Asif Haroon Raja
It may be recalled that when the US and its allies decided to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 on a flimsy excuse of getting hold of Osama bin Laden and dismantling Al-Qaeda to avenge terrorist attacks allegedly masterminded by Osama, in that timeframe Al-Qaeda was an unknown entity. If nabbing or killing blue-eyed boy of CIA Osama and his few hundred ill-organised and ill-equipped followers from different countries was the real purpose, there was absolutely no reason for carrying out grand mobilisation and invading Afghanistan. Either proof of his involvement should have been furnished to Mullah Omar as asked by him to justify handing over his guest, or his rational suggestion of putting Osama on trial in a neutral country heeded to.
However, the US tried to kill a fly with a huge hammer, which still managed to fly away. The real purpose of invasion was to topple Taliban regime that had disagreed with unjust terms and conditions of US oil and gas tycoons wanting to pipe down energy resources from Central Asia to European and US markets via Afghanistan and Pakistan. Eager to give practical shape to its New World Order, the US wanted to convert Afghanistan into a permanent military base wherefrom it could monitor regional countries of its interest.
Having learnt that the entire Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership including Osama had taken shelter in caves and tunnels of Tora Bora mountain range, the US military should have encircled the plausible sites to prevent their escape and then a combing operation launched. Afghan-Pakistan border should have been effectively sealed. No such thing was done since US higher ups showed disinterest when they were informed about Osama’s presence in Tora Bora. The US military took the easy route of ceaseless pounding from air hoping that the inmates would be smoked out. Taking advantage of smoke screen created as a result of reckless bombing and inhibition of allied forces, the whole lot including Osama and Mulla Omar slipped out. Not a single Al-Qaeda or Taliban leader could be arrested. It was a huge intelligence and military failure but the matter was hushed up. It is widely believed the US military deliberately allowed Osama and others to escape to Pakistan to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan and to subsequently put the bridle around Pakistan. Once he escaped, he was made into a Frankenstein monster that vanished into thin air. Ever since Osama escaped from Afghanistan on 16 December 2001, the US officials are indulging in meaningless conjectures. At no stage they admitted their failure to nab him. The US Senate has come out with an unconvincing explanation that former Defence Secretary Rumsfeld rejected calls for reinforcements when Osama was within grasping reach. It is a childish excuse to cover up an oversight for which the US and Pakistan are paying dearly.
It wants to put across that the US military had the capability but was denied. Having miserably failed to perform its primary task, the US was left with no choice but to cover up its embarrassment by pressurising Pakistan to do what it could not do. Had Pakistan not helped in arresting over 600 Al-Qaeda and Taliban operatives including some high profile leaders, US scorecard would have been blank. Instead of appreciating its efforts and sacrifices it rendered, the US started mistrusting Pakistan Army and the ISI and indulged in immoral blame game alleging that it was soft towards Afghan Taliban. These cheap tactics were employed to hide their failures and conceal launching of covert operations against Pakistan for the fulfilment of its multiple objectives. Endless sensational stories about whereabouts of Osama and his exploits were fed to the media to keep him alive and to keep American public distracted and placated. It was also reported that Osama was suffering from diabetes and acute kidneys problem and required frequent dialysis. Reports of his death were also circulated. The more he was demonised in the western world more he got popular in the Muslim world and attained the status of a hero. A worldwide massive manhunt backed by high-tech electronic and satellite means was launched and the earth combed from one end to the other. All mobile and line phones, internet, foot and vehicular movements were monitored and houses pierced through geo-stationery satellites but he remained untraced. Having scanned all nooks and corners of the world, the US came to the conclusion in 2008 that Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda were hiding somewhere along Pak-Afghan border belt. Services of reputed Scotland Yard were hired, head money raised to $50 million and network of informers engaged to track down most wanted man.
When all efforts failed and feelings of impotent rage intensified, they found some solace in making Pakistan a convenient scapegoat and alleging that Osama was hiding somewhere in FATA. Under this plea, the US military became aggressive and repeatedly expressed its desire to move into FATA to stalk the most prized prey. The US then modified its stance and stated that FATA was the most dangerous place on earth which was a breeding ground for terrorists and suicide bombers and a launching pad for cross border terrorism into Afghanistan. A little later the story was made juicier by declaring FATA as the main base of Al-Qaeda and from where possible attack on US homeland could emanate. In search for Osama and other top leaders of Al-Qaeda, CIA accelerated drone attacks in 2009 against suspected targets. Hillary Clinton on her last visit to Pakistan blurted out that Osama and other senior Al-Qaeda leaders were present in FATA since 2002 and it was incomprehensible that Pakistan leadership didn’t know about it. Gordon Brown substantiated this claim and now Obama has stated that Al-Qaeda is present in Pakistan from where planning for another attack on US homeland is in the offing. What it amounts to is that the US and Britain suspect that Pakistan is sheltering Osama and is linked with Al-Qaeda as well as with Afghan Taliban.
Knowing his fragile medical condition, it is humanly not possible for Osama to remain in hiding for eight years in treacherous terrain of FATA that had come under the strong influence of CIA and FBI from 2002 onwards. ISI was virtually pushed into the background so that covert operations could proceed unhindered and unobserved. Tons of armaments with Indian markings hidden in tunnels and caves unearthed from Swat and South Waziristan speak volumes of involvement of foreign agencies. Under such circumstances, to expect Osama to leave the companionship of time-tested Afghan Taliban and marry up with unknown and untested Pakistani Taliban with whom former have not established any association is far-fetched. Moreover, the ISI had helped in tracing and arresting hundreds of Al-Qaeda leaders including Khalid Sheikh and Abu Faraj. There was no reason for Pakistan under Musharraf that had ditched Afghan Taliban and had put all eggs in the basket of USA to shelter Osama. One can at best laugh at the silly fabrication that has no head or tail.
The theory of Al-Qaeda safe havens in FATA has been invented to deflect attention from US failures. Osama has been kept alive to justify continued occupation of Afghanistan. Now that Gen McChrystal’s wish of additional 30,000 troops has been fulfilled, rather than feeling relieved and more confident, he has come out with another lame excuse that unless Osama is captured or killed, Al-Qaeda cannot be defeated. Knowing his nature of disease he contracted many years ago, medically his survival under adverse conditions is next to impossible.Osama is dead, so the US should stop flogging the dead horse and let his soul rest in peace.