The defense secretary of America, Robert Gates, told American TV media on December 5, 2009 that American intelligence has no idea where Osama bin Laden is residing these days. This is quite a revelation!
America routinely sends rocket ships to Mars, spends billions of dollars to gather intelligence on other nations, and the great nation is now actively fighting in Afghanistan to rid Talibans from that beleaguered nation so that a warlord named Hamid Karzai could govern the nation and make his family filthy rich by patronizing corruption. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration is openly admitting that America's intelligence is clueless about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts. And that is not all! For quite some time American authorities have no idea where bin Laden had been hiding.
The defense secretary, Mr. Gates, is a carryover from President George W. Bush's cabinet. Therefore, when Gates says that American authorities have no clues on bin Laden's whereabouts for many years, we simply can deduce that Bush-Cheney Administration was also in the dark in respect to bin Laden's denizen in Afghanistan or Pakistan. I mentioned the two Islamic countries intentionally because Obama Administration thinks that bin Laden is hiding in one of these two nations.
President Obama's national security adviser James Jones said that as per intelligence reports the Al-Qaeda chief "is somewhere inside North Waziristan, sometimes on the Pakistani side of the border, sometimes on the Afghan side of the border."
The following facts however portray a very different scenario vis-à-vis Osama bin Laden. The last video from Osama bin Laden surfaced on October 29, 2004 hardly 5 days before the U.S. presidential election in which Bush ran against Senator John Kerry and the former eked out a victory against the Democratic challenger. In that election, the Bush-Cheney duo made al-Qaeda as number one enemy of America. Thus, many analysts at the time had opined that bin Laden's video tape could have not come at a better time than less than a week before the election. It seems as if bin Laden and Bush needed each other for their political survival. They both demonized each other; thereby, they gained popularity in their respective constituency. Five years have gone by since the surfacing of bin Laden's last ever video tape but no progress was made to track down the Saudi renegade who made a career out of demonizing the West and by portraying global Muslims as victims of western neocolonialism.
President Obama also used tough words against al-Qaeda and its supreme leader Osama bin Laden before the November 4, 2008 presidential election. He categorically said that Iraq was a bad war but the right war was in Afghanistan. Sure enough after becoming the president he concentrated on Afghanistan and now more troops are being flown to that nation to combat the growing influence of Talibans. President Obama also said during his stump speeches allover America that the U.S. will hunt down bin Laden no matter where he is hiding. Pakistan's name was mentioned by the candidate Obama to be the nation where bin Laden may have taken the temporary refuge.
America wanted to hunt down not only Osama bin Laden but also Mullah Omar and his lieutenants as the American soldiers are actively engaged in combat against Talibans in many of the southern provinces of Afghanistan. The name of Pakistan's remote tribal region South Waziristan was mentioned by American intelligence as the possible place where bin Laden may have taken a temporary refuge. Lately, I read in the western newspaper that American intelligence thinks that bin Laden may have slipped into area inside southeastern Afghanistan that is located next to South Waziristan. The mountainous area in North Waziristan and adjoining the city of Jalalabad are strongholds of Taliban; therefore, it makes sense that Osama bin Laden and the rest of Taliban leadership may find the region as a safe haven. These are all speculations at best because there was no news of the sighting of bin Laden by any person with credibility. The American intelligence is relying on Talibans those who are taken as prisoner of war in recent time. The British Broadcasting Corp reported earlier this week that a detainee in Pakistan claimed to have information that bin Laden was in Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan in January or February 2009.
While it was convenient for Bush-Cheney to keep bin Laden alive because it serves a purpose to get mileage out of global terrorism perpetrated by al-Qaeda but the ground reality could be very different. The French intelligence had a very different view about Osama bin Laden's whereabouts for quite some time. They think that bin Laden is no longer alive. I tend to think in the same line.
Let us take into consideration the following facts. No videotape of bin Laden had surfaced since October 2004. There were a few audiotape purported to have come from bin Laden. However, it is difficult to know whether these contain bin Laden's voice. It is rather easy to imitate someone's voice. Coincidentally, after October 2004 when bin Laden had his last videotaped message to the world, the subsequent video from al-Qaeda came from none other than Ayman al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian Jihadist who is the number two man in that organization. One must wonder why al-Zawahiri does the talking on behalf of al-Qaeda when Osama bin Laden had the penchant for demonizing the West.
In 2001 December when American Air Force was blasting the caves in Tora Bora Mountain with daisy Cutter bombs, news report came out about bin Laden escaping from his denizen and then heading for Pakistan. At that time the intelligence knew that the al-Qaeda chief was suffering from kidney ailment. In subsequent videotape bin Laden looked sick and haggard. Therefore, it is plausible that he may have died in Pakistan. However, al-Qaeda leadership is not acknowledging this for a fact. It works in favor of al-Qaeda to keep bin Laden alive for the cause they are fighting against the West.
In summary, while various high officials from Obama Administration are trumpeting that al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden is probably hiding either in North Waziristan (Afghanistan) or in South Waziristan (Pakistan). However, no real time intelligence had surfaced against the Saudi renegade leader. Is it possible that Osama bin Laden is no longer alive? How curious it is that the second man in command in al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, had been making all the videotapes for worldwide consumption. It is a fact that Osama bin Laden was not in his best health. Unless al-Qaeda comes out with a recent videotaped message from bin Laden many people won't buy the American view that the al-Qaeda leader is straddling between North and South Waziristan.
Dr. A.H. Jaffor Ullah, a researcher and columnist, writes from New Orleans
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