani intelligence officials had shielded Bin Laden.

And the report is critical of what it calls the "illegal manner" in which the US conducted the raid on Bin Laden's compound and accuses the US of acting like a "criminal thug".

The CIA is also accused of failing to share information with Pakistan on Bin Laden's whereabouts. And the commission added that the raid was the "greatest humiliation visited upon Pakistan since its break-up in 1971".

Pakistan is described as "an unenthusiastic ally" in what the US called its "war on terror". The report also acknowledges a "shortage of mutual appreciation, (a lack of) regard and trust".

It seems to me at least, that one of the main reasons why Pakistani officials were not able to find Bin Laden was because quite frankly, they did not want to find Bin Laden.

Robert Grenier, former CIA station chief in Islamabad

Richard Armitage, former US deputy secretary of state, told Al Jazeera, "President Musharraf was enthusiastic, I think, primarily because he saw a way to get his country out of pariah status. There were others, particularly the ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) who for ten years had fostered a different policy.

 "I think there’s every reason not to have trust. From their point of view for historical reasons. From our point of view as we find it very difficult to understand how they can consort with Talibs who are killing Americans."

The report paints a picture of Pakistan as manipulated and undermined by the US.

Pakistan’s spy chief says the nation had become “too weak” and dependent to defend itself against US policies. And none of the other political, security and intelligence agencies had the knowledge, the will or the authority to combat the spread of the CIA’s tentacles all over the country.

So, who knew what in the hunt for Osama bin Laden?

Inside Story, with presenter Sami Zeidan, discusses with  guests: Robert Grenier, who served as director of the CIA's counterterrorism centre and as a CIA station chief in Islamabad; Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani army general and now defence analyst, and Phil Rees, from Al Jazeera's investigative unit, who has been studying the Pakistan government report.

" .... How could the intelligence agencies which are all powerful, the ISI directorate is feared throughout Pakistan [and] it is the only real functioning institution, yet when it comes to this it seems to be incredibly ignorant and seems to be completely asleep on the job and I think the report does lay open the possibility of complicity ..."

Phil Rees, Al Jazeera's investigative unit


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