WHITE HOUSE, ISLAMABAD RUBBISH SEYMOUR HERSH REPORT
Osama Bin Laden
NEW DELHI: Award winning American investigative journalist and author, Seymour Hersh, has claimed that United States President Barrack Obama lied about the killing of Osama Bin Laden for his own political advantage. Further, and perhaps most importantly, the report claims that the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden was with the help of the Pakistani government.
“They helped. They totally helped. They helped a great deal,” said Hersh when Pakistani newspaper Dawn asked him if he believed Pakistan helped the US reach the Al Qaeda leader.
According to Hersh, rather than hiding out in Abbottabad -- as the official narrative suggests -- Bin Laden was actually being held by the Pakistani intelligence. “Operation Neptune Spear” thus was a work of fiction.
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission. This remains the White House position despite an array of reports that have raised questions, including one by Carlotta Gall in the New York Times Magazine of 19 March 2014,” Hersh says.
The NYT report that Hersh is referring to caused a great deal of controversy, as it asserted that ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha knew of Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The report was adapted from the author’s book “The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014,” which examines Pakistan’s role in financing, training and providing recruits for the Taliban, with Gall asserting that “the organizers of the insurgency [in Afghanistan] were in Pakistan, specifically in the western district of Quetta.”
Gall wrote the following in reference to Lt. Gen. Pasha’s knowledge of Osama Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad in the New York Times.
“Soon after the Navy SEAL raid on Bin Laden’s house, a Pakistani official told me that the United States had direct evidence that the ISI chief, Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha, knew of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. The information came from a senior United States official, and I guessed that the Americans had intercepted a phone call of Pasha’s or one about him in the days after the raid. “He knew of Osama’s whereabouts, yes,” the Pakistani official told me. The official was surprised to learn this and said the Americans were even more so. Pasha had been an energetic opponent of the Taliban and an open and cooperative counterpart for the Americans at the ISI. “Pasha was always their blue-eyed boy,” the official said. But in the weeks and months after the raid, Pasha and the ISI press office strenuously denied that they had any knowledge of Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
Colleagues at The Times began questioning officials in Washington about which high-ranking officials in Pakistan might also have been aware of Bin Laden’s whereabouts, but everyone suddenly clammed up. It was as if a decision had been made to contain the damage to the relationship between the two governments. “There’s no smoking gun,” officials in the Obama administration began to say.
The haul of handwritten notes, letters, computer files and other information collected from Bin Laden’s house during the raid suggested otherwise, however. It revealed regular correspondence between Bin Laden and a string of militant leaders who must have known he was living in Pakistan, including Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmiri group that has also been active in Afghanistan, and Mullah Omar of the Taliban.”
The Pakistani government immediately rubbished the claim. Pakistan military spokesperson Lt. Gen. Asim Bajwa posted on twitter that the allegations were “baseless, ridiculous. Nothing new/credible, all speculations already proven false.” Pakistan Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam also denied the report, saying, “There are many inconsistencies in the article… The author [Carlotta Gall] herself talks about suppositions from sources with no direct knowledge. So it is not something serious."Aslam attributed responsibility to the New York Times, stating that publications can lose their credibility by carrying stories with allegations based on factual inaccuracies.
However, there have been other similar allegations. In February this year, former ISI chief Lt.General Asad Durrani (retd), told AL Jazeera’s Head to Head that Pakistan most likely sheltered Osama Bin Laden in the years leading up to the US raid in Abbottabad in May 2011.
““I cannot say exactly what happened but my assessment […] was it is quite possible that they [the ISI] did not know but it was more probable that they did. And the idea was that at the right time, his location would be revealed. And the right time would have been, when you can get the necessary quid pro quo - if you have someone like Osama bin Laden, you are not going to simply hand him over to the United States,” General Durrani said.
He asserted that Bin Laden was, in his opinion, handed over in exchange for an agreement on “how to bring the Afghan problem to an end” Al Jazeera reported, quoting the General saying that “If ISI was doing that, than I would say they were doing a good job. And if they revealed his location, they again probably did what was required to be done.”
