On Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, US and Pakistan really are on the same team
US and Pakistani interests do diverge in some areas, but combating Al Qeada isn't one of them. In fact, the speculation around Pakistan's complicity following the killing of Osama bin Laden is misplaced and harmful to our future cooperation with Pakistan, making us less safe.
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Pakistan’s provision of intelligence leading to the discovery of bin Laden is incompatible with allegations of complicity.Skip to next paragraph
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Further, even after the fact, the ISI admitted it was never aware of bin Laden’s location. “We were never able to put two and two together,” explained an ISI official, “It’s unfortunate but we did not know of the people resident in that compound.”
If CIA didn't know for sure, how could ISI?
To assess the credibility of this claim, and to address the ridiculous notion that the compound’s mere presence, size, and structures such as its exterior walls should have tipped off local Abbotabad residents and military personnel in the area that bin Laden was living within, it’s worth remembering that despite eight months of intensive monitoring by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA), and National Security Agency (NSA), nothing definitively confirmed that bin Laden was at the compound.
CIA Director Leon Panetta noted that even at the time of decision, the CIA was only 60 to 80 percent confident bin Laden was there at all.
In the words of Mr. Brennan describing the reaction in the Situation Room, “there was a tremendous sigh of relief that what we believed and who we believed was in that compound actually was in that compound and was found.”
We cannot afford to take risks with our ally
Because we had forewarned Pakistan that if we had actionable intelligence on bin Laden we would act unilaterally, we were able to take the risk that the Pakistani military would not retaliate. But these are risks we should not and cannot afford to take in the future: Having a situation in which an ally scrambles its fighter jets to prepare to confront helicopters loaded with our best Special Forces teams is an unsustainable way forward.
There are two facts around which there is complete unanimity: The cause of securing our country is not complete, and we will need Pakistan’s cooperation to complete it.
As Senator John Kerry (D) of Massachusetts put it yesterday, “If you want a radical Islamist government having possession of nuclear weapons and running Pakistan, then you can go off in a knee-jerk way that makes matters worse. I’m not making matters worse. And I think we have to be very thoughtful about this.”
For counterterrorism, we need partnership, not allegations
The way forward is not with allegations of complicity but of partnership and counterterrorism and counterinsurgency capacity-building assistance for our Pakistani partners. To echo House Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, now is the time for “more engagement, not less.”
But we must always remember that what that fundamentally means, beyond security cooperation and particularly in the Pakistan-Afghanistan context, is an emphasis on political solutions and helping the two nations institute the kind of effective governance that will provide their citizens with the benefits of “liberty and justice for all.”
Taha Gaya is the executive director of the Pakistani American Leadership Center (PAL-C), a nonprofit political advocacy organization representing the Pakistani American community to the US government.