One thing I tried to stress in my discussion with Cliff Schecter on Virtually Speaking last night is that we have to check ourselves from talking about “Pakistan” in a monolithic way, as if the high-level officials in that country all have the same interests and desires and allegiances. Therefore, you can get these claims that Pakistan didn’t know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and that their intelligence service helped provide the intelligence that led to the United States killing bin Laden without a lot of inconsistency. And we’re seeing more of that today. Someone in the intelligence services thought that a good retaliation for the bin Laden mission would be to leak the name of the CIA station chief in Islamabad. That suggests at least some level of commiseration between bin Laden and elements in the Pakistani intelligence. At the same time, you have Prime Minister Yousef Gilani, while denying that anyone in Pakistan knew about bin Laden and provided support for him, authorizing an investigation into whether… the army or the intelligence service know about bin Laden and provided support for him.
And then there’s the part of the story I’ve been hot on, the fact that knowledge of the bin Laden raid was somehow kept from Pakistan. This revelation from The Guardian doesn’t totally change that, but it does make the statements on both sides of this a little ridiculous.
The US and Pakistan struck a secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil similar to last week’s raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the Guardian has learned.
The deal was struck between the military leader General Pervez Musharraf and President George Bush after Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001, according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.
“There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him,” said a former senior US official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. “The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.” [...]
A senior Pakistani official said it had been struck under Musharraf and renewed by the army during the “transition to democracy” – a six-month period from February 2008 when Musharraf was still president but a civilian government had been elected.
Referring to the assault on Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, the official added: “As far as our American friends are concerned, they have just implemented the agreement.”
I shouldn’t have to add that this is exactly what’s happening. This doesn’t mean Pakistan was informed of any assault; but it means that the reaction was rehearsed and planned years ago. By the way this is backed up by a Wikileaks cable, quoting that same Prime Minister Gilani as saying, “I don’t care if they do it, as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
So there are two cases of blindness here. One is that there’s anything new about the idea that some Pakistani elements has been harboring terrorists and aiding the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. The other is that some Pakistani elements are somehow shocked about the raid itself.