A geopolitical blog on the politics and culture of Af-Pak and Middle East and North Africa (MENA) regions; insurgencies in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen; Islamic radicalism, sectarianism and terrorism; neocolonialism, energy wars and petroimperialism.
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Missing Pieces of Bin Laden's Execution Mystery
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.
According to Seymour Hersh, the original plan of the Obama
Administration regarding the disclosure of the execution of Osama bin Laden to
the press was that he had been killed in a drone strike in the Hindu Kush
mountains on the Afghan side of the border. But things didn’t go as planned
during the operation as a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad
compound and the whole town now knew that an operation is underway.
Therefore, that original plan was abandoned and Obama
Administration had to go public within hours of the operation with a hurriedly
cooked up story. This explains so many contradictions and loopholes in the
official version of the story; the biggest being that the US Special Ops
conducted a raid deep inside the Pakistani territory on a garrison town without
the approval of the Pakistani authorities.
Moreover, according to AFP, Pakistan’s military sources have
confirmed that there was a defector who had met several times with Jonathan
Bank, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, as a consequence of which the
Pakistani intelligence disclosed his name to the newspapers and he had to leave
Pakistan in December 2010 because his cover had been blown.
Seymour Hersh posited in his
report  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 Bin Laden Group and it was simply not possible for the
Saudis to hand him over to the US.
Moreover, it should be remembered that the Pakistani
military and Saudi Arabia 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 US-friendly,
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.
Amb. Husain Haqqani, Kerry and Zardari.
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 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  and eventually Ambassador Haqqani had to
In his latest
news story  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.
The original deal between the Obama and Zardari
Administrations was that the story would be made public a week after the
operation, as mentioned by Hersh in his report, that Bin Laden has been
killed/captured in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan side of the border.
The crashed Black Hawk in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, however, made that
impossible. Obama Administration had to improvise within hours of the operation
with a hurriedly made up story. This explains so many contradictions and
loopholes in the official version of the story, as I already mentioned.
Although, Seymour Hersh has claimed in his version of the
story that the Pakistani military authorities were also on-board months before
the operation; let me clarify, however, that in my opinion only the Pakistani
civilian administration under the Zardari-led and US-friendly, People’s Party
were on-board; and the military authorities, who were instrumental in harboring
Bin Laden and his family for five years, were intimated only at the eleventh
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 a fully coordinated Pakistan-US
operation. A lot of online material is available regarding the incident and the
Pakistan government has also released the Abbottabad Commission’s Report (which
is still classified though leaked by Al Jazeera) but the whole episode and its
reporting sheds light on the complicity, sensationalism and spin-doctoring by
the mainstream 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 Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on the night of
the operation. The Navy Seals allegedly flew from the Jalalabad airbase in
Afghanistan in two ‘modified’ Black Hawk helicopters and landed in Bin Laden’s
Abbottabad compound 90 minutes later. Naturally the flight-path must have been
A few points to note here:
Firstly, by ‘modified’ Black Hawks the corporate media
spin-doctors imply a quieter stealth helicopter; but no matter what kind of
technology is employed a helicopter is a very noisy aircraft, that’s why we
don’t see any commitment of resources for developing stealth helicopters, a la
the stealth jets like F-35. Moreover, even if it is assumed that the Black
Hawks were stealth helicopters, then what about the Chinook that took Navy
Seals back to their base in Afghanistan after one of the Black Hawks crashed in
Bin Laden’s compound; was that also a stealth version of the Chinooks?
Secondly, we are not sure whether the Black Hawks actually
flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abottabad in Pakistan; because Pakistan
had leased several airbases in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces to
the joint US Air Force and CIA drone operations, like the Shamsi Airfield for
instance, from October 2001 until the Salala incident in November 2011 in which
28 Pakistani soldiers were killed by the US forces based in Afghanistan and the
relations between Pakistan and the US reached their all-time low. Bear in mind,
however, that the Bin Laden operation took place in May 2011 when CIA still had
bases inside Pakistan.
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 the airspace of some of
Pakistan’s most strategic military and air-force installations.
The naïve audience of the mainstream media 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
But the area between Attock, Abbottabad and Islamabad is
Pakistan’s most sensitive and heavily militarized area.
If we take a cursory look at some of the strategic locations
from west-to-east that lie in the alleged flight path of the Black Hawks:
First, there is Pakistan Air Force’s Kamra airbase near
Attock which is used for manufacturing JF-17 Thunders in collaboration with
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 the 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 being manufactured
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 might have been, passes through the air-space above,
or anywhere near all those military sites, Pakistan must have the most inept
armed forces in the world to let that happen.
Apart from the aforementioned sites, Pakistan’s Military Academy
Kakul; Pakistan Air Force installations in Kalabagh, Nathiagali; and several
Pakistan Army’s regiment centers are also located in Abbottabad. In fact the
whole city is a garrison town like Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
For all these reasons, I fully endorse Seymour Hersh’s view
that Operation Neptune Spear was a coordinated operation between the Pakistani
and the US Armed Forces.