Monday, May 02, 2011

Pakistan and Osama Bin Laden

It will be interesting watching the fallout from the death of Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan after a ten year search. Of particular interest will be the ongoing relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. Pakistan has consistently denied that
Bin Laden was hiding out in their country or that they knew where he was. Yet he was found in Abbottabad, near Islamabad, in a compound with re-enforced structures surrounded by barbed wire. This was obviously suspicious, particularly for a country naturally wary of foreigners. Even more telling, his hideout was almost across the road from a Pakistani military training base.

So, here's the question: were the Pakistanis lying or are they completely incompetent? My bet is that they are lying. The truth is that the U.S. has never trusted the Pakistani government and, even now, is only playing nice to help them save face. They didn't inform them until the operation, apparently by Navy seals, was complete precisely because they were afraid that someone would tip off Bin Laden and he would disappear again.

There are some elements within the Pakistani government who are pro-Western, but there are many who also would favour the Taliban and even Al Qaida. Many areas of Pakistan are beyond government control, but this was "civilization." Someone knew, but who, and how does the U.S. government proceed from here?

It seems, to this point, that the Americans approach is to play nice and pretend that all is well. The Pakistanis are doing the only thing they can - claiming that this was a good thing and that they're okay with the fact an American president ordered his soldiers to launch a military operation on their soil without informing them. We must assume there are some very animated conversations going on behind closed doors in Pakistan. It is this instability that is particularly unsettling, especially since Pakistan has nuclear capability.

It will be interesting to see what happens in Pakistan over the next few months and years. If they "officially" become an enemy it will make the war in Afghanistan even more complicated than it is already. At minimum it adds to the instability of an increasingly volatile Muslim world. Nothing is easy in this day and age of massive change and cultural clashes, but President Obama did what he had to do when he had the opportunity. Let's hope the short-term elation doesn't give way to more long-term problems. Time will tell.

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