The total lack of communication between the US and Pakistani governments on the assassination of Osama bin Laden came as no surprise to those who long-suspected rank duplicity in the Pakistani power-structure. Recently revealed information, obtained by WikiLeaks, has now verified this suspicion in spades, exposing, in particular, the incredibly corrupt and treacherous nature of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Among other things, the ISI has worked closely with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other radical Islamists, including Salafists and Wahhabists.
According to one leaked diplomatic cable recording the assessment of a foreign counter-terrorism official, Pakistani security forces had protected bin Laden all these years, warning him whenever American forces were closing in on him. This, in fact, was how he escaped Northern Waziristan, the diplomat said. The leaked document acknowledges that Pakistan is still a breeding ground for terrorists, who migrate to other areas (i.e. Tajikistan), and that Pakistan was manipulating terrorist groups for “geopolitical gains,” as the official described it.
However, the immense degree of corruption by Pakistan extends far beyond its protection of bin Laden. WikiLeaks cables also reveal that Pakistan’s ISI smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and, moreover, helped send an al-Qaeda unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. According to one document, a Guantanamo Bay detainee (an equivalent of an Afghani Brigadier General) helped pass 65 al-Qaeda members directly to the ISI and “unidentified Wahabi party officials,” who then smuggled the cadre into Pakistan. The detainee reported witnessing one high-ranking terrorist boasting of another incident in which the ISI “sent a military unit into Afghanistan, posing as civilians to fight alongside the Taliban against US forces.” After the unit was captured, funds were “secured…from the ISID [ISI] for their release.” US officials also cited in the same document that the ISI is linked to the Salafist Islamic group Juma’at Ul Dawa Al Qurani (JDQ).
A clear indication of the high-level of protection offered to bin Laden by the Pakistanis was his last place of residence. When US military personnel finally caught up with al Qaeda’s leader and dispensed long overdue justice, bin Laden was living unbothered deep inside Pakistan in Abbottabad, a military town known as the heart of Pakistan’s army establishment. Rawalpindi, the army’s headquarters, is called its “head.” Many high-ranking Pakistani officers live in Abbottabad, which hosts Pakistan’s most prestigious military academies.
Bin Laden’s home in Abbottabad is an elaborate luxury compound that may have been built for him in 2005, the Wall Street Journal reported. The compound is valued at $1 million and was described by one American official as “extraordinarily unique,” which gave the American intelligence operatives tracking bin Laden “confidence” that he may be living there.
The $1 million sum is, of course, nothing compared to the $1 billion that the Pakistani army has been receiving annually from the United States for being a supposed “ally” in the War on Terror. And so, as it turns out, the Pakistani military’s greatest fear these past ten years was more likely not al-Qaeda terrorist attacks, but rather that bin Laden would fall into American hands. Such an occurrence, would result in Pakistan losing the financial gifts from America needed “to fight” terrorism.
Also on the table if bin Laden was captured would have been the additional $1 billion Pakistan receives annually in non-military aid and $300 million in “separate” military assistance. So with such large amounts of money at stake, it is no wonder that corrupt and jihad-minded Pakistani officials would constantly deny for years that they knew the whereabouts of al Qaeda leader’s and smarmily challenged accusers to provide evidence to the contrary. Bin Laden was the goose laying the golden egg for Pakistan’s security establishment.
What also has to be understood here is the Pakistani army’s depraved and predatory attitude towards making money. Like armies in other Third World countries, the Pakistani army is first and foremost a business rather than a fighting machine. According to Ayesha Siddiqa, author of the book Military Inc.: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy, “Pakistan’s army today runs a huge commercial empire,” whose estimated value “runs into the billions of dollars.”
The military’s true worth, Siddiqa maintains, cannot be exactly ascertained due to the lack of transparency. But two of the Pakistani military’s business groups are “the largest business conglomerates in the country.” They acquire “opportunities to monopolize national resources,” and the military’s “economic predatoriness increases in a totalitarian system” like Pakistan’s. The military economy’s “defining feature,” Siddiqa writes, is “concealment.”
In a nutshell, one of the main reasons for the existence of Pakistan’s security forces is the making of money, primarily for Pakistan’s officer corps. Fighting the War on Terror, let alone being a true or loyal friend to an “ally,” is not a top priority for Pakistani security forces — if it is any kind of “priority” at all. So when bin Laden dropped into the Pakistanis’ lap after 9/11, he represented a great opportunity, to many Pakistanis, to advance the agenda of worldwide jihad. To others, he was a tremendous business opportunity.
Thus, the Pakistani security forces, recognizing America’s burning desire to settle accounts with the al-Qaeda leader, took advantage of this situation for years to milk the infidel Americans for billions of dollars and the latest in American weaponry for possible later use against arch-enemy India. The Pakistanis pretended to be doing something for the money, while in reality, they did very little and, in the end, ended up being the hosts and protectors of bin Laden.
Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf, a former army officer, served as a good example of the Pakistani approach. He launched a couple of lackadaisical offensives into Waziristan that produced almost no casualties, hoping to justify, in American eyes, the largesse he was receiving. He also would allow only a very limited number of drone strikes against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Only when he was removed in 2008, seven years after 9/11, did the situation improve somewhat. The number of drone attacks increased dramatically and the Pakistani army launched a long-awaited offensive into the Taliban and al-Qaeda’s South Waziristan stronghold. However, the army is refusing to finish the job and attack North Waziristan.
America was also paying $100 million a month principally for 80,000 Pakistani troops to guard their side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to prevent Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters from crossing into Afghanistan to launch attacks. But American troops often reported that not only would the terrorists walk across the border within sight of Pakistani army outposts, but Pakistani soldiers would sometimes support the enemy with gunfire and rockets when American forces attacked.
Even the one area where the Pakistanis did well, the capturing and handing over of more than four hundred al-Qaeda operatives to American intelligence, was a costly venture for the United States. In each case, the Pakistanis received payment for the captured terrorists as part of a bounty program, which likely accounts for the program’s success. For one al-Qaeda terrorist, and not even a prominent one, the United States paid$500,000.
Ironically, while Muslim extremists are threatening the Pakistani state from the tribal areas within Pakistan’s borders, the Pakistani military, through one of its businesses, is busy recruiting mercenaries to go to Bahrain on behalf of Saudi Arabia. It is also reported the Pakistani army is ready to send two divisions to Saudi Arabia to help the Saudi military against Iran in the Middle East’s looming Sunni-Shiite showdown. And one can be sure Pakistan’s Military Inc. is not doing this for free.
The Obama administration has announced it will investigate whether anyone in Pakistan had anything to do with protecting bin Laden, but don’t expect too much to change. The money supply may slow, or even be cut for a while, but the United States still needs Pakistan because of the terrorist organizations still located on its soil and its strategic location. Few will honestly inquire what kind of “ally” Pakistan really is and what responsibility it bears for the victims of terrorist plots that bin Laden has undoubtedly been assisting during the past ten years.