On the night of May 1, 2011, US special forces launched a raid deep into Pakistani territory to capture or kill al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden. On President Barack Obama’s orders, US soldiers flew via helicopter to the Pakistani army garrison town of Abbottabad, where their intelligence indicated he was hiding out. In the process of raiding the compound, Bin Laden and four others were killed. Several people were wounded.
Following the operation, which was deliberately conducted without the knowledge of the Pakistani government or its military, a Commission was set up in Pakistan to examine “how the US was able to execute a hostile military mission, which lasted around three hours, deep inside Pakistan”, and how Pakistan’s “intelligence establishment apparently had no idea that an international fugitive of the renown or notoriety of [Osama bin Laden] was residing in [Abbottabad]”.
For the first time, Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit is bringing the results of the investigation to the public.
The Abbottabad Commission was charged with establishing whether the failures of the Pakistani government and military were due to incompetence – or complicity. It was given overarching investigative powers, and, in the course of its inquiry, interviewed more than 201 witnesses – including members of Bin Laden’s own family, the chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, and other senior provincial, federal and military officials.
The Commission’s 336-page report is scathing, holding both the government and the military responsible for “gross incompetence”, leading to “collective failures” that allowed Bin Laden to escape detection, and the United States to perpetrate “an act of war”.
It also notes that the government’s intention in conducting the inquiry was likely aimed at “regime continuance, when the regime is desperate to distance itself from any responsibility for the national disaster that occurred on its watch”. It says that the inquiry was likely “a reluctant response to an overwhelming public and parliamentary demand”.
On the presence of a CIA network in Pakistan tracking down Bin Laden, without the Pakistani establishment’s knowledge, the Commission finds “this [was] a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country”.
It also states that the US violation of Pakistani sovereignty, in carrying out the raid unilaterally, had been allowed to happen due to inaccurate and outdated threat assessments within the country’s defence and strategic policy establishments.
a case of nothing less than a collective and sustained dereliction of duty by the political, military and intelligence leadership of the country.”]
“It is official or unofficial defence policy not to attempt to defend the country if threatened, or even attacked by a military superpower like the US?” the Commission asks of several top military officers.
“From a Pakistani strategic doctrine point of view,” the report notes, while issuing findings on how the military had wholly focused its “peacetime deployment” of defence capabilities on the border with India, “the world stood still for almost a decade.”
Finally, through testimony from Bin Laden’s family and intelligence officials, it provides a fascinating, and richly detailed, account of Bin Laden’s time in Pakistan: his movements, his habits and his pattern of life.
Perhaps aware of the implications of its findings, the Commission notes that it had “apprehensions that the Commission’s report would be ignored, or even suppressed”, and urged the government to release it to the public.
It did not do so. The report was buried by the government and never made public.
Al Jazeera has obtained a copy of the Commission’s report, and presents it here, in full, along with accompanying coverage to help unpick the details, and implications of its findings.
Page 197 of the report, which contains part of the testimony of Lt-Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, then director of the ISI, was missing from all copies of the report that Al Jazeera obtained from multiple sources. It is unclear what was contained on that page, but the contextual implication is that, among other things, it contains a list of seven demands made by the United States of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim