Thursday, May 5, 2011
The U.S. did not inform Pakistan of the operation to kill Osama bin Laden because of fears they were harboring the leader of al-Qaeda and would warn him of the mission, a senior American intelligence official has said. Pakistan has defended itself against allegations it was protecting the world’s most wanted man, and expressed embarrassment after it emerged bin Laden may have been living in the compound in Abbottabad for as many as six years without being intercepted by Pakistan intelligence.
Leon Panetta, the director of the CIA, said cooperation between the two countries “could jeopardise the mission” because there were suspicions that elements of the Pakistani government were working with bin Laden. Panetta disclosed U.S. officials had dismissed working with the government of Pakistan early on in the planning of the mission to kill him because of fears that they might “alert” the man named responsible for the September 11 attacks. The revelation will likely raise questions over the level of trust between officials in Washington, D.C. and Islamabad.
The president of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, has attacked “baseless speculation” that Pakistan was harboring bin Laden. The Pakistani foreign ministry also said in a statement that it has “deep concerns and reservations” over the U.S. fears it is sheltering terrorists, and stressed it shared information openly with Washington. But U.S. officials have raised concerns over how Pakistani authorities allowed bin Laden to remain undetected in the country for as many as six years, and tensions are likely to be further strained after the White House announced it would be throughly investigating claims bin Laden had “benefactors” and a “support system” inside Pakistan. John Brennan, a senior counterterrorism official, said: “We are looking right now at how he was able to hold out there for so long.”
Denying they were providing a shelter for bin Laden, Pakistani officials expressed “embarrassment” over failing to detect his presence so close to the capital; they said a full investigation would be launched. “We will inquire into the causes of what happened but it’s really important not to turn it into any allegation of complicity,” the Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Husain Haqqani, said. But Western politicians have expressed skepticism as to how the Pakistani government did not know bin Laden was in the country, despite him living a short distance from the leading elite military training academy. U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham asked: “How could he be in such a compound without being noticed?”
It emerged yesterday that bin Laden’s daughter had told Pakistani officials that her father had initially been captured by the U.S. forces and then killed. The White House said on Tuesday that bin Laden had been unarmed during the raid, but the U.S. Navy Seals did meet resistance from other people in the building; it is thought as many as 18 people may have been in the compound. The U.S. left several people behind, including six children; afterwards, Pakistani authorities arrested everyone in the compound.
“If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate,” U.S. attorney general Eric Holder said yesterday. But the claim by bin Laden’s 12-year-old daughter that U.S. forces captured him and then shot him dead in front of his family appear to contradict this statement. The U.S. has also been forced to defend itself against allegations that the raid was unlawful, and claims that bin Laden was not a legitimate target. Holder told a Senate committee the killing of the al-Qaeda leader was “an act of national self-defence”.
More details have been emerging about how Bin Laden was killed in a raid by U.S. special forces on a compound not far from Islamabad over the weekend. The U.S. seized computer equipment and mobile telephones from the compound, which will be analysed with the hope they will reveal more information about the workings of al-Qaeda. U.S. president Barack Obama announced the raid on Sunday night. “I can report to the American people and to the world, that the U.S. has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden,” Obama said, and confirmed he had been told in August of a lead to the location of the al-Qaeda leader. Four other people were killed in the raid on the compound; the U.S. sustained no casualties. The body of bin Laden was buried at sea.
||Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.
Last night Obama officially decided the U.S. will not release images of bin Laden’s corpse, which have been described as “very gruesome”. In an interview to be aired on CBS News, Obama will say: “The risks of release outweigh the benefits.” Skeptics have demanded the U.S. release the photographs of the corpse, and officials in the White House have been debating whether to do so for the past several days. But Obama is to add that conspiracy theorists “will just claim the photos are doctored anyway,” and say his decision was partly based on fears that there could be anger in the Middle East if the images were released. “Osama bin Laden is not a trophy—he is dead and let’s now focus on continuing the fight until al-Qaeda has been eliminated.” The images are reported to show bin Laden shot above the left eye, with parts of his brain exposed.
After it was announced on Sunday night that bin Laden had been killed, many Americans begun gathering in front of the White House in Washington, D.C., Times Square and Ground Zero—the site of the World Trade Center—in New York, to celebrate, singing the national anthem. Reports have indicated the U.S. government is awaiting the release of a “martyr tape”—an audio recording made by bin Laden to be broadcast after his death. Many world leaders have said the killing of bin Laden marks a major turning point on the war on terror. “Osama bin Laden suggested that he was operating in the name of Islam, but in reality he makes a mockery of the fundamental values of his own and every other religion,” Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said. But NATO said it would continue the war in Afghanistan to ensure the country “never again becomes a safe haven for extremism, but develops in peace and security.”
The White House also confirmed they expect al-Qaeda may launch a retaliatory attack after bin Laden’s death. “We have anticipated a backlash, a desire, if not the ability, to exact some sort of revenge,” a spokesperson said. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan has threatened to launch attacks in Pakistan and the U.S. in revenge for the death of bin Laden. Panetta said: “Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaeda is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him, and we must—and will—remain vigilant and resolute.” The U.S. has issued notices advising travelers to avoid large crowds in foreign countries.