It shouldn’t be surprising, hence, that Seymour’s report too has been dismissed. The White House issued a statement dismissing the claims presented as “baseless.” "There are too many inaccuracies and baseless assertions in this piece to fact check each one," White House National Security spokesman Ned Price said in a statement to reporters, adding "the notion that the operation that killed Usama Bin Ladin was anything but a unilateral U.S. mission is patently false."
"As we said at the time, knowledge of this operation was confined to a very small circle of senior U.S. officials. The President decided early on not to inform any other government, including the Pakistani Government, which was not notified until after the raid had occurred," Price said. "We had been and continue to be partners with Pakistan in our joint effort to destroy al-Qa'ida, but this was a U.S. operation through and through."
At the time of writing, Pakistan is yet to issue an official response.
Excerpts from Seymour’s article are reproduced below:
““Pasha and Kayani were responsible for ensuring that Pakistan’s army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission. The American cell at Tarbela Ghazi was charged with co-ordinating communications between the ISI, the senior US officers at their command post in Afghanistan, and the two Black Hawk helicopters; the goal was to ensure that no stray Pakistani fighter plane on border patrol spotted the intruders and took action to stop them. The initial plan said that news of the raid shouldn’t be announced straightaway. All units in the Joint Special Operations Command operate under stringent secrecy and the JSOC leadership believed, as did Kayani and Pasha, that the killing of bin Laden would not be made public for as long as seven days, maybe longer. Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border. The Americans who planned the mission assured Kayani and Pasha that their co-operation would never be made public. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests – bin Laden was considered a hero by many Pakistanis – and Pasha and Kayani and their families would be in danger, and the Pakistani army publicly disgraced.
“It was clear to all by this point, the retired official said, that bin Laden would not survive: ‘Pasha told us at a meeting in April that he could not risk leaving bin Laden in the compound now that we know he’s there. Too many people in the Pakistani chain of command know about the mission. He and Kayani had to tell the whole story to the directors of the air defence command and to a few local commanders.”
“At the Abbottabad compound ISI guards were posted around the clock to keep watch over bin Laden and his wives and children. They were under orders to leave as soon as they heard the rotors of the US helicopters. The town was dark: the electricity supply had been cut off on the orders of the ISI hours before the raid began. One of the Black Hawks crashed inside the walls of the compound, injuring many on board. ‘The guys knew the TOT [time on target] had to be tight because they would wake up the whole town going in,’ the retired official said. The cockpit of the crashed Black Hawk, with its communication and navigational gear, had to be destroyed by concussion grenades, and this would create a series of explosions and a fire visible for miles. Two Chinook helicopters had flown from Afghanistan to a nearby Pakistani intelligence base to provide logistical support, and one of them was immediately dispatched to Abbottabad. But because the helicopter had been equipped with a bladder loaded with extra fuel for the two Black Hawks, it first had to be reconfigured as a troop carrier. The crash of the Black Hawk and the need to fly in a replacement were nerve-wracking and time-consuming setbacks, but the Seals continued with their mission. There was no firefight as they moved into the compound; the ISI guards had gone. ‘Everyone in Pakistan has a gun and high-profile, wealthy folks like those who live in Abbottabad have armed bodyguards, and yet there were no weapons in the compound,’ the retired official pointed out. Had there been any opposition, the team would have been highly vulnerable. Instead, the retired official said, an ISI liaison officer flying with the Seals guided them into the darkened house and up a staircase to bin Laden’s quarters. The Seals had been warned by the Pakistanis that heavy steel doors blocked the stairwell on the first and second-floor landings; bin Laden’s rooms were on the third floor. The Seal squad used explosives to blow the doors open, without injuring anyone. One of bin Laden’s wives was screaming hysterically and a bullet – perhaps a stray round – struck her knee. Aside from those that hit bin Laden, no other shots were fired. (The Obama administration’s account would hold otherwise.)”