I fully endorse what both Sekunder and Umair have to say about Osama bin Laden’s quite timely death. No one will shed many tears for this, and even though neither the war on terror nor the war in Afghanistan will end as a result I’m still glad he’s no longer breathing.
There are many things to consider. The broader implications of the war can be left for another time. What concerns me so much is Pakistan. Pakistani officials have protested for years that they didn’t know where bin Laden was—whether Pervez Musharraf insisting to Lara Logan that he wasn’t even looking for the man, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Pakistan’s foreign minister, telling Wolf Blitzer that no one knows where he was hiding (and he didn’t seem to care very much). Then there’s the CIA’s closure of the bin Laden unit in 2006—while many of those functions and analysts were folded into the National Counterterrorism Center, or NCTC, it was a symbolic acknowledgement that they didn’t see bin Laden as a unique global threat anymore.
Then there is the open not-so-secret of ISI’s collaboration with militants. If no one knew bin Laden was really hiding in Abbottabad, a garrison town populated by senior military officers, then they just weren’t doing their job—intentionally or through sheer incompetence. And President Obama went out of his way to say that he waited until after the raid to inform the Pakistanis of what had happened.
However. The official story is, several U.S. helicopters raided this compound in Abbottabad, and got into a 40+ minute firefight, and the Pakistani military didn’t react or intervene. The Pakistani military is not shy about firing at U.S. helicopters when they violate its airspace. So it’s pretty clear that someone inside the Pakistani military complex knew about the raid, and instructed the local forces not to respond.
There is obviously more to this story. Late late late on Sunday night, I wrote about some of them for The Atlantic:
If there is a coherent story out of Pakistan from the past year, it is that the CIA has disconnected its operations from the ISI, to stunning success: not only have drone strikes killed more terrorists, but now the U.S. has launched a raid to kill the most wanted terrorist in the world — in town controlled by the Pakistani military. This is surely humiliating for Pakistani President Zardari: he wasn’t even given a courtesy call before the raid began.
It seems that, one way or another, the U.S. relationship with Pakistan must change, and is changing. I have no idea if that’s a good thing or not; I suppose, like so much else in this whole story, we will have to see.