Osama’s Death No Game-Changer

My Outlook op-ed May 07

The man who was responsible for mass murders of thousands of innocent people from America to Afghanistan, deserved that miserable death without a proper burial on earth. The leader of global terrorism who founded Al-Qaeda, in his will written in December 2001 told his children not to join the group of bloodthirsty Jihadis. This coward living in hiding for the last 10 years was an icon of inspiration for global terrorists, but for his own children he didn’t want the life he urged others to adopt. This should be the legacy of Osama Bin Ladin for all the radical Islamists who want to follow his path of bloodshed for political agenda.

There were funeral prayers for Bin Laden in Pakistani cities. I was horrified to watch one such prayer in Karachi where people were crying for him. Another homage rally was taken out in Quetta, the city where Taliban Shura under Mullah Omar commands insurgency in South. The homage rally reminded me of a similar violent protest in Quetta in 2001, on the day when US airstrikes were launched on Taliban in Afghanistan. I was in Quetta in those days, and have seen the widespread public sympathy for Bin Laden and Taliban in that city.

Religious political parties in Pakistan held rallies against the US raid and Osama’s death on Friday after the noon prayers. While in Afghanistan, where Bin Laden lived for years under the protection of his Taliban hosts, not a tear was shed. Rather, more than 10,000 Afghans in an anti-Taliban rally in Kabul on Thursday were saying “death to Osama”. Street reaction in Afghanistan was joyful. No reaction was shown in Kandahar, the heartland of Taliban hosts of Bin Laden or in the Tora Bora mountain region where Osama used to hide in caves.

Of course the small funeral prayers and homage rallies in Pakistan do not represent majority public opinion in that nation. But those rallies were called by groups like Sipah-e-Sahaba—close to Al-Qaeda—and Jamaat-u-Dawa or Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Kashmir-oriented militant outfit whose chief is a most-wanted terrorist in India, but he was leading the Osama funeral prayers in Pakistan, without any action by security officials. The two –sided policy of Pakistan’s security establishment towards militants has been under criticism by their media in a different tone than before, following the death of Osama in a compound next to Pakistan’s military academy in Abbottabad, 60 miles away from capital Islamabad.

The reaction in Kabul was, as expected, stirred with criticism of Pakistan. President Karzai said the death of Osama in Abbottabad proved Kabul’s stance that Osama was not in Afghanistan, and like many other Al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, he was hiding across the border. Interior and Defense ministers Rahim Wardak and General Bismilah told the Senate that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI was “keeping” the Al-Qaeda leader. They demanded the US Special Forces to target Mullah Omar and Gulbadin Hekmatyar also, suggesting that the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami leaders were also hiding in Pakistan.

An Afghan intelligence official has claimed they helped the US pinpoint Osama hideout. He said the Osama mansion was under surveillance since August last year. They thought a Taliban leader Mawlvi Abdul Kabir was hiding there, and informed the US. Former NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh also said he had told Musharraf 4 years ago about Osama’s presence around Abbottabad, but former Pakistani President had smashed his fist on table saying “Am I the President of the Republic of Banana?” Such stout was the denial from a General who is now surprised on Osama’s hideout in Abbottabad.

The accusations of Pakistan Army as an institution having links with Al-Qaeda or ISI being aware of Osama’s presence in Abbottabad might not be true, otherwise the US should be more outspoken on this. But the fact that the most-wanted terrorist was hiding in their backyard for five years should make them hear concerns of Afghan officials, and not deny when the US intelligence officials say Taliban leaders are in Pakistan.

It’s very obvious that all the important leaders of the Afghan insurgency are hiding in Pakistani cities of Karachi and Quetta, while those of the Haqqani Network are operating from the safe havens of Waziristan. Pakistan knows about most of the Taliban leaders. The US has to further push Pak military and intelligence establishment for Osama-like manhunt of Taliban leaders.

The hunt of Osama should make Taliban and other insurgent leaders worried. President Karzai has sent his former Chief of Staff Omar Dawoodzai as Ambassador to Pakistan and the purpose of this deployment is talks with Taliban. Instead of a political surrender on the terms of insurgents, President Karzai should ask Pakistan to carry out military operations in North Waziristan and hunt down insurgent leaders. The US should conduct such special operations after Mullah Omar, Hekmatyar and the Haqqanis who are responsible for deaths of thousands of Americans, Afghans, and troops from other countries in Afghanistan, and countless innocent Afghan civilians.

The Pakistan military should now conduct operations in North Waziristan and Quetta, and arrest the Taliban leaders. Many senior leaders of Al-Qaeda are in Pakistan, and most probably the succession of Osama in replacing Al-Qaeda’s leadership will also take place somewhere in tribal areas or any safe compound of a city, but the challenge for Pakistan is to stop it, and launch a manhunt of the remaining Qaeda leadership. Only this way, the world will believe presence of Bin Laden in Abbottabad was a major intelligence failure, not any double-game.

Unfortunately in the US, the news of Osama’s death has sparked calls for early withdrawal from Afghanistan. Afghans fear it very much, and it was this widespread concern that Ambassador Eikenberry had to issue a statement saying “this victory will not mark the end of our effort against terrorism. America’s strong support for the people of Afghanistan will continue as before.”

Death of Osama Bin Ladin is indeed the most important success of the war on terror. However, his demise won’t make a big difference in this campaign as a blow to Al-Qaeda. He was a symbolic figure for the past many years, and there are far more radical masterminds to carry global terrorism as his successors. Al-Qaeda has threatened attacks on the US in retaliation of Osama’s killing.

I am still skeptical of any success in the talks with Taliban. My belief is further strengthened with the latest self-revelation by Mawlvi Nazir, a Taliban commander in Waziristan, of his Al-Qaeda membership. He is behind the insurgency in Paktika, Zabul and Helmand. In a recent interview to Saleem Shahzad of Asia Times Online, Mawlvi Nazir has said Taliban won’t talk unless all foreign troops leave. “Al-Qaeda and the Taliban are one and the same. At an operational level we might have different strategies, but at the policy level we are one and the same,” he said. Saleem Shehzad writes “Nazir’s affiliation with al-Qaeda seems to have passed unnoticed by the United States and NATO, which are investing heavily in a reconciliation process with the “good Taliban” and they appear not to understand the drastic changes that have taken place among the top cadre of the Taliban.”

The demise of Osama is neither an end of Al-Qaeda, nor a game-changer in Afghanistan.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Pakistani Taliban, Taliban

One response to “Osama’s Death No Game-Changer

  1. anan

    Can you please share your thoughts on former NDS Chief Amrullah Saleh? Do you consider him a nationalist?

    A friend recently described him as possibly divisive and having tension with some Pashtuns, Uzbeks and Hazaras. There are also accusations that the NDS is slightly rough at times and that many Afghans prefer the Taliban to NDS.

    To what degree is this true?

    Amrullah Saleh is anti ISI and Pak Army. Part of the above accusations probably reflect a PR campaign against him by ISI. But are some of the above accusations also true?

    Regarding the ‘good taliban’ ‘bad taliban’ issue . . . do you think it is possible to wean Mullah Omar away from Sirajuddin? Or wean Sirajuddin away from Ilyas Kashmiri [Bde 313, Bde 055, LeJ], LeT, JeM, TTP, TNSM, IJU, IMU? Hekmatyur?

    It seems like you prefer that internationals surge ANSF capacity and help the ANSF militarily defeat the Taliban.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s