Monday, May 02, 2011

A Sigh of Relief

We were sitting in the left side of the plane; but the winds were from the south west. So our flight from Dallas approached the Newark airport from the north, and I was treated to a view of the magnificent Manhattan skyline.  I shed my usual tear at the absence of the Twin Towers.

At home, I had had left the radio on, as a thief-deterrent.  As we entered the house, I heard President Obama saying that Osama Bin Laden had been killed.  I normally don't think of any death as an occasion for celebration; but as much joy as is possible on hearing that someone has been killed, I felt.    I think that  the world (a large part of it, anyway) heaves a sigh of relief that such a useless but dangerous man is no more.

The details are intriguing.  OBL was hidden away in the heart of Abbottabad, Pakistan, near the military academy and posh district.  Who knew what and when?  The Pakistani Army has every reason to obfuscate the issue.   It needs to hide any complicity it had in the concealment of OBL for all these long years.  If it was not in the know of the American operation, it would mean that its complicity is suspected (and virtually confirmed for most observers).   So, from a public-relations-with-the-West perspective, the Pakistani military would love for the operation to be thought of as a joint operation.

On the other hand,  the big break between the Pakistani military and its pet jihadis came about in 2007 when the army launched the Lal Masjid operation.  If the fundamentalists think the ISI and the Pakistani army were behind the killing of OBL, then all hell is going to break loose in Pakistan.

American sources say that the Pakistanis had no knowledge of the operation until it was over.

By the way, as per Pakistan's Geo TV channel, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claim already that OBL is not dead.

Then, how did the US special teams make their approach? From Afghanistan in the west, over 120 miles over Pakistani territory? Or from the east, perhaps 40 miles out of India?  I expect Pakistan's level of alertness on the Indian border would be much higher and so more difficult to evade.  But the smaller distance to cover would help.  Was there Indian involvement?

Maybe one day we will know.

PS: The spin begins, this in the pro-China "The Hindu". They try to turn the strange fact of OBL being sheltered near a Pakistan Military Academy into the academy's proximity to OBL means Pakistan was involved in the operation:

While some analysts welcomed the news - describing it a game-changer in the ongoing war on terror - others feared a backlash from terrorist outfits linked to the Al Qaeda network. Given that Pakistan has been facing the blowback effect of its support for the war on terror, the apprehension is that this would increase in days to come in retaliation.

The absence of any reaction from Pakistani authorities is attributed to this fear of retaliation. Since Abbotabad is just a two-hour drive from the federal capital and American helicopters took part in the operation, the general perception is that there was no way the Pakistani authorities would not have been involved; more so since the area also houses the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul.