Osama conspiracy theories - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Monday 2 May 2011

Osama conspiracy theories

Images of the house outside Abbottabad, Pakistan, where Osama bin Laden was killed by US Special Forces on Monday, 2nd May 11

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 3rd May 11

After years of not knowing whether Osama bin Laden was alive or dead, he was briefly resurrected through the announcement of his killing in a US Special Forces operation near Abbottabad, Pakistan. For me, Osama’s death feels strangely personal. I moved into his house in Kabul just a couple of days after he vacated it in November 2001. Soon afterwards, at the cave complex of Tora Bora near Jalalabad, I was amongst the journalists who watched from about a kilometre away as US Air Force B-52 bombers pulverised the cave mouths. And then, one morning, we learned that Osama and his inner coterie had escaped the previous evening, a small group trekking across the Safed Koh mountain range into the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan.

And it was there, almost a decade later, in what Pakistan now calls Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, that America’s long arm caught up with bin Laden. President Obama divulged today that US intelligence had been busy since August tracking the lead that eventually led to Osama. Last week, the US president gave this operation the thumbs-up. Early this morning, in what Obama suggested and US officials confirmed was an all-American strike, Special Forces went in and shot dead Osama, one of his sons, three guards, and another mysterious woman hostage. Six other sons and three wives were arrested.

This has raised, especially in India, a clamour of questions about whether Pakistani security agencies housed and protected Osama, and whether top Pakistani leaders and officials lied through their teeth in consistently rubbishing suggestions that Osama was hiding in Pakistan. Sceptics ask whether it was possible for such a well-known fugitive to hide without official collaboration in Pakistan’s heartland at the doorstep of its officer training school --- the Pakistan Military Academy, Kakul --- just a kilometre away.

Besides these inconvenient questions, Islamabad is caught in another cleft stick. Accepting Pakistani involvement in Osama’s death would invite criticism from the right wing (which would include a large majority of all Pakistanis!) for partnering the hated Yankees in killing the admired Sheikh Osama. Denying involvement, on the other hand, would make everyone ask how US forces can operate deep inside Pakistan without the government knowing or being able to stop them.

Pakistan’s spy chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, has issued an ambiguous statement that mutters about a “joint operation” but does not elaborate on the role that the Pakistani establishment played. It was widely reported that Pasha visited the US on 13th April to demand that the CIA cut down its operations inside Pakistan. Given that this request came just as US intelligence was closing the noose around bin Laden, sceptics wonder whether this was a last ditch ISI attempt to get Osama out of the trap that he was in.

The truth will not remain hidden forever, but some educated guesswork is already possible. America is hardly likely to have shared its August tip-off with Pakistani intelligence, given what it knows about the ISI’s enduring links with terrorist organisations and the consequent danger of tipping off bin Laden. Instead, US intelligence would have called upon its technical resources --- satellite surveillance and communications monitoring --- and also physical surveillance with highly paid informants, to confirm Osama’s presence and for planning the operation to kill him.

That actual strike, however, could never have been executed without Pakistani knowledge and, at least, acquiescence. Given that at least three US helicopters were used in the operation, flying through airspace that is carefully guarded by the Pakistani air defence network (the Kahuta nuclear establishment is close by) the complicity of the Pakistani air defence agencies was essential. It is this that General Pasha probably refers to in calling Osama’s killing a joint operation.

From the American viewpoint, Pakistan’s role in any such operation would be circumscribed by the lessons of Tora Bora. At the cave complex in 2001, Afghan militias closing in on Osama struck a deal with him, allowing him to escape into Pakistan just ahead of the handful of British and American special force operatives that were close behind. This time round, the US forces would have guarded against such a possibility by keeping Pakistani forces at a distance.

In evaluating Pakistani motives and actions, New Delhi must consider another possibility: that Islamabad and Rawalpindi decided to sacrifice bin Laden to the Americans to provide Obama with an honourable exit from Afghanistan, leaving the field to Pakistan. Listening to Obama’s announcement of bin Laden’s death, I was struck by how much it sounded like the first speech of his re-election campaign and its resemblance to a victory speech. It might well be that Osama’s killing could hasten the US drawdown from Afghanistan. If this conspiracy theory holds water, General Pasha’s demand in April to pare down the CIA presence in Pakistan was only the cover; perhaps his visit was to fine-tune the details of “Operation Osama”.

