The dramatic killing of Osama Bin Laden ends the ten-year hunt following 9/11. For the past six years he was living in a villa in a compound close to an important Pakistani military academy in Abbottabad, a suburb thirty miles from Islamabad, the nation’s capital. As tragic as all this is, there is something laughable about it. Either the Pakistanis are incredibly incompetent or they are nefarious. It is hard to swallow that Pakistan’s famous ISI had no knowledge of this. And while they have been playing us for fools, it is also true that no country has sustained as many losses in the fight against the terrorists of Al Qaeda in Pakistan, some five thousand, including generals and other high-ranking officers. But the ICI’s game is to force the Americans out of Afghanistan, get rid of the regime and replace it again with the Taliban so they can serve as a buffer against Indian influence. But they don’t want the Taliban to take over Pakistan so they permit the army to fight them within Pakistani borders. They have no objection to Al Qaeda fighters supporting the Taliban in Afghanistan and they could have cared less if Osama Bin Laden returned there with Mullah Omar. The government is powerless against them and keeps making excuses to the Americans about a seemingly contradictory policy.
America gives Pakistan billions in aid at a time when it is ruled by the most corrupt and unpopular government in its history led by Benazir Bhutto’s husband, a crook most Pakistanis are convinced was complicit in her murder. America is hugely unpopular in Pakistan, not only because of its support for Asif Ali Aardari, the most hated man in Pakistan’s history, but because of America’s favoritism towards India. All through the Cold War Pakistan was a trusted and loyal ally of the United States while India remained neutral but tilting leftward towards the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union collapsed Pakistan became an afterthought with America backing Zia, who was determined to turn Pakistan into an Islamic state. But when Zia opted for nuclear weapons, he died in a mysterious helicopter accident that also took the life of the American ambassador (a bit of collateral damage perhaps?). Pakistan not only got the bomb but its leading nuclear scientist passed the technology on to Iran. America must stay in Pakistan lest its considerable nuclear arsenal fall into the hands of the terrorists.
The Americans treat Pakistan like a colony. After Musharraf left office and Zardari replaced him, the American ambassador, in response to a question from a reporter about America’s opinion of Zardari, replied, “This one is much better. He does whatever we tell him to do.” If that were true he would have located Osama Bin Laden, wouldn’t he?
But where did Osama Bin Laden come from in the first place? For the longest time Afghanistan was a peaceful place ruled by a benign and relatively popular monarch. It was so peaceful in fact that Kabul became the Hippies’ destination of some vogue back in the 60′s. After a Communist coup, Najibullah became part of the ruling clique but was expelled after a struggle between two factions that threatened the stability of Communist rule. It was this struggle that led the Soviet Union to send troops to stabilize the situation. Counter to propaganda in America, the Soviets had no designs on the country and intervened only to stop possible bloodshed and to assure the survival of the Communist regime. Najibullah returned to become head of the Secret Police and ended up being elected president. He offered a new constitution, free elections and the legality of political parties. He also offered the Mujahideen some thirty seats in the parliament, an offer they refused. Instead the armed struggle against the regime and the Soviet presence intensified. It was CIA Director William Casey who got the bright idea to assist a young Saudi scion of one of that country’s richest families. His father, originally from Yemen, was the founder of the Bin Laden Group, one of the largest construction companies of the world. Osama Bin Laden was the Saudi equivalent of a Rockefeller by virtue of his father’s close relationship with the Al Saud, the large and powerful Saudi royal family. He looked like a safe bet. Breaking away from another group that wanted to fight in Afghanistan with the help of CIA he founded his own organization, Al Qaeda. It went quite well with Osama Bin Laden recruiting fighters and arming them with assistance from CIA. After the Soviets finally withdrew and the Communist government fell, the United States left Afghanistan to its own devices. Enter the Taliban, with whom the Americans had no trouble as long as they allowed the construction of an oil pipeline through the country. CIA brought a bunch of Taliban to the States and escorted them around, dressed in native dress and sporting their beards and turbans. Actually, the term Taliban means “student”; they studied at the radical Islamic madrasses that Zia had favored and to which no one had paid any attention.
The Taliban proved difficult in the negotiations for the pipeline and the Americans began to sour on them. Meanwhile Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, threatening Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden warned the Saudis not to rely on Western troops and gave assurances that he could lead an Islamic army to defeat Iraq. His mentor, Saudi intelligence case officer and head of Saudi intelligence, Prince Turki, ridiculed him and told him he was not needed. Enter the Americans, who routed Saddam but left behind a large number of troops in Saudi Arabia at the request of the king. This infuriated the devout Osama Bin Laden since now Saudi Arabia, the Moslem Holy Land, was occupied by non-Moslem troops that included women. He went bananas, moved to Afghanistan and in an interview with the American journalist, John Miller, who would later work for the FBI, declared war on the United States. No one took him seriously but we all know what happened. He launched several attacks in advance of the big one: the World Trade Center. After the tragedy of 9/11 America claimed that it had a perfect right to keep its troops in Saudi Arabia because they were “people of the book.” But the American troops decamped from Saudi Arabia and set down stakes in Bahrain, a causeway away from “The Kingdom.” The Americans demanded that the Taliban turn Osama Bin Laden over to them but they refused. Rumsfeld ordered the invasion of Afghanistan and American troops defeated the Taliban with the help of the Northern Alliance, driving them into Pakistan along with Osama Bin Laden, who managed to escape into Tora Bora, his mountain hideout in Afghanistan. The original plan was to have British paratroops drop down into Pakistan and close the Afghan border in an effort to entrap escaping Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters, including Osama Bin Laden. But Pakistan objected and the British scrapped that part of the operation.
Instead of securing Afghanistan, the Americans once again left them in the lurch, invading Iraq for no good reason instead. This allowed the Taliban to return and NATO has been fighting them ever since. Since the original object of the invasion of Afghanistan was to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice, what is the rationale for the war now that he is dead? That is a question worth pondering.