“Every generation needs a new revolution.”
-Thomas Jefferson

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
-Martin Luther King Jr.


Staceyann Chin, National Equality March 10/10/09 photo: Ed Needham

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Time for a New Deal: Bin Laden, Pakistan and $20bil in US aid.

photo courtesy New York Times

The death of Osama bin Laden is a milestone in the history of our country.

One cannot underestimate the significance of his death to those men and women who have been working tirelessly for over a decade to find him.  To the families of the men and women who perished at his hand on 9/11, at our bombed embassies in Africa, aboard the USS Cole, to the families of those who have perished in the pursuit of the man behind al-Qaeda. To the generation that has grown up with the images of the collapsing towers seared into their child's eyes, the generation that has known only terrorism, threat levels, security restrictions and never peace.

President Obama and White House staff watch the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound live
It is a milestone on many levels. Yet milestones mark beginnings as they do endings.

Late Sunday night, in the short time between the news leak of bin Laden's death and President Obama's speech making it official, sources in the intelligence, military and diplomatic communities where already questioning the significance of the al-Qaeda's leader's presence in Abbottabad, amidst a community known for its current and former Pakistani high-ranking military and intelligence officials. Bin Laden's compound is eight times the size of the other homes in the neighborhood. The copiously fortified buildings are within 800 yards of the Kakul Academy, Pakistan's premier military officer training headquarters.


We have since learned that President Obama alerted Pakistani President Zardari of the operation only after our helicopters were on the ground inside the compound and the Pakistanis had scrambled fighter jets in response to the incursion.

video
video of the compound following the attack filmed by embedded abc news cameraman.

It is a well known fact that elements of Pakistan's military and intelligence communities (the latter being the infamous Directorate for Inter-Service Intelligence or 'ISI') have sympathized with and aided al-Qaeda. It is a relationship that goes back decades and claims many close ties.  While the Pakistani government has officially claimed the opposite and vowed privately to root out any such ties, one thing is certain: the circumstances of the events Sunday demonstrate, beyond any shadow of a doubt, the relationship between the Pakistanis with bin Laden and al Qaeda is as robust and effective as ever. (Albeit, not so much with bin Laden anymore.)

At first glance, it is curious how such cooperation has continued even as al Qeada and its unofficial partner, the Taliban, have unleashed violence against Pakistanis themselves with car-bombs, assassinations and outright gun-battles throughout the country. The Taliban even controls Pakistan's Swat Valley, a coveted region once known for its beauty and tourism. How is it then, one might ask, that, with some, they may work almost overtly as a team?

The answer is a simple one. From 2002 to 2011, the U.S. has granted Pakistan in excess of 20 billion dollars. 20 Billion dollars to be used in the war on terrorism (approx. 13bil) and as economic aid (approx. 6bil) to the government of a country not especially known for its lack of corruption. A country (i.e. the pocket stuffing, swiss-bank account leaders of the goverment, military and intelligence communities) can get accustomed, very well accustomed to such an inflow of cash. It would follow, theoretically, that if terrorism were to actually be stamped out, if bin Laden were captured, if the tide significantly turned towards peace, all those billions of tax-payer dollars wouldn't be quite the priority it is for the U.S. Government.

Or, perhaps, 'was' the priority for the U.S. Government. For as we research and write from here in quiet Cambridge, Massachusetts; we can nearly hear the cries and hurly-burly hue rising from the US Capitol in Washinton, DC. Senator Carl Levin, Chair of the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee stated in a conference call to reporters Monday:
[the Pakistanis have] got a lot of explaining to do. It's hard to imagine that the military or police did not have any ideas what was going on inside of that [compound]." 
Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Bob Corker, told the Associated Press:
of his letter to Secretary of State Clinton "seeking details on the level of cooperation from Pakistan, saying the fact that bin Laden lived in comfortable surroundings near Islamabad 'calls into question whether or not the Pakistanis had knowledge that he was there and did not share that knowledge.'"

Doug Mills/The New York Times John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, speaking about the death of bin Laden on Monday
By later today, expect a cacophony of similar, if not more far less diplomatic, voices coming from Capitol Hill. The previously itemized 1.3bil of U.S. aid in this year's budget is pretty much dead on arrival. Again, according the Associated Press this morning:
"Congress may consider cutting the almost $1.3 billion in annual aid to Pakistan if it turns out the Islamabad government knew where Osama bin Laden was hiding, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee said Tuesday.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said she wants more details from CIA director Leon Panetta and others about the Pakistani government's role. Feinstein spoke to reporters about the raid that killed bin Laden early Monday and the questions raised by his hiding place deep inside Pakistan."
Agreeing with the Chairwoman, from across the aisle:
"'I think this tells us once again that, unfortunately, Pakistan at times is playing a double game,' said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, a Senate Armed Services Committee member who indicated that Congress could put limits on funds for Pakistan."
One thing may be sure, we are at a critical moment with our presumed "ally in combating terror." It might be we will soon learn that is was Pakistani intelligence that helped make the historic take-down of bin Laden possible. This would be highly unlikely. With circumstances of the past 72 hours and what may be gleaned over the coming days it is more likely we will see a shift in our approach to Pakistan. With the death of bin Laden by U.S. Navy Seals on Sunday, we are more likely to see a Pakistan with far less leverage over the United States. We are also likely to see a Pakistan with far less U.S. tax-payer monies coming in the future.

After learning of the death of Osama bin Laden, angry supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam burn a flag of the United States during a rally to condemn the killing. The protest took place in Quetta, Pakistan, yesterday. - AP
While this reassessment is absolutely necessary and well-overdue, we believe it would be a dire mistake to disengage in the manner some would have us do. It continues to be the worlds most unstable nuclear-equipped country. With severe rifts between the military and and intelligence communities on one hand, and the civilian government on the other; and with the rising fundamentalism and accompanying violence matched with what will surely be a period of retribution for the U.S. killing of a hero to a small but vocal community, now is not the time to leave Pakistan to the Pakistanis. The U.S. must have a continued presence in the country and hold its leaders accountable, while helping to discourage the overthrow of the government by any number of rival groups.

To paraphrase the words of the great Chinese General and strategist, Sun-tzu, we would do well to keep our friends close and our enemies closer.


[On a related matter, The Democrat Deal, its staff and families, wish to convey our heartfelt gratitude to the brave Navy Seals who carried out this operation, the intelligence professionals who made it possible and the American men and women who have fought for this outcome for the past decade. Our thanks and blessings]

No comments: