Did Pakistan know about the raid that killed Osama bin Laden? Michael Ledeen’s Ouija board conversations with the ghost of James Jesus Angleton, the former head of CIA counterintelligence, are always worth a read. In their last chat, they may have been on to something before anyone else: the notion that higher-ups in Pakistan knew about the U.S. operation to snatch OBL. Why should this matter? The world’s worst terrorist is dead. There’s no need to make hay of a great thing, right?
Well, it matters a lot. It matters because the nature of the operation explains the true nature of Pakistan, which, with its triangulations and nuclear arsenal, has long been a wilderness of mirrors. While American politicians wonder whether the Pakistanis were aware of OBL’s hideout — of course they were — al-Qaeda is currently wondering whether the Pakistanis were aware that SEAL Team 6 was on its way to kill their leader. If destroying the rest of al-Qaeda’s hierarchy is the goal, perhaps that is the more immediate question. Perhaps some in Pakistan knew of the hideout, some knew of the operation, and some knew of both.
There are questions here. What happened from the time we located OBL’s courier and the Abbottabad compound in August 2010 to the night of the raid? Did we not once share this intelligence with someone in Pakistan during these nine months? During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stated he would intervene in Pakistan to catch OBL if the Pakistanis did not act. Such a policy required waiting to see whether or not the Pakistanis would act.
We knew Abbottabad was a military town. Pakistan’s prestigious military academy is located just yards away from OBL’s compound. In fact, U.S. forces were stationed there in October 2008 (and possibly another time or two). This remarkable WikiLeaks revelation has been lost on most of the American media. One can only imagine OBL smirking from his balcony, sipping tea while observing joint U.S.-Pakistani military training. He was right under our nose — or, more precisely, we were right under his.
Why would we unnecessarily jeopardize the mission and risk a firefight with the Pakistanis without knowing for certain that we might not have to? What if the Pakistanis thought they were under attack from India? That could have sparked a nuclear exchange between the two rivals. Surely “Black Hawk Down” was not the only bad scenario envisioned during the planning stages of the operation.
Some other questions linger. Does this year’s arrest of Bali bomber Umar Patek, also caught in Abbottabad, have anything to do with anything? What about Pakistan’s arrest and eventual release of CIA agent Raymond Davis in March? For months prior to the raid, CIA operatives had a safe house in Abbottabad to spy on OBL. Who knew of this? And why are we revealing the nature of the intelligence we collected at the compound? As for the raid, what was the nature of the firefight? We were first told it was a 40-minute battle and OBL was the last to be killed. Now we are told the only resistance came from the courier living in the guest house, not OBL’s villa. We were first told OBL had a gun in hand. Now we are told he was “reaching” for a weapon. How does it take that long to reach for a weapon? What happened during the 20-25 minute blackout on the operation’s video stream? Why didn’t we take OBL’s wife with us? Why do at least two of the other three men killed during the raid seem to have been shot in the back of the head?