What will Osama’s killing do for the war on terror? Nothing really. The amorphous ideology of radical Islam and its evolving operational structures adapt quickly to leadership vacuums. Osama bin Laden became operationally irrelevant during his years in hiding; if he were to enter the field today, he would hardly know how to handle the complex interplay between the multiple actors in the anti-western array: the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Punjabi jehadis… Osama would be shaking his head in disbelief. And so, just as Saddam’s capture did nothing to blunt the Iraqi resistance, Osama’s killing is unlikely to diminish terrorism and militancy in the AfPak region.


  1. Dear Ajay Sir,
    There is no doubt that Pakistan is the hot bed of terrorism and is key element in harboring terrorist, especially who focus on bleeding India. But in this case, the suddenness of announcing the death of Osama, and disposal of his body in sea, is clear indication of a CIA cover up.
    Why no picture of dead Osama has been released?
    How can one believe that Osama is dead by just acknowledging US President and Hillary's announcement. All footage have showed some blood and the building. Even in the case of Saddam Hussain, video and images of his capture were shown to world. As reported by US, the intel has been tracking the building since August, and after nearing 10 months US SEALS invaded the premises.
    I presume that Osama is dead long ago, and this is a mere cover up, as US may windup Afghan operation. For this it needed a coverup, as leaving Osama unfound have created negative effect on US Govt.

  2. dear mr.shukla,

    i agree with you..

    This operation would not have been possible without Pak's acceptance and passive support.

    I also feel that some sort of carrot would've been provided by the US. maybe more military aid...


  3. Can you explain or provide more details about the number and types of choppers used.

    Cecx fable & gas

  4. @Broadsword :
    The conspiracy theory doesnot hold water. Pak stands to lose by giving him up. Now pak wont get aid from US.


  6. Good article. Kahuta is actually to the South East of Islamabad and not north but Abbotabad is covered by low level radars plus there is also high level radar coverage.

  7. if Pakistan was involved, Kiyani would have screamed from roof top, at least to the western media.

    The simple fact that OBL was caught in Abbottabad tells you Pakistan did not have any idea of the ops. Any 4th grader would know about the PR disaster that would follow with media finding OBL near PA academy!

    If Pakistan was involved, they would have forced OBL on to a place somewhere near Afghanistan.

    They would have caught him themselves and claim to be blue eye boy of anti-terror ops.

    They would become anti-terror hero overnight!

  8. It could also be that Osama is already dead or is even alive.This operation is only a face saver for exiting from Afghanistan.I cannot digest the fact that the DNA tests were completed in under 24 hours. (May be the US carriers carry samples of Osama blood and DNA testing equipments with them)

  9. As someone in the US State Department said yesterday. Osama is dead, but terrorism is still alive. The war on terror will go on.

    I seriously doubt that CIA shared any details of this operation with ISI.... I agree with one of your theories regarding the joint operation that basically allows American's the access to the air space might be the limit of jointness. Also, the questions on Pakistani invoilvement are not just flying in India, but in the US as well, and probably the whole world. It's been said for some time now that Osama cannot be in caves for long, he needs medical treatment on fairly regular basis. The theory was that he will be living in an area with good medical facilities (though he may not go to the hospital, the Doctors may come to him), and probably in a compound that has a wall higher than an average compound (he is believed to be tall). I am not surprised that he was found in the city, but I'll be surprised if CIA and ISI actually worked together in locating him. The sweet talk about Pak in the media and from the US politicians is just that, no one like this US-PAK marriage, but that is the only hope for the US. And, even when they all know that PAK Govt. or it's agencies are involved, they are doing their best to over look that and still carry one with the mission.

  10. To think that Pakistan just gave up OBL and helped US get out of Af-Pak will just be too simplistic. If USA withdraws from AfPak it would be a major headache for Pakistan to deal with all these crazy groups. Also, once USA withdraws where is all the moolah going to come from? The Chinese you say, forget it! Chinese ain't so dumb. They have their own Islamic militancy problems to with, so why take chances.

    I think this is a victory for the American intelligence agencies humint and techint capabilities. They did not share the information with anyone not even with their closest allies like Britain. Also, they have a political class that can look beyond petty politicial differences and continue the path of national strategy. Now compare India to USA and hang our head in shame.

  11. Ajay Ji,
    The actual deal struc down when Gen Pasha visited US in April.
    1. Pak wanted US to downsize the CIA heads in Pak....US said the very objective of keeping those 3000 CIA operatives to track and hunt down OSAMA..if US gets the OSAMA ..then there will be no need to keep CIA operatives in PAk soil.

