May 4, 2011

Hiding in a city is pretty easy

Salman Rushdie, along with a lot of others recently, is pissed at Pakistan:
In the aftermath of the raid on Abbottabad, all the big questions need to be answered by Pakistan. The old flim-flam (“Who, us? We knew nothing!”) just isn’t going to wash, must not be allowed to wash by countries such as the United States that have persisted in treating Pakistan as an ally even though they have long known about the Pakistani double game—its support, for example, for the Haqqani network that has killed hundreds of Americans in Afghanistan.

This time the facts speak too loudly to be hushed up.

Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, was found living at the end of a dirt road 800 yards from the Abbottabad military academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point or Sandhurst, in a military cantonment where soldiers are on every street corner, just about 80 miles from the Pakistani capital Islamabad. This extremely large house had neither a telephone nor an Internet connection. And in spite of this we are supposed to believe that Pakistan didn’t know he was there, and that the Pakistani intelligence, and/or military, and/or civilian authorities did nothing to facilitate his presence in Abbottabad, while he ran al Qaeda, with couriers coming and going, for five years?
While it is certainly possible that Pakistan was actively sheltering bin Laden, it's actually fairly plausible to me that OBL was completely unknown to the local authorities.  Wanted criminals have hidden in medium-sized cities in the US for years in the past, and our police system (I would hope) is quite a bit more effective than the Pakistani equivalent.

What's more, Pakistan has a fairly fractious government, and while it's easier to believe some rogue elements in the military giving OBL cover, it's boggles the mind to imagine the civilian leadership, which is sending Pakistani troops to fight and die against al-Qaeda and its affiliates in the Pakistani border regions, being quite that foolish.  For now, I'm willing to give Pakistan the benefit of the doubt.

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