THE PATH TO BIN LADEN’S DEATH DIDN’T START WITH OBAMA
Jose A. Rodriguez Jr.
Washington Post, April 30, 2012
As we mark the [one-year] anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death, President Obama deserves credit for making the right choice on taking out Public Enemy No. 1. But his administration never would have had the opportunity to do the right thing had it not been for some extraordinary work during the George W. Bush administration. Much of that work has been denigrated by Obama as unproductive and contrary to American principles. He is wrong on both counts.
Shortly after bin Laden met his maker last spring, courtesy of U.S. Special Forces and intelligence, the administration proudly announced that when Obama took office, getting bin Laden was made a top priority. Many of us who served in senior counterterrorism positions in the Bush administration were left muttering: “Gee, why didn’t we think of that?”
The truth is that getting bin Laden was the top counterterrorism objective for U.S. intelligence since well before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This administration built on work painstakingly pursued for many years before Obama was elected—and without this work, Obama administration officials never would have been in a position to authorize the strike on Abbottabad, Pakistan, that resulted in bin Laden’s overdue death.
In 2004, an al-Qaeda terrorist was captured trying to communicate with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the terror organization’s operations in Iraq. That captured terrorist was taken to a secret CIA prison—or “black site”—where, initially, he was uncooperative. After being subjected to some “enhanced interrogation techniques”—techniques authorized by officials at the most senior levels of the U.S. government and that the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel confirmed were consistent with U.S. law—the detainee became compliant.…
Once this terrorist decided that non-cooperation was a non-starter, he told us many things—including that bin Laden had given up communicating via telephone, radio or Internet, and depended solely on a single courier who went by “Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.” At the time, I was chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. The fact that bin Laden was relying on a lone courier was a revelation that told me bin Laden had given up day-to-day control of his organization. You can’t run an operation as large, complex and ambitious as al-Qaeda by communicating only every few months. It also told me that capturing him would be even harder than we had thought.
Armed with the pseudonym of bin Laden’s courier, we pressed on. We asked other detainees in our custody if they had ever heard of “al-Kuwaiti.” Khalid Sheik Mohammed (KSM), the mastermind of 9/11, reacted in horror when he heard the name. He backed into his cell and vigorously denied ever hearing of the man. We later intercepted communications KSM sent to fellow detainees at the black site, in which he instructed them: “Tell them nothing about the courier!…”
A couple of years later, after I became head of the National Clandestine Service, the CIA was able to discover the true name of the courier. Armed with that information, the agency worked relentlessly to locate that man. Finding him eventually led to tracking down and killing bin Laden.
With some trying to turn bin Laden’s death into a campaign talking point for Obama’s reelection, it is useful to remember that the trail to bin Laden started in a CIA black site—all of which Obama ordered closed, forever, on the second full day of his administration—and stemmed from information obtained from hardened terrorists who agreed to tell us some (but not all) of what they knew after undergoing harsh but legal interrogation methods. Obama banned those methods on Jan. 22, 2009.…
No single tactic, technique or approach led to the successful operation against bin Laden. But those who suggest it was all a result of a fresh approach taken after Jan. 20, 2009, are mistaken.
(Jose A. Rodriguez Jr. is a 31-year veteran of the CIA and the author
of Hard Measures: How Aggressive CIA Actions After 9/11 Saved American Lives.)
BARACK OBAMA’S POLITICISATION
OF THE BIN LADEN RAID LOOKS DESPERATE
Telegraph, April 30, 2012
The magnificent operation by US Navy Seals to terminate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan a year ago this week united a divided nation, and brought with it a sense of closure for millions of Americans nearly a decade on from the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, DC. Thousands gathered in front of the White House as well as in Times Square to celebrate the news of bin Laden’s demise in the early hours of May 2, 2011. It was one of the most memorable events of the early 21st Century.
As I wrote in a piece just after bin Laden’s death: “The architect of 9/11, the murderer of thousands of innocents, and one of the most barbaric figures on the face of the earth has finally been taken out. This is a great day for the United States and for the free world, and a message to Islamist terrorists that the enemies of freedom will be hunted down. It is also a powerful reminder of the determination of the West to strike back against those who seek to threaten it.”
