New Insights into Bin Laden Operation

By Nauman Sadiq, an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on Middle East and energy politics.

Seymour Hersh posited in his report [1] on the Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan as a favor to hide Bin Laden because he was a scion of a powerful Saudi-Yemeni Binladin Group and it was simply not possible for the Saudis to hand him over to the US. By that time, in 2005-6, Bin Laden was already on the run and his value was nothing more than that of a figurehead dummy.

Moreover, it should be remembered that the Pakistani military and the House of Saud have very deep and institutionalized links: thousands of Pakistani retired and serving army officers work on deputations in the Gulf states; furthermore, during the ‘80s and ‘90s Saudi Arabia lacked an efficient intelligence set-up, and the Pakistani ISI virtually played the role of Saudi Arabia’s foreign intelligence service.

But once the Pakistani walk-in colonel told the then-CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, that a high-value al Qaeda leader is hiding in an ISI’s safe house in Abbottabad, right next to the Pakistani Military Academy, and after that when the CIA obtained further proof in the form of Bin Laden’s DNA through the fake vaccination program carried out by Dr. Shakil Afridi, then it was no longer possible for the Pakistani security establishment to deny the whereabouts of Bin Laden.

In his report Seymour Hersh has already postulated various theories that why it was not possible for Pakistan to simply hand Bin Laden over to the US. Here let me only add that in 2011 Pakistan had a pro-US, People’s Party’s government. It is quite plausible that the then army chief, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the ISI head, Shuja Pasha, might still have had strong objections to the US special ops carrying out an operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

But the Pakistan’s civilian administration under the then President Asif Ali Zardari, and especially the disgraced Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, must have pressed upon the army chief and the ISI head to order the Pakistan Air Force to stand down during the operation. Ambassador Haqqani’s role in this saga must have ruffled the feathers of Pakistani security establishment to an extent that they later filed a case against Haqqani regarding his memo to Admiral Mike Mullen [2] and eventually Ambassador Haqqani had to resign.

In his latest news story [3] Greg Miller of Washington Post posits that Mark Kelton, the CIA station chief in Islamabad at the time of Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, was poisoned by the ISI. The only purpose of this leak, five years after the operation, seems to be to discredit Seymour Hersh’s report in which he has proven beyond doubt that the Pakistani security establishment fully cooperated with the US during the operation. It is not a coincidence that this news story has been released only within a month of the publication of Seymour Hersh’s book: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden.”

Here it should be remembered that Mark Kelton succeeded Jonathan Bank in January 2011, after the latter’s name was outed by the ISI. Hersh has mentioned in his report that the Pakistani walk-in colonel had met Jonathan Bank and told the latter that Bin Laden was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad under the custody of ISI. But in order to be sure, the US needed further proof; that’s why they arranged that vaccination program run by Dr. Shakil Afridi to get Bin Laden’s DNA samples.

A Coordinated Operation between Pakistan and the US:

Operation Neptune Spear by the US Navy Seals in which Osama Bin Laden was killed on 2 May 2011 was actually a coordinated Pakistan-US operation.

A lot of online material is available about the incident and the Pakistan government has also released the Abbottabad Commission’s Report (which is still classified) but the whole episode and its reporting sheds light on the complicity, sensationalism and spin-doctoring by the Western corporate media.

By ‘coordinated operation’ I mean that the operation was carried out in full coordination with the Pakistani Air Force and  ground forces which secured the area around OBL’s compound on the night of the operation.

The Navy Seals allegedly flew from the Jalalabad airbase in Afghanistan in the two ‘modified’ Black Hawk helicopters and landed in OBL’s Abbottabad compound some 90 minutes later.

Naturally the flight-path must have been from west-to-east.

A few points to note here:

First, by ‘modified’ Black Hawks the corporate media spin-doctors imply a quieter stealth helicopter; but no matter what kind of technology we employ a helicopter is a very noisy aircraft, that’s why we don’t see much commitment of resource in developing stealth helicopters a la the stealth jets like F-35.

Secondly, we are not sure whether the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Abottabad, Pakistan because Pakistan had leased several airbases in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to the joint US Air Force and CIA drone operations from October 2001 until the Salala incident in November 2011 like the Shamsi Airfield. Bear in mind the Bin Laden operation took place in May 2011.

Assuming that the corporate media’s narrative is correct and that the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad to Abbottabad (west-to-east) in 90 minutes, in that case they had to fly through Pakistan’s most strategic military and air-force installations.