    2. Pak wanted US not to persue the case of 26/11 Mumbai attack where US judiciary has summoned PAK Army officers for their active role in the attack and killing US citigen.US agreed, provided PAK helps in locating and hunting Osama.

    Simply Osama did not carry any value for Pak except he was kept alive just for burgaining in extreme situations like this.
    Any way PaK ISI and Army has good ralations with now Taliban active commanders and top militants...

    I doubt Osama was residing inside PAK Army acadamy and just recently was brought into that outside mansion ,when the deal was through.


  12. Jawahiri gets impressed with the so-called peoples democratic revolutions of Arab countries and wants to infiltrate in them and collaborate more and more to further the interests of AQ. OBL calls this as shear opportunism and revisionism and an act of playing in to the hands of US. OBL gets isolated within AQ and becomes a liability to all concerned especially to the Pakistan, ISI and AQ.

    Meanwhile US is zeroing in to OBL through its own efforts and understands that it can go in but can not return back like Carter’s rescue mission in Eastern Iran during 1979.

    ISI takes the lead and can silently eliminate OBL but feels that handing over him to BHO will be more useful for elections and other mutual longstanding relationships. ISI agrees for free entry and safe return of the Helicopters. Perhaps it is also agreed in advance that OBL is to be silenced for ever as he is of no more use against the AQ.

    Operation becomes meticulously successful in-spite of a helicopter backfiring.

    Anyhow whatever it is, it is a grand news that OBL has been finally eliminated and Daressalaam, Nairobi, WTC, Pentagon and Bali etc are avenged to a great extent.

  13. Ajay Sir, I watched you on NDTV the other day and just want to say you looked and answered your questions directly, clearly and logically while looking comfortable. Good showing!

  14. Col. Shukla-

    Apparently the tail rotor of the new, till now unrevealed helicopter used in the assault was not destroyed as it broke and fell outside the compound wall.

    Do you think its on its way to China on the Karakoram highway or would the US have pressurised Pakistan to give the tail rotor assembly back?

    Soon we may see an "Invisible Dragon" steealthy helicopter in China.. ( Memeories of the F117 parts shot down in Eastern Europe finding its way to China is eveoked every time we see the J20)

  15. Col Shukla,
    I read your articles with avid interest. The reason being, you being an ex army and your perspective on matters of defense and society ought to be different. You can have that dispassionate view on things which is what want. to cut a long story short, brasstack..

    1. The ideology that Osma stood for is not of latest variant. It was the same as Wahab, Qutb or Maududi back home in UP (later pakistan) preached

    2. There is nothing called moderate islam, West is waking up to the reality and India (being at the forefront of Islamic slaughter - read Blunt) must get out of this delusion

    3. The fountainhead of this Jehad factory is not Osma, but ISI

    4. To put it more bluntly, without pussyfooting, there is no islamic terror per se, it is only ISI propagated terror

    5. Pakistanis had no clue of the raid. Their radars (gifted to them by the Americans) were turned turtle. All the more reasons for Indians to stay away from American maal. "You never buy American weapons, you merely lease them"

    6. Osama was in an ISI safehouse and Pakistanis are caught with the hand in the cookie jar

    Whole world is saying it but I cant understand the pussyfooting Indian journalists(the urban channels) are involved into. I understand the pressure it brings on Man mohan sngh for 26/11, kaluchak, Mumbai train blasts, varanasi blasts and list goes on.

    I understand Americans highlighting Al-qaida as if they are the gold standard of terrorism. Lashkar e toiba has killed more humans than Al qaida, only difference being that they killed Indians.

    Indian lives being cheap, lashkar is a saint organisation. right? It is so sad to see Indians in USA indulging in this Gora rhetoric of Alqaida. Indians in India are no different otherwise, hafiz syed would have been lying in some gutter.

    I salute the resolve of American nation to bring in justice after 10 years even with separate adminstrations. I thank George w bush for the photo that adorned his desk (of a men jumping out of a window from WTC). he gave it to Obama.

    Does MMS even remember mumbai blasts or recent 26/11?

    you are free to not post it if you dont want. my 4 generations have served n forces and i got out as I did not want to get frustrated.


  16. @ broadsword; for pak, the balancing act to please all; allah , america and army is becoming more and more difficult.. pak cannot afford to antagonize any of these three..under the circumstances, what do you think is the direction of drift?

