With Osama bin Laden dead and buried thanks to the Navy SEALs, the Obama administration needs to reevaluate America’s relationship with Pakistan. As Jay Leno joked last week, Osama bin Laden was not “hiding out” in Pakistan — he was living there! The United States has had a long and complicated relationship with the Pakistani government and its military and intelligence services. In some instances they have helped in the War on Terror, but in others they have been a hindrance.
A case in point is this week’s outing of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Pakistan station chief for the second time in five months. The leak occurred in the Pakistani news media and was probably orchestrated by the Inter Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), the Pakistani intelligence service. The harm done by these leaks led to the recall of the first CIA station chief because he received death threats. Obviously, this was a disruption for the operation the CIA was running in a safe house near bin Laden’s now-infamous compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. By playing these games, the ISI is knowingly harming America’s War on Terror efforts.
Earlier this week, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani addressed the Pakistani parliament. He did not take any responsibility for Osama bin Laden being in his country. In fact, Prime Minister Gilani issued a threat to America by saying another such incursion would be met by the “full force” of the Pakistani military. Gilani went on to say how the ISI — which purportedly failed to find bin Laden right under its nose — was the best intelligence service in the world. This is just another example of the Pakistani government speaking out of both sides of its mouth.
By some accounts, Osama bin Laden had been living in Abbottabad for five to six years. It is not like Abbottabad is located in the Pakistani tribal region. Abbottabad is about thirty miles away from Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, and bin Laden’s compound was a stone’s throw away from the Pakistani army’s version of West Point. If the ISI could not find Osama bin Laden in its own backyard, then they are more like the Keystone Cops than a top-flight intelligence agency.
If the Pakistani government didn’t know bin Laden was holed up in Abbottabad, how did they know to arrest 40 people with ties to bin Laden just four days later in the same town? And are we to believe that when bin Laden’s compound was being built in 2005, it didn’t raise any eyebrows with the ISI?
Both Osama bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the operational mastermind of the September 11th attacks, were found living in Pakistan. It is fair to assume that Al Qaeda’s new number one, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is seeking sanctuary somewhere there, too. If any other mansions with 18-foot walls have been built recently in Pakistan, maybe the government should try knocking on their doors.
At Citizens United, we produced a short YouTube video politely encouraging Pakistan to hasten the capture of al-Zawahiri, the world’s most-wanted terrorist.
As President Bush said in the days after September 11th, “we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.” The Obama administration must hold the Pakistani government accountable and get to the bottom of how Osama bin Laden lived in Pakistan for all of those years. If they are found to have harbored bin Laden — or the new most-wanted terrorist, al-Zawahiri — they must be considered a hostile regime and suffer the consequences.