It was in early May, 2011, that 24 hand picked men of the Red Squadron of SEAL TEAM SIX attacked the compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan, where Osama Bin Laden had been in hiding for several years.
In Pakistan this above event is described as the country’s worst national humiliation after 1971, when not only was Pakistan formally defeated in a major war, an independent Bangladesh was also carved out by vivisection of Pakistan.
After Osama’s killing by American raiders, the Pakistan Government set up a 4 –member Commission of Inquiry headed by the seniormost judge of its Supreme Court, Justice Javed Iqbal. The other three members included Ashraf Jahangir Qazi who was some years back Pakistan’s High Commissioner in New Delhi.
The Commission submitted its 336 – page report to the Prime Minister of Pakistan on January 4, 2013. He immediately declared the report as ‘Classified.’ But on July 8, Al Jazeera English Television managed to secure a leaked copy of the document and published it. The same day, obviously on the basis of the Al Jazeera report, The New York Times, The Guardian, and some other western papers also carried a summary of the report. I am reproducing the NYT report in this blog for regular readers of mine. In India, the Statesman has carried the story in two installments on July 20 and 21, as reported by Seema Mustafa, Resident Editor of The Sunday Guardian.
This report from NYT’s London based Declan Walsh reads as under:
LONDON — Osama bin Laden lived unmolested in Pakistan for almost a decade because of the “collective incompetence and negligence” of the country’s security forces, according to a scathing Pakistani government report that was leaked to the news media on Monday.
The four-member Abbottabad Commission, led by a Supreme Court judge, interviewed 201 people, including the country’s intelligence leaders, in an effort to piece together the events around the American raid on May 2, 2011, that killed Bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, and embarrassed the Pakistani government.
But although the commission’s report was completed six months ago, the Pakistani authorities suppressed it, and the first leaked copy was made public by Al Jazeera on Monday (July 8).
The broadcaster published the 336—page report on its Web site, while acknowledging that there was one omission — a page of testimony from a Pakistani spy chief that appeared to describe elements of Pakistan’s security cooperation with the United States.
Hours later, Pakistan’s telecom regulator blocked access to Al Jazeera’s Web site inside Pakistan.
In some ways, the commission hewed to expectations. In its findings, it leaned toward incompetence rather than conspiracy in explaining Pakistan’s failure to catch Bin Laden after he arrived in the country in mid-2002, having fled the American assault at Tora Bora in Afghanistan.
But in other ways, the report was a surprise. It contained flashes of visceral skepticism about the testimony of key government officials, noted that key questions remained unanswered, and allowed for the possibility that some security officials had covertly helped Bin Laden.
“Connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be entirely discounted,” it said.
The report offered tantalizing new details about life on the run for Bin Laden, as he shifted among six addresses in Pakistan from 2002 to 2011, when his American pursuers finally caught up with him. At times the Qaeda leader is said to have shaved his beard and worn a cowboy hat to avoid detection by Pakistani or American forces.
Once, a vehicle he was riding in was stopped for speeding, but the police officer failed to recognize him and let him go.
The report also took Pakistani officials to task for failing to shut down Central Intelligence Agency operations in the country, and variously portrayed American actions as illegal or immoral. It said the C.I.A. had used mainstream aid agencies as cover to spy on the Qaeda leader, employed “hired thugs” and grossly deceived its allies in the Pakistani government.
“The U.S. acted like a criminal thug,” the report said.
For all its untempered language and institutional constraints, the report offered the most comprehensive official account yet of Bin Laden’s time on the run in Pakistan and the American Navy SEALs raid that took his life.
The four-member commission was comprised of Justice Javed Iqbal of the Supreme Court, a retired police officer, a retired diplomat and a retired army general. It first met in July 2011, two months after the American raid, and has held 52 hearings and conducted seven field visits.
American officials did not cooperate with the commission, and on Monday, Jen Psaki, a State Department spokeswoman, declined to comment on the report. One senior American official who follows Pakistan said he had not yet read a copy of the commission’s voluminous report, but he said that from summaries he had seen, the document appeared to offer “the Pakistan people some accounting of how Bin Laden came to end up where he did.”
In many places, the Pakistani report seems to seethe with frustration at the failures of Pakistani officials to find Bin Laden before the Americans could get to him.
It highlighted inept border officials who allowed one of his wives to pass into Iran, inept municipal officials who failed to spot the unusual construction at his house, intelligence officials who hoarded information, and senior police officials who it deemed guilty of a “grave dereliction of duty.”
The commission interviewed military officials who failed to detect American aircraft entering Pakistani airspace, and it noted that on the night of May 2, the first Pakistani fighter jets were scrambled 24 minutes after the Americans had left Pakistan with Bin Laden’s body on board.
“The extent of incompetence, to put it mildly, was astounding, if not unbelievable,” the report said.
The report noted that the military’s powerful Inter-Service Intelligence directorate “completely failed to track down OBL” and contained detailed testimony from Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, then head of the spy agency.
The commission highlighted how the I.S.I. operates largely outside civilian control. General Pasha, in turn, retorted that the C.I.A. shared only disjointed intelligence about Bin Laden after 2001. The report noted that the Americans provided false information about Bin Laden’s presence in four cities — Sargodha, Lahore, Sialkot and Gilgit — before alighting on Abbottabad.
“American arrogance knows no limits,” General Pasha was cited as saying, as well as that Pakistan was “a failing state, even if we are not yet a failed state.”The missing page of testimony from the leaked version published by Al Jazeera related to General Pasha’s testimony. Al Jazeera noted on its Web site that, judging from the context, the missing material appeared to contain a list of seven demands the country’s military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, made to the United States after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Pakistani government officials did not comment on the veracity of the Al Jazeera report.
Also on Monday, The Associated Press reported that the top United States Special Operations commander had ordered military files about the Bin Laden raid to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the C.I.A., where they could be more easily shielded from public scrutiny.
Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.
21 July, 2013