Osama bin Laden’s Lost Years | Defying Logic

Osama bin Laden’s (“OBL’s”) whereabouts, from his escape from Tora Bora in December 2001 to his death in May 2011, are much better understood following the interrogation of his youngest wife. But there’s simply too much material to read and evaluate before drawing firm conclusions. Thus True Lies this week boils down a dozen articles and leaves the heavier lifting for a later date. I’ve cited the most interesting short source documents in the Endnotes, plus one book (which I’ve yet to read). Once I’ve digested the various other points of view, I may come to different conclusions. (More likely, I’ll add additional conclusions that suggest even more inconsistencies and cover-ups.)

Bin Laden Portrait BBC 2015 June

But first, an update on MH370’s fate. A technician from the Airbus subsidiary in Spain that was a subcontractor for the ill-fated Boeing 777 confirmed that a serial number of a subcomponent made at his factory matched one from the barnacle-covered flaperon. On 3 September, the French prosecutor issued a statement that said in part, “It is therefore possible to confirm with certainty that the flaperon found on Reunion island on July 29, 2015 corresponds to the one from flight MH370.”1 The prosecutor has been conservative throughout the last six weeks’ hype, so if he says the numbers match then I believe him. So the flaperon is from MH370 after all, which means either that the plane did crash in the Indian Ocean, or else there’s an ongoing conspiracy to make it appear so. There’s a French expression that translates as the more things change, the more they stay the same, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. That’s where we are with the MH370 inquiries.

Flaperon serial number 2015 Sep

With Sea of Lies chugging towards an early 2016 publication date in Southeast Asia, my attention turns to finding an agent and publisher for North America. If you have any contacts or suggestions, please let me know c/o author@bradleywest.net

 

Bradley West, California, 6 September 2015

 

 Look Who’s Not Talking

That SEAL Team-6 members killed bin Laden is one of the few facts not in dispute. Before and after Operation Neptune’s Spear, one can find a conspiracy to fit almost any taste. In fact there’s at least as much room for conspiracy theories, cover-ups and incompetence as in the case of MH370. But there are two reasons why the unanswered questions around bin Laden’s hiding and killing don’t get more airplay. The first is pragmatic: OBL was a bad guy, the world is better off with him gone, and now that he’s dead what’s the point? The second is that there were only two actors involved in the OBL saga, the US and Pakistan, and neither of them is talking.

It should ring alarm bells that there’s so little coming out of Washington even four-plus years after the Spec Ops men put a bullet into OBL’s chest and a coup de grâce into his forehead. Journalists following the story reported that several days after the raid, all their informal sources in Washington dried up. The dearth off-the-record scuttlebutt since then means that the word came down from on high: speak, and we’ll send you to prison for a long time.

 

If You Believe in Fairy Tales

 

Alternatively, perhaps the official US version of OBL’s discovery and killing is true and no one is talking because there’s nothing new to be said. From mid-2005 OBL and his extended family lived behind fifteen-to-eighteen foot high concrete walls topped with barbed-wired in a three story house in the sleepy Islamabad suburb of Abbottabad. “As close to Britain as you can get in Pakistan” a retired Pakistan military man in London described the neighborhood. This peculiar house had no Internet, no telephones and the occupants burned their trash rather than put it out on the street for collection. The house was gigantic relative to its neighbors, and sat on a lot about eight times the average size. No one ever left the house other than two men who came and went. None of this rang any alarm bells.

With Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point less than one mile from the house, it would seem to be an odd place given that Pakistan’s government received US$4.5 billion in total aid in 20102 in return for supporting the war in Afghanistan, opposing the Taliban and al Qaeda everywhere, and promising not to use their nuclear arsenal against India. Under normal circumstances, in a city bustling with military activity, one would think that “hiding in plain sight” was a very risky proposition. Particularly when OBL could have taken refuge elsewhere. The sheikh was well known (and highly regarded) by tribes in the Northwest Frontier, Waziristan, and across the border back in Afghanistan. Of course, these are also the regions that US surveillance was the strongest with Predator drones firing missiles at suspected terrorists at will. Certainly not a place where the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate (“ISI”) could offer a VIP protection.

Back to the official narrative. Two brothers, one a protégé of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and operating as Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, kept the occupants supplied with food in-between trips to Peshawar and elsewhere to send and receive mail and emails on behalf of OBL. Bin Laden spent his days inside, occasionally walking around the inside of the compound (where a very tall man was seen in US satellite photos, further piquing the CIA’s interest).

US agents found a Pakistani doctor willing to run a sham children’s TB vaccination program as a pretext for knocking on the door and surreptitiously obtaining DNA samples from the children inside. Bin Laden’s sister had died in Boston in 2010, so there was DNA to compare to the children’s. (No one has confirmed whether the DNA samples were ever taken.)

Following up on intelligence gleaned from Guantanamo Bay prisoners, the Americans identified Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti as someone close to bin Laden. They eventually found al-Kuwaiti, tracked him back to Abbottabad, and then the SEALs did the rest.

The above would be barely credible even if the governments concerned had histories of being open, and as a result had earned the trust of their citizens. That’s far from the case here. I believe there’s been joint cooperation between the US and Pakistan to kill independent enquiries into bin Laden’s time in Pakistan and the circumstances of his death in light of the subsequent clampdown on the events of that night. Call me a conspiracist, but there has to be a reason for the cone of silence. Maybe it’s the desire to not embarrass President Pervez Musharraf, but you would think that with cumulative US aid to Pakistan at over $10billion (2008-2013), the donor would have the right to put pointed questions to the people in charge.

 

Three Conclusions Drawn to Date . . .