  17. @Ajai Shukla @Broadsword :
    Regarding your contention that
    That actual strike, however, could never have been executed without Pakistani knowledge and, at least, acquiescence. Given that at least three US helicopters were used in the operation, flying through airspace that is carefully guarded by the Pakistani air defence network (the Kahuta nuclear establishment is close by) the complicity of the Pakistani air defence agencies was essential"

    Experts seem to think that "He said that besides the possible jamming of radars and communication, the U.S. Special Forces would have done some ‘nap of the earth' flying to avoid any detection. The low-level terrain hugging flight by the helicopters also makes it difficult to detect movement."


    So has your opinion changed now ? Even US seems to be saying that the PAF was informed only after the helicopters finished their mission.

  18. Well...I thinks that Pakistan Army is just like the usual businessmen. They made money from harboring Usama and later they made money from giving Usama on platter to US. So can India buy from Pakistan Dawood, Hafez & other cronies? If yes, what would be the reserve price per person for such a deal?

  19. In fact there is truth in everyone's theories because the truth is the US knows it can't control and heavily relying on Pakistan to control the afpak region.The fact Osama was hiding near Pak military sites and retirement haven can in no way deny the fact that he could not have escaped the ubiquituous ISI.Hamid Gul is wanted in India and is a sworn enemy of India. The main actors are retired ISI headhonchos who have tremendous influence on the Pak army and intelligence world. The selling away of Bin Laden was done after the US secretly did a deal to let Pak and not India control Afghanistan, provide more conventional military aid to keep India's military power in balance to allay Pak fears and take the credit for killing a notorious terror mastermind whilst not directly involving the govt of Pakistan who won't survive a rightwing backlash. In fact I would go as far as saying that Bin Laden was under house arrest to an extent until such time when the US could wipe him out and secure a deal for an easy exit handing Pak unlimited access to the region. This way, the US gets big ticket items sold to India, gain Pakistani support via arms donations, keep China happy by wooing Pak and indirectly China because what is Pak's is what is China's and vice versa,exis Afghanistan looking like champs. Nothing happens in Pakistan without the military being involved and therefore no one would even believe for once they knew nothing.Seen the movie LA Confidential? Capt Dudley Smith gets killed, rightly deserving this and yet to cover up Police corruption, gets a Hero's farewell and mention in the local papers.Much the same.

  20. Dear Colonel,

    Mr Chandrabhan has banged the hammer in the head of the real nail and not like others thumping at imaginary ones.

    Our Pakistani rhetric including may be yours is directly a result of our domestci polical requirements. Darul's ideology of India stll being a place of war rather than a place in peace since it has not been fully converted is at the root of all forms of militant Islam. Deobandies are the ideologues for ISI. It is well known.

    The above is not to negate that we need to be sensetive to Muslim sensetivities of our population. The above is to say that certain theorist journalist twist thingsfor deliberate and narrow political purposes.

    The most negetive aspect of reporting noticed is that most of the time it is to cover up Indian inaction and suvility.

    What is seen heard and fely is first thing near realties. Imagination and reasoning is added subsequently.

    What if Osama was found in Delhi?? Is not Dalai Lama being in India an issue. Then why dodge direct culpability of Pakistan if they hide him in the Regimental Centre of Field Marshall Slim's Regiment?

  21. There is specualation that US jammed Pakistani radars and flew modified and stealthy choppers to the target:


  22. how i wish, india can do something similar !


  23. Most people will disagree with you on the point that Pakistan had any prior knowledge of this raid.
    If you notice, the helicopters used had stealth features to evade radar. Just like Israel did in Syria 4 yrs ago when they disabled their latest ADS with an yet unknown technology like "Suter airborne network attack system", it is very possible that US used some form of radar evading/jamming to get their helicopters in and out without detection.

  24. ShuklaJi when is your book about china coming out?

  25. You know what's happening here....post Usama assassination. Kayani will be using Usama assassination as an example to Punjabi Taliban & other radical groups to shape up and follow his line or else....they will be sacrificed as Usama was finally. Wow...what a strategy to tame your own sheep.

  26. But how the helicopters could return back in-spite of being surrounded by Pak army and reported scrambling of JF-17s.

  27. Dear Broadsword,

    1. What if Pakistan would have taken it to be an Indian attack, scrabled and bombed Amritsar. To avoid that they should have kept Indian in picture !!

    2. What if Pakistany aircrafts were to shoot down the two helloes?

    3. What if the Frontier Force Regiment recruits were to surround the SEALs and seal them.

    4. Some setails are out in the form of "thank God it did not happen" , some speaking about stealth, jamming radars, making F-16 redundant etc but the details are not enough.

