Pakistan Can't Seem to Figure Out Why Bin Laden Was Hiding in Abbottabad

By Jeffrey Goldberg

The Pakistani commission appointed to investigate just how Osama bin Laden came to be living in Abbottabad, in a large house adjacent to Pakistan's military academy (a house built by an architect regularly employed by the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, according to a report from David Ignatius) appears to be struggling to reach a credible conclusion, and has already blown past its deadline:

Officials privy to the inquiry attributed the delay to the explosive question of naming and blaming those who were at the helm of affairs in secret agencies during the years Bin Laden was living in his safe house....

At least four generals, including incumbent military chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, served as head of the country's premier spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), from 2003 and 2011 -- during Bin Laden's years in Abbottabad...

"Of course, somebody was responsible and the commission is responsible for identifying that somebody," said an official. "But it seems the probe body is not going to do that," he added.

Part of the reason the commission may be late in releasing its findings is that it has spent a great deal of time investigating Pakistanis accused of aiding the Americans in their raid on Abbottabad, rather than on finding out who was hiding Bin Laden. A prime target of this witchhunt has been the now-former Pakistani ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, who stood accused of issuing visas to American intelligence and military personnel. The charge is absurd and baroque on its face, of course; The Pakistanis are, officially at least, cooperating with the U.S. in the fight against al Qaeda (unofficially, elements of the ISI are supporting organizations that kill Americans in Afghanistan), and Pakistan's military budget is underwritten by the American taxpayer, so naturally there is a great deal of military traffic between the U.S. and Pakistan.

Haqqani, you'll remember, was the ambassador who lost his job when he stood accused of conspiring against the Pakistani military, which de facto rules the country, on behalf of Pakistan's elected, civilian-led government. Yes, Pakistan is the sort of country in which a diplomat can lose his job for the sin of supporting his democratically-elected government. The charge against Haqqani originated with one Mansoor Ijaz, a Pakistani-American businessman who said he was a conduit between Haqqani and American officials. Ijaz alleged that Haqqani wrote a memo seeking help from the Pentagon to prevent a Pakistani military coup. If he did, of course, this would make him a Pakistani patriot, not a traitor, but Ijaz could ultimately prove nothing, and it emerged, soon after Ijaz went public, that he has a long record of making fabulist claims, and that he possesses a dubious record in business.

Lately, Pakistan's civilian leaders, in particular the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, motivated in part by the scurrilous attack on Haqqani, and all that it represents, have become more outspoken about military interference in the country's affairs. The army, and the ISI, are back on their heels a bit, and neither the fake Husain Haqqani scandal, nor the Abbottabad commission report -- no matter what it says -- is helping their standing. It wouldn't surprise me if, years from now, we look back on the twin failures represented by the Abbottabad raid -- Pakistan inability to stop an American raid, and its seeming willingness to hide Bin Laden -- as the moment when the military's ruinous control over Pakistan slowly began unraveling.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/02/pakistan-cant-seem-to-figure-out-why-bin-laden-was-hiding-in-abbottabad/253313/