The killing of bin Laden owed everything to the extraordinary bravery, skill and professionalism of Navy Seal Team Six. Their heroism and courage is now legendary. It is these warriors who deserve the credit for eliminating the world’s most wanted terrorist. Their successful raid on the bin Laden compound was also the culmination of years of painstaking intelligence work by CIA analysts and operatives serving under both the Obama and Bush administrations, often at significant risk to their own lives.
The first anniversary of bin Laden’s death should be a moment for partisan politics to be put to one side, and for America’s leaders to thank both the Armed Forces and the Intelligence Services for their sacrifice and dedication in the war against al-Qaeda. It should also be a time to remind the American people of the scale of the task that remains, and why the long war must continue until the remaining followers of bin Laden are emphatically defeated. For the war goes on, from the Afghan-Pakistan border to Yemen and Somalia. Closer to home, in Britain and across Western Europe, al-Qaeda continues to plot terrorist attacks against America’s allies, and against the United States itself. This is not a time for complacency, for the threat posed by Islamist terrorism remains a very real one.
It is therefore disturbing to see the Obama presidency seeking to make political capital out of the anniversary of the bin Laden raid. Already, highly charged attack ads are being aired by the Obama campaign, shamelessly using it as a political vehicle in the race for the White House in 2012 [in one ad, Obama claims that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney would not have ordered the bin Laden raid—Ed.]. Vice President Joe Biden is milking the bin Laden anniversary for all it is worth, trotting out the campaign slogan, “thanks to President Obama, bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive”, at a recent speech at New York University. And to cap it all, the White House has granted NBC News unprecedented access to the Situation Room and an array of senior government officials for a bin Laden special to be aired this week.
I doubt the American people will buy all the spin, however. They will remember that it was a team of US Special Forces who laid their lives on the line to take out bin Laden, and not a group of politicians and bureaucrats sitting in the White House. Biden’s crass boasts and the tasteless Obama campaign videos look like acts of cynical desperation at a time when 60 percent of voters believe the country is moving down the wrong track…and a mere 33 percent of Americans hold a favourable view of the federal government—the lowest in 15 years.
The Obama administration’s gambit will probably backfire. The electorate is highly disillusioned with Washington in general, and is far smarter than the White House thinks it is. The downfall of Osama bin Laden was ultimately the end result of the American people’s determination to stand up to terrorism and see justice meted out to a brutal enemy of the United States. It was bigger than any one president, no matter how much Mr Obama brazenly tries to take the credit.
OSAMA BIN LADEN RAID:
ONE YEAR LATER, NO ANSWERS FROM PAKISTAN
Zarar Khan & Chris Brummitt
Associated Press, May 1, 2012
One year since U.S. commandos flew into the Pakistani army town of Abbottabad and killed Osama bin Laden, Islamabad has failed to answer tough questions over whether its security forces were protecting the world’s most wanted terrorist. Partly as a result, fallout from the raid still poisons relations between Washington and Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment, support for Islamist extremism and anger at the violation of sovereignty in the operation can be summed up by a Twitter hashtag doing the rounds: 02MayBlackDay.
The Pakistani government initially welcomed the raid that killed bin Laden in his three-story compound, but within hours the mood changed as it became clear that Pakistan’s army was cut out of the operation. Any discussions over how bin Laden managed to stay undetected in Pakistan were drowned out in anger at what the army portrayed as a treacherous act by a supposed ally.
That bin Laden was living with his family near Pakistan’s version of West Point—not in a cave in the mountains as many had guessed—raised eyebrows in the West. The Pakistani army was already accused of playing both sides in the campaign against militancy, providing some support against al-Qaida but keeping the Afghan Taliban as strategic allies.
A week after the raid, President Barack Obama said bin Laden had a “support network” in Pakistan and the country must investigate how he evaded capture. Pakistan responded by announcing the formation of a committee to investigate bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan as well as the circumstances surrounding the U.S. raid.
