The recent, Abbottabad Commission Report Leak has highlighted some grave issues pertaining to Pakistan national security, particularly with regards to the shroud of secrecy that surrounded the Osama Bin Laden debacle. Later, it came to public knowledge that the document released by Al Jazeera was a rough draft, which all the members of the respected Commission have not endorsed yet.
Nevertheless, the leaked part of the report mainly revolves around the failure of the security apparatus on the eve of the US Navy Seals raid on the Abbottabad Compound. It has again brought into limelight the question: How Osama Bin Laden evaded capture and stayed undetected in such a secure place for more than 9 years?
The Report allegedly highlights the gross level of negligence of the intelligence agencies and the armed forces of Pakistan, but has been unable to prove that these institutions were acting in connivance with the Al-Qaeda leader. In the shadow of the debate that ensued after the release of Report, many raw-minded analysts decried that Pakistan’s intelligence structure needs to be overhauled; this is quite a dangerous idea in itself! Altering the complete structure of a complex machine on the basis of a report, whose veracity is still doubtful; could undermine the agencies operational capabilities. Such speculation should be avoided, at least until the government officially releases the report.
One should reckon that until the alleged Neptune Star raid in Abbottabad, the ‘perception of threat emanation’ from across Pakistan’s western border was virtually ‘nil’. Shahzad Chaudhary, the former Air Vice Marshal of Pakistan Air Force out rightly stated, “….with a friendly air force controlling the skies of the western neighbour, the air defence deployment and response was as for peacetime”. Perhaps, the best way to understand this paradox between sovereignty and the lack of preparedness to defend the western borders is to compare with fire to be lit for protection during night, would it be reasonable to have feed the fire all day, in the fear that it has to be used in the night’
However, in the wake of the Abbottabad Raid, and in a bid to pre-empt any such designs by the name sake allies in future, the armed forces have taken specific measures on their own accords, which the media agencies needs to document further. Threat re-assessment has been done, and the surveillance systems of the western border have been upgraded to match the war time operational readiness of the Pakistan Air Force. Moreover, the combatant forces have also been deployed in relatively large numbers and the intelligence sharing mechanism has been re-enhanced.
Those touting the Abbottabad Commission draft to show any level of complicity between the Pakistan armed forces and Osama Bin Laden, fails miserably. It should be noted that Pakistan military has responded severely to Al-Qaeda threats in the past, and considers it as a terrorist organization. The Abbottabad Commission Report itself affirms it in its point number 643. It says that the ISI killed 866 al Qaeda militants in 891 operations; hundreds of the killed were high value targets. It arrested 922 al Qaeda militants and 96 among them were high value targets while 42 networks of the organization were also dismantled.
Interestingly, the first two points of the chapter ‘Findings of Commission’, page 269, could not dispel the clouds of doubt related to Osama’s presence in the compound. No facts have been given; instead the esteemed commission has relied on hypothesis and probability to prove its point. Basically stating that, ‘‘since there is no counter evidence that OBL was not there, therefore he was there”, and secondly, ”the only way this could be orchestrated is with close collaboration of CIA, ISI and al-Qaida, so it has zero probability’.
We need to discuss a little bit about the issue of probability, regarding what the forensic results of the compound’s inspection after the raid were? Some under-cover professionals, who visited the compound the very next day of the raid, told PKKH team, that they being experts of combating in low-intensity conflicts found out immediately that there was no raid that took place in the compound. One wonders, how many professionals, the honorable commission took on board, to do these kind of inspections for a proper input to derive near-to-accurate assumptions and hypothesis.
It would be proclaimed by many that Pakistan lost from the Osama Bin Laden raid, but very few would consider that propagation of the ‘dead’ Osama abets the United States in packing its bags and leaving from Afghanistan, which is the real victory for Pakistan. Increased Taliban resurgence again busts the myth of a US victory, and chances that the ‘zero option’ plan will be implemented much earlier than it was anticipated is eminent.
It shouldn’t be forgotten that the intelligence business is a dodgy and shady business – and trying to make sense out of it with little or no knowledge – or viewing it from way up above (broader view) – makes it all the more confusing and disturbing and thereby frustrating.
For now, let’s all agree that our agencies know that they are doing their best – every agency in the world faces defeat, losses and unpredictable consequences of planning. In winning a major war, many battles are deliberately lost while others are unexpectedly lost, but in the end, it is winning the bigger war that matters the most.