Monday, 2 May 2011

US kills Osama bin Laden, blows Pak cover

US kills Osama bin Laden, blows Pak cover
Chidanand Rajghatta, TNN | May 3, 2011, 01.12am IST

A screen grab from FBI's Most Wanted website taken on May 2, 2011 shows the status of Osama bin Laden as deceased. (Reuters Photo)
WASHINGTON: The United States hunted down and killed the world's most wanted terrorist and 9/11 perpetrator Osama bin Laden in the wee hours of Monday. American Navy Seals stormed a compound in suburban Abbottabad in Pakistan, about 50 miles north of the capital Islamabad, and gunned down bin Laden after a firefight in an operation that took just 40 minutes to execute but four years to fructify.

After identifying bin Laden through photos and videos, and collecting DNA and other evidence, they spirited the body of the Al Qaeda leader out of Pakistan, and later dumped him in the sea in a perplexing move. US officials later said they were conforming to Islamic tenets to bury the dead within 24 hours, but the real purpose of the sea burial was evidently aimed at denying any possible shrine being established for the Al Qaeda leader. Bin Laden was a Saudi national, but the Saudi monarchy reportedly refused to accept his body. The location of the dumping was not identified.

The Obama administration kept Pakistan out of the loop, informing the government in Islamabad about the operation and its purpose only after it was completed. President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged broad intelligence cooperation from Pakistan but did not attribute any operational help from their so-called ally and did not even thank Pakistan.

Suspicion is deep in Washington that Pakistan's military intelligence establishment was sheltering bin Laden, because of his location in a massive compound in a cantonment close to the prominent kakul military academy. Questions are being asked whether the compound was an ISI safehouse.

President Obama and other US officials described a small all-American team, involving Navy Seals in two helicopters, taking part in the swift operation in the dead of the night. Remarkably, there were no US casualties.

Bin laden reportedly put up a fight, but he was shot in the head. Two couriers, through whom he was traced, his eldest son, and an unidentified woman, were killed in the firefight.

There was a US mishap though that resulted in one of the choppers being forced to land in the middle of Abbottabad, possibly as a result of being shot down, recalling the debacles in Iran and Somalia. But the American team regrouped and fled without casualties.

President Obama went on air around 11 p.m US East Coast time, after the operation was over and the American team established decisively that their dead quarry was indeed Osama bin Laden. "Justice has been done," Obama said. Americans across the country rejoiced through the night at punishing the man who had gloated at killing 3000 people on 9/11, mostly Americans, but also many other nationals, including some 40 Indians. The front gates of the White House and Ground Zero in New York became party central.

Here is the immediate fallout of nailing bin Laden
• Internationally, it restores US prestige as country that gets the job done
• Domestically, it raises President Obama's stock, strengths his hand for hard economic decisions and increases his chances of a second term
• Militarily, it offers US a chance to offer peace on its terms to shell-shocked extremists, accelerate the political process in Afghanistan, and withdraw its troops soon.

It also offers the opportunity for Washington to straighten out a shamed, embarrassed and humiliated Pakistan. Also shot in the process of US exterminating bin Laden is Islamabad, which is at least in the dog house if not up shit creek.

The country has once again been served with a "either you are with us or against us" notice. US analysts say Islamabad, or more pertinently the country's military establishment in Rawalpindi, now has to make a decisive call to give up using terrorism as a policy option.

"The operation also highlights that Pakistan is truly at the epicenter of global terrorism," said Heritage Foundation expert and former CIA analyst Lisa Curtis. "The fact that the world's most wanted terrorist was captured in a major Pakistani city should silence those Pakistanis who rejected the idea of bin Laden being in the country as a western conspiracy."

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