I’m calling bull on three parts of the official version of events:

  • It was possible for bin Laden’s extended family to live anonymously in their compound from 2005-2011
  • The ISI didn’t know where bin Laden was
  • The US and Pakistan militaries weren’t in contact on the night of the raid.

Let’s look at each in a little more detail.

 

Peek-a-boo, I see you. The official version is that the compound went undiscovered because it was more or less hermetically sealed. The two al-Kuwaiti brothers unilaterally supplied the compound with everything consumed. But they physically weren’t staying at the compound all the time, and twenty other inhabitants meant that someone would have to market either daily or every-other-day. Either other inhabitants went outside (meaning that they were easier to spot and should have been identified), or third parties were delivering to the front door. So there would have been non-trivial interaction between the inhabitants and the outside world. Bin Laden’s family is Saudi and wouldn’t spoken unaccented Urdu. If you have the most wanted man in the world in hiding, and he’s a Saudi wouldn’t it stand to reason that the security services would be hyper-vigilant about detecting anyone who sounded like a Saudi living locally?

Former New York Times Pakistan bureau chief Carlotta Gall wrote that ISI ran a dedicated desk to handle bin Laden with a senior officer in charge who reported to no one else.3 This arrangement made the issue of whether ISI was sheltering bin Laden totally deniable.

 

It may as well have had a sign on the front door saying “Safe House”. It’s also not credible that no one in authority noticed that the house was fortified. Pakistan has many safe houses, many of them operated by the ISI or under its watchful eye. (The Intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence have their own safe houses as well.) Leaders of notionally outlawed groups often live in these sorts of places both to offer them protection from their enemies and to keep a close eye on them. On balance, at least one part of the ISI, knew where bin Laden was living, and was protecting him. Whether anyone in the rest of the ISI was actively looking for bin Laden isn’t known. Some investigators believe that the entire ISI was turning a blind eye to the sheikh’s presence.

 

Too much time to kill without provoking an armed response. Also unknown is whether the US and Pakistan militaries communicated behind the scenes on the night of 1-2 May 2011. What we do know is that six helicopters carrying 79 SEALs and CIA operatives headed across Pakistan aimed at bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan compound around 01:00 hours and stayed forty minutes. During that period, neither the local police nor the military responded to the explosions and gunfire. Given that Pakistan’s heavily guarded military training institute is situated within earshot, it’s inconceivable that no reaction force was dispatched to the scene before the US forces departed with bin Laden’s corpse and his personal papers, computers, disks and books. As reported in one article, the Pakistan military told the police to stay away, that they’d handle matters. Then the army decided to sit it out as well. The official version doesn’t offer an explanation as to why the army didn’t respond to an armed invasion deep within its border and close to one of its more important bases. So even after just a day’s worth of reading, there are at least three large holes in the official version, and perhaps many more.

 

. . . and Plenty of Room for More Skullduggery

There are plenty of other areas in which something fishy could have happened, for example:

  • Bin Laden left his compound periodically to visit senior militants. In 2009 OBL met “the father of jihad” Qari Saifullah Akhtar in the tribal region of the Northwest Frontier. OBL met other militants such as Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (the head of Pakistan extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-Kashmir-for-Pakistan group under ISI protection) as well yet was never detected by security services or the military, despite the people he was visiting being under surveillance?
  • Foreign financial supporters from Saudi and the Gulf also visited the compound yet drew no attention to themselves?
  • In the days following the raid, ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha allegedly said on a phone call intercepted by the NSA that he was aware of where bin Laden had been hiding.3 I have not seen this corroborated anywhere else. Obviously it’s political dynamite if true.
  • Pakistan’s government covertly supports the Taliban via the ISI, hoping that the Pakistan influence will be greater in a future Taliban regime than today. The result is that the US-led war in Afghanistan can never be won with Pakistan on the other side. This is the big conclusion of journalist Carlotta Gall’s book The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, 2001-2014.4
  • The Prime Minister encouraged the murder of political rival Benazir Bhutto in 2007 on her return from self-exile by reducing security around the former prime minister. The U.N. investigation found circumstantial evidence of same.
  • There isn’t any useful distinction among the ISI, Pakistan Taliban and al Qaeda in Pakistan. It’s the same people pursuing many of the same objectives under different flags.

Readers who want a far broader (but unsubstantiated) indictment of the official view should see Seymour Hersch’s “The Killing of Osama Bin Laden”5. Hersch says that bin Laden was under ISI house arrest, and his death was stage-managed. He also says a great many other things, many of which are simply outrageous. . . perhaps true, but outrageous nonetheless.

So there you have it, another half dozen plausible expansions of the unexplained circumstances surrounding bin Laden’s last six years, plus a blockbuster cluster of allegations from a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. Just another day at the office for the True Lies readers.

 

Endnotes

1France Part Found on Reunion Island, CNBC.com 2015 September 3 at  http://www.cnbc.com/2015/09/03/france-part-found-on-reunion-island-from-malaysian-airlines-flight-mh370.html

2What the US Spends in Pakistan, Center for Global Development, as sourced from http://www.cgdev.org/page/aid-pakistan-numbers

3What Pakistan Knew About Bin Laden in New York Times Magazine by Carlotta Gall, 2014 Mar 19 at http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/magazine/what-pakistan-knew-about-bin-laden.html

4 The Wrong Enemy: American in Afghanistan, 2001-2014, Carlotta Gall (March, 2014). Buy it at http://www.amazon.com/The-Wrong-Enemy-Afghanistan-2001-2014/dp/0544046692

5The Killing of Osama bin Laden, The London Review of Books by Seymour Hersch 21 May 2015 sourced at http://www.lrb.co.uk/v37/n10/seymour-m-hersh/the-killing-of-osama-bin-laden