Understanding an ally that hides terrorists even as it kills many of them
Pakistani police stand guard at the hideout of slain al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, about 30 miles from Islamabad. Pakistan has handed over some terrorists, while keeping others hidden for its own purposes. AFP Photo
"We are with you unstintingly." Those were the words that then-Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said to the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, just after 9/11. Musharraf's promise proved to be largely a lie--but not entirely untrue. Ever since then, whether the Pakistani regime was autocratic or democratic, Islamabad has played a well-thought-out double game with the United States that's involved handing ov er some jihadis and protecting others for Pakistan's own purposes.
And what of the biggest quarry of all--Osama bin Laden? Is there some way of explaining how the al-Qaida leader could spend the last six years ensconced in a large and obtrusive villa in Abbottabad, surrounded by the Pakistani military, without anyone in Pakistani officialdom knowing about it?
No, there probably isn't--and in many ways it's unsurprising that if the Pakistani authorities knew bin Laden was there, his whereabouts might have been, shall we say, closely held. CIA officials have known for years that when it came to the really big game, such as bin Laden, Pakistani authorities were unlikely to be cooperative: They feared that backlash from the Muslim world and their own society would be too great if they were seen as playing stooges to the Americans and violating Pashtun tribal loyalties."My bet is they knew he was there," Chamberlin told National Journal. "The fear of backlash is part of it. And Pashtun culture is you don't give up people who've helped you, and he goes back to 1980s," when the mujahideen movement bin Laden was a part of served both U.S. and Pakistani interests against the Soviets.