Tuesday, May 03, 2011

The long and winding trail to killing of Osama

Business Times - 04 May 2011


The long and winding trail to killing of Osama

By LEON HADAR
WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT

IMAGINE that Adolf Hitler and some of the other top leaders of Nazi Germany would have escaped into neutral Spain after the defeat of the Third Reich by the allies in 1945. And conceive of the following (and unlikely) scenario: In the Pyrenees mountains along Spain's border with France - a country that had been liberated from German occupation a few months earlier - the German Fuhrer and his band of Storm troopers and other Nazi brothers would have established a military and political base from which they would be launching deadly attacks against the US and its allies in France.

It is safe to say that under these circumstances, it would have been inconceivable that the allies would have declared a military victory in the war in Europe or that they would have re-directed their troops and resources to finish the job in the Pacific or, for that matter, to 'liberate' and occupy Argentina, where members of the military junta, including Juan Peron, were regarded as sympathisers of the fascist rulers in Europe.

Yet, many elements of the strategy pursued by the administration of former president George W Bush in the aftermath of the Sept 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington seemed as bizarre as the notion that the US would have described Spain's Generalissimo Francisco Franco as an 'ally in the war against Nazism', while allowing him to provide a safe haven for Hitler and his associates and re-deploying American troops to fight a unnecessary war in Argentina.

Or, as weird as the idea is, that the US would be waiting for another ten years before sending US special forces' personnel to capture and kill the Nazi leader who was hiding in a mansion a few kilometres from Madrid and just 800 metres away from a Spanish military academy.Â

Indeed, in what was probably one of the most disastrous strategic decisions in US history, Mr Bush and his neo-conservative advisers allowed Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda thugs and the Taliban enablers to flee into Pakistan, to use it as a sanctuary and a launching pad for attacks against the US and its allies in Afghanistan as part of an effort to topple the pro-American government in Kabul.

 And then, instead of employing its military and diplomatic resources to capturing bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda network in Pakistan and defeating the Taliban forces hiding there, the US redeployed its troops to Mesopotamia where it wasted its precious diplomatic capital and military assets in an effort to oust Saddam Hussein, a secular Arab leader and a declared enemy of the fundamentalist bin Laden.

And the subsequent US occupation of Iraq served only to destabilise and radicalise Iraq - playing directly into the hands of bin Laden and his anti-Western terrorists.

Moreover, there was something very surreal about the conventional wisdom promoted by the leaders of the US and Pakistan post-9/11 that the two countries were 'allies' in the war on terror. That was just not, well, true. Pakistan, which together with Saudi Arabia (another US 'ally') were the two governments who maintained diplomatic relationship with the Taliban regime pre-9/11, has always regarded Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalists as close allies in containing the power of India, Pakistan's main strategic adversary.

In fact, according to numerous and credible press reports, academic studies as well as diplomatic documents released by Wikileaks, the heads of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, the recipient of an annual US$2 billion from Washington, have continued to provide weapons and financial assistance to the Afghan Taliban and the Islamist network run by Siraj Haqqani, a Pashtun warlord who runs an Islamist network while acting as if they were cooperating with the US fight against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda - a double-dealing game that fools no one.

Indeed, that the killing of bin Laden took place 'deep inside Pakistan in an American operation, almost in plain sight in a medium-sized city that hosts numerous Pakistani forces', as The New York Times put it, shouldn't have come as a major surprise to the Americans. That bin Laden was hiding in a huge mansion in a town a few kilometres away from Islamabad and next to what is considered to be Pakistan's West Point, was probably known to at least some members of the country's intelligence services.

President Barack Obama was correct in stating after the killing of bin Laden that 'justice has been done'. But it is too bad that it has taken ten years - during which the US military resources have been wasted in a misguided war in Iraq and in an ill-advised partnership with Pakistan - to make bin Laden pay the ultimate price for his evil deeds.

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