    What could have been the overall US plan to cater for such contingencies. OK their latest fighters wer ready and may be in sky of Afghanistan and their Fleet, but it meant it was nothing less than a war.

    Miscalculations could have led to Pakies Firing a few of those nasty Ghories into India. India has severe implications WRT its security in such actions of US.

    What do you think of all this ??

    Is any one in this country responsible to answer these questions or its just a hoopla ?

  28. That is exactly what I was thinking Ajai. This was a deal, the democrats needed a 'get out' ticket. Obama always spoke of being in Afghanistan for Al Quaeda and Osama. So this is it! In return Pakistan gets to manage its neighbour like it had for more than a decade[some management!]. It is a matter of time before fundamentalist idiots start pouring into our neck of the woods. We better prepare now.Sam has made up his mind to cut and run.

  29. the terminator5 May 2011 at 06:04

    OBL's elimination by the American Seals may not stop terrorism but the very fact the Americans hunted him down shows that there is no sanctuary for enemies of humanity.

    Mosad, the intelligence wing of the Israeli army too hunted and eliminated the hated Nazis who were the cause of the holocaust - systematic genocide of innocent Jews under their misguided race supermacy.

    What India should learn from the above is to have the political will, resolve, tenacity and the endurance to stay on the hunt to get rid of vermin such as Dawood Ibrahim, etc. even if there is a change in government.

    The government should allocate enough resources for covert operations to excise terror at its source and if need be give the clearance to wipe out the source of all the evil - the ISI hydra.

    Pussy-footing, dragging the legalities to the limit in cases of captured terrorists is a criminal waste of time and the taxpayers' money. When dealing with terrorist there should not be any prisoners.

    The Americans bravely broadcast to the world that they shot and killed an unarmed OBL. People may cry murder! So what? They reap what they sow.

    There should be no mercy for terrorists and their supporters. What befalls a terrorist would serve as a lesson to other wouldbe terrorists. They would know before hand what waits for them if they plan to implement their nefarious designs against India.

    We should thank the US for cutting off the dreaded head of the Al Qaeda. Good riddance to foul and stinking rubbish.

  30. Dear Broadsword,

    Do you have any comments on your interaction with idiot Geelani? you defended your visit as "secular". Now what you have to say about this:


  31. http://www.teluguone.com/news/content/osama-bin-laden-killing-zawahiri-paved-way-25-1811.html

    Osama Bin Laden Killing: Zawahiri Paved Way

    Publish Date:May 5, 2011

    A Saudi news paper Al-Watan reported that US troops were led to Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden by his own deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, because of a simmering internal power struggle. Quoting an unnamed 'regional source', the newspaper said the top two al Qaeda men had differences and that a courier who led US forces to bin Laden was working for Zawahiri. The courier was a Pakistan national and not a Kuwaiti as the US suspected, Al-Watan said. The man knew he was being followed by the US military but disguised the fact.

    According to the paper, "The Egyptian faction of al Qaeda is defacto running the organisation now and since Laden was taken ill in 2004 they have been trying to take full control." It said Zawahiri's faction had persuaded bin Laden to leave tribal areas along the Afghan-Pakistan border and take shelter instead in Abbottabad near Islamabad where he was finally killed by US commandos on Monday. With the return of an Egyptian figure in al Qaeda, Saif al-Adel, last autumn from Iran, the Egyptian faction had hatched a plan to dispose of Saudi-born bin Laden, according to Al-Watan.

  32. Heard you are attending the funeral prauers conducted by Mr Geelani for Osama bin Laden... And look forward to hear how emotionally you also spoke of OBL... at the function...

  33. Cunning and stealth is needed to keep the Indian flag flying high.


  34. For Hunters and Head Hunnters,

    Enough of them come into Indian mainly in J&K. Have a field day there and practice..
    Some have had enough of that and others may volunteer.

    One can do that with pleasure without risking a war..

    Many or I would say many Osama in the making are done with without much noice..

    But that does not seem sufficient to many of us driven by media conditioning our desires.. to be SEAL without looking at people who are day and night sealing...

  35. Not much has been said about the $25/50 Million bounty (depending on the source) that was offered for OBL's capture, dead or alive.

    US could have easily slipped a large volume of funds into willing Pakistani hands to look the other way while taking full credit for finding OBL which would help Obama's chances for the future elections.


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