Soon after it began its work, the head of the committee said he was sure that security forces were not hiding bin Laden.… Last week, committee spokesman retired Col. Mohammad Irfan Naziri said its findings were being written up but they might not be released.…
The public line of the Obama administration is that no evidence has emerged to suggest bin Laden had high-level help inside Pakistan. Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence agency said bin Laden’s long and comfortable existence in the country was an “intelligence failure.” But suspicions have increased following recent disclosures by one of bin Laden’s wives in a police interrogation report that the al-Qaida leader lived in five houses while on the run and fathered four children, two of whom were born in Pakistani government hospitals.…
Since the raid, Pakistan has tried to close one of the most notorious chapters in its history. The three-story compound in Abbottabad that housed bin Laden for six years was razed by bulldozers in a surprise, nighttime operation. Just last week, his three wives and 11 daughters, children and grandchildren were deported to Saudi Arabia; their side of the story is unlikely to be told anytime soon.…
After the raid, [Pakistan’s] generals retaliated by kicking out U.S. special forces trainers operating close to the Afghan border, cutting intelligence cooperation with the CIA and restricting the travel of foreign diplomats and aid workers. Authorities arrested a Pakistani doctor who assisted America in tracking down bin Laden. The doctor remains in detention, facing possible treason charges. The country has made not made public the arrests of anyone connected to bin Laden’s time on the run.…
Even before the raid, anti-American sentiment was so rampant in Pakistan that anyone who opposed Washington was lauded by many sections of society.… Despite reservations about Pakistan’s commitment to U.S. goals in Afghanistan and doubts over how bin Laden managed to evade capture for so long, the Obama administration feels it has little choice but to ally itself with the country. Pakistan has nuclear weapons.…
AL QAEDA IS FAR FROM DEFEATED
Seth G. Jones
Wall Street Journal, April 29, 2012
A year after U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, most policy makers and pundits believe al Qaeda is near collapse. “Another nail in the coffin,” one senior U.S. official told me after the death of an al Qaeda operative in Pakistan last month from a U.S. drone strike. In testimony before the Senate in February, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the core al Qaeda is likely becoming of “symbolic importance.”
This conclusion is presumptuous. As the Obama administration looks eastward—a strategy that incorporates China’s rise—underestimating al Qaeda would be a dangerous mistake. With a handful of regimes teetering from the Arab Spring, al Qaeda is pushing into the vacuum and riding a resurgent wave as its affiliates engage in a violent campaign of attacks across the Middle East and North Africa.
Take a look around the Arab world. In Yemen, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has increased control in such provinces as Shabwah and Abyan, as the central government in Sana faces a leadership crisis and multiple insurgencies. From this sanctuary, al Qaeda continues to plot attacks against the U.S. homeland, according to U.S. government assessments, ranging from plans for bombs hidden in cameras and printer cartridges to ones surgically implanted in humans and animals.
Across the Gulf of Aden in Somalia, militants of the al Qaeda affiliate al Shabaab bombarded the city of Baidoa in April, trying to expand their foothold in southern portions of the country. With a growing number of American citizens from cities like Minneapolis and Phoenix traveling to—and from—Somalia to fight alongside al Shabaab, there is an increasing likelihood that radicalized operatives could perpetrate an attack in the United States.…
Another trend pointing to al Qaeda’s resurgence is the size of its global network. Since Sept. 11, 2001, it has expanded the number of affiliated groups. Along with Somalia’s al Shabaab, they now include al Qaeda in Iraq—which is increasing its foothold in Baghdad, Diyala and Saladin provinces. Also active are al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and, in North Africa, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. The leaders of these affiliates have sworn bayat, or loyalty, to al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and provided him with funding, global influence, and a cadre of trained fighters. None of these organizations existed a decade ago.
Al Qaeda has also established relationships with a growing number of allied groups such as the Pakistani Taliban, Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba and Nigeria’s Boko Haram. While these are not formal members of al Qaeda, a loose arrangement allows them to cooperate with al Qaeda for specific operations or training when their interests converge. And several of them…have been actively recruiting in the U.S.
As for al Qaeda’s own leadership in Pakistan, it is not dead despite claims from some U.S. officials. Ayman al-Zawahiri took over as leader of al Qaeda after bin Laden’s death, and Abu Yahya al-Libi, the head of al Qaeda’s religious committee, became his deputy. They are flanked by a new cast of operatives such as Hamza al-Ghamdi (a top facilitator for Zawahiri), Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi (media committee), and Abu Zayd al-Kuwaiti al-Husaynan (religious committee).…
Despite all this evidence that al Qaeda is regrouping, the Obama administration is turning its attention toward the Far East. It has pulled U.S. military forces out of Iraq and plans to have them out of Afghanistan in 2014.… Addressing U.S. interests in the Far East is important, but not if it means losing focus on America’s most pressing danger zone: the arc running from North Africa to the Middle East and South Asia that is the heart of al Qaeda’s territory.…
Al Qaeda is far from dead. Acting as if it were will not make it so.