Naïve Western audience knows very little about Pakistan; it’s a fact that the Af-Pak border region is the lawless wild west of Pakistan; the US forces can fly drones there because it is totally unprotected on the ground as well as its air-space. This perhaps is the reason why they readily believed the lie which was fed to them about the Osama Bin Laden Operation.

But the area between Attock, Taxila and Abbottabad is Pakistan’s most sensitive and heavily militarized area.

If we take a cursory look at the strategic locations from west-to-east:

First, there is Pakistan Airforce’s Kamra airbase near Attock which is used for manufacturing JF-17 Thunders in collaboration with China.

Second, one of Pakistan’s biggest ordnance factory (POF Wah) which employs over 40,000 personnel is located in Wah cantonment which is only 60 kms south-west of Abbottabad.

Third, just opposite to the Wah cantonment is newly built Air Weapons Complex (AWC) which is so sensitive and secretive that even the locals don’t know what kind of ballistic missiles are manufactured there.

Fourth, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) another military site used for building battle tanks and APCs under the direct supervision of Pakistan Armed Forces;

And last but not the least, the Havelian ammunition depot which is only a stone’s throw away from Abbottabad.

Looking at all this data, if some chopper no matter how ‘modified’ or stealthy it must have been, passes through the air-space above or anywhere near all these military sites, Pakistan must have the dumbest military strategists in the world to let that happen.

Aside from the aforementioned sites, Pakistan’s military academy Kakul; a Pakistan air-force installation in Kala-bagh, Nathiagali; and many other Pakistan army’s centers are also located in Abbottabad.

In fact the whole city is a garrison town much like Rawalpindi.

For all these reasons, my calculated guess is that the OBL Abbottabad operation was fully coordinated between the Pakistani and the US Armed Forces.

No doubt the US should get credit for all the intelligence-gathering which eventually led to Bin Laden’s alleged capture.

But when it comes to the actual military operation, the US could not have done it alone so deep into Pakistan’s territory. Another factor which lends credence to this assumption is the deployment of Pakistan’s army which secured all the roads and areas adjoining Bin Laden’s compound on the night of the operation.

Sources and links:

[1] The killing of Osama bin Laden: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n10/seymour-m-hersh/the-killing-of-osama-bin-laden

[2] Mullen memo controversy: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Memogate_(Pakistan)

[3] CIA station chief in Islamabad was poisoned by ISI: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-bin-laden-raids-shadow-bad-blood-and-the-suspected-poisoning-of-a-cia-officer/2016/05/05/ace85354-0c83-11e6-a6b6-2e6de3695b0e_story.html

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  • colinjames71

    I still can’t go with the narrative that bin Laden was killed in 2011 with so many people claiming he died in 2001 of kidney failure. It’s been so long now I’ll have to go back and check where the info came from and who said what etc. It makes a kind of sense to look at Hersh’s claims as a cementing of the essential part of the Abbotabad mission-got-OBL narrative if that were the case, as in he was used or was a willing participant in a propaganda psy op, which I hate to think but who knows for sure. I actually don’t know which story to believe.

    On the other hand, I could see his illness having been exaggerated or a ruse altogether to fake his death in 2001. Seems like an awful lot of trouble for a fake mission and everything that came after all the way up to now, including the Seal team being offed. Although that probably wasn’t hard for the offending parties. What soldier isn’t disposable to TPTB right? I wonder what the prevailing opinion is among readers of sites like this one, solid independents that cover conspiracies but don’t go out of their way to promote them for traffic or go way out on speculative limbs.

    Edited for correction, kidney failure not liver as I first wrote.

    • Southernfink

      Totally — the raid on the Abbottabad compound is one thing, however the most important aspect is that the identity of the so called target has never been proven with solid and verifiable evidence.

      The same source has quite a history filled with lies and omissions when it comes to supplying verifiable evidence for its many claims.

      • colinjames71

        You know it seems the Osama with terminal kidney disease is a shaky story also. That doesn’t automatically make me believe the raid story though. Be nice to hear from Seal Team Six oh wait they’re all dead.

  • Paul

    Impossible to believe that whatever happened there involved Bin Laden as the body was supposedly disposed of – if there was a body at all, there is little reason to believe it was Bin Laden – Sy Hersh looks like a message carrier here. Without a doubt, though, Pakistan was involved.

    • paul

      The explanation that I think makes the most sense is that the supposed Bin Laden raid was a fake. There may have been a raid. There may have been a killing. I doubt whoever was, possibly, killed was Bin Laden. I think the point was to bring closure (not an absolute end, of course) to the war against terror, as a propaganda move, to make it easier to do the ‘Asia pivot’, primarily focused (for starters) on Russia.