According to Seymour Hersh, the original plan of the Obama Administration regarding the disclosure of the execution of Osama bin Laden to the press was that he had been killed in a drone strike in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan side of the border. But things didn’t go as planned during the operation as a Black Hawk helicopter crashed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound and the whole town now knew that an operation is underway.
Therefore, that original plan was abandoned and Obama Administration had to go public within hours of the operation with a hurriedly cooked up story. This explains so many contradictions and loopholes in the official version of the story; the biggest being that the US Special Ops conducted a raid deep inside the Pakistani territory on a garrison town without the approval of the Pakistani authorities.
Moreover, according to AFP, Pakistan’s military sources have confirmed that there was a defector who had met several times with Jonathan Bank, the CIA’s station chief in Islamabad, as a consequence of which the Pakistani intelligence disclosed his name to the newspapers and he had to leave Pakistan in December 2010 because his cover had been blown.
Seymour Hersh posited in his report on the Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad that Saudi Arabia had asked Pakistan as a favor to hide Bin Laden because he was a scion of a powerful Saudi-Yemeni Bin Laden Group and it was simply not possible for the Saudis to hand him over to the US.
Furthermore, it should be remembered that the Pakistani military and Saudi Arabia have very deep and institutionalized links: thousands of Pakistani retired and serving army officers work on deputations in the Gulf states; furthermore, during the ‘80s and ‘90s Saudi Arabia lacked an efficient intelligence set-up, and the Pakistani ISI virtually played the role of Saudi Arabia’s foreign intelligence service.
But once the Pakistani walk-in colonel told the then-CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, that a high-value al Qaeda leader is hiding in an ISI’s safe house in Abbottabad, right next to the Pakistani Military Academy, and after that when the CIA obtained further proof in the form of Bin Laden’s DNA through the fake vaccination program carried out by Dr. Shakil Afridi, then it was no longer possible for the Pakistani security establishment to deny the whereabouts of Bin Laden.
In his report Seymour Hersh has already postulated various theories that why it was not possible for Pakistan to simply hand Bin Laden over to the US. Here let me only add that in 2011 Pakistan had a US-friendly, People’s Party’s government. It is quite plausible that the then army chief, Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, and the ISI head, Shuja Pasha, might still have had strong objections to the US special ops carrying out an operation in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
But the Pakistan’s civilian administration under the then President Asif Ali Zardari, and especially the disgraced Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, must have pressed upon the army chief and the ISI head to order the Pakistan Air Force to stand down during the operation. Ambassador Haqqani’s role in this saga ruffled the feathers of Pakistani security establishment to an extent that they later filed a case against Haqqani regarding his memo to Admiral Mike Mullen and eventually Ambassador Haqqani had to resign.
In his latest news story Greg Miller of Washington Post posits that Mark Kelton, the CIA station chief in Islamabad at the time of Bin Laden operation in Abbottabad, was poisoned by the ISI. The only purpose of this leak, five years after the operation, seems to be to discredit Seymour Hersh’s report in which he has proven beyond doubt that the Pakistani security establishment fully cooperated with the US during the operation. It is not a coincidence that this news story has been released only within a month of the publication of Seymour Hersh’s book: “The Killing of Osama bin Laden.”
Here it should be remembered that Mark Kelton succeeded Jonathan Bank in January 2011, after the latter’s name was outed by the ISI. Hersh has mentioned in his report that the Pakistani walk-in colonel had met Jonathan Bank and told the latter that Bin Laden was hiding in a compound in Abbottabad under the custody of ISI. But in order to be sure, the US needed further proof; that’s why they arranged that vaccination program run by Dr. Shakil Afridi to get Bin Laden’s DNA samples.
The original deal between the Obama and Zardari Administrations was that the story would be made public a week after the operation, as mentioned by Hersh in his report, that Bin Laden has been killed/captured in the Hindu Kush mountains on the Afghan side of the border. The crashed Black Hawk in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound, however, made that impossible. Obama Administration had to improvise within hours of the operation with a hurriedly made up story. This explains so many contradictions and loopholes in the official version of the story, as I already mentioned.
Although, Seymour Hersh has claimed in his version of the story that the Pakistani military authorities were also on-board months before the operation; let me clarify, however, that in my opinion only the Pakistani civilian administration under the Zardari-led and US-friendly, People’s Party were on-board; and the military authorities, who were instrumental in harboring Bin Laden and his family for five years, were intimated only at the eleventh hour.
A Coordinated Operation between Pakistan and the US
Operation Neptune Spear by the US Navy Seals in which Osama Bin Laden was killed on 2 May 2011 was a fully coordinated Pakistan-US operation. A lot of online material is available regarding the incident and the Pakistan government has also released the Abbottabad Commission’s Report (which is still classified) but the whole episode and its reporting sheds light on the complicity, sensationalism and spin-doctoring by the mainstream media.
By “coordinated operation” I mean that the operation was carried out in full coordination with the Pakistani Air Force and ground forces which secured the area around Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound on the night of the operation. The Navy Seals allegedly flew from the Jalalabad airbase in Afghanistan in two ‘modified’ Black Hawk helicopters and landed in Bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound 90 minutes later. Naturally the flight-path must have been from west-to-east.
A few points to note here:
Firstly, by ‘modified’ Black Hawks the corporate media spin-doctors imply a quieter stealth helicopter; but no matter what kind of technology is employed a helicopter is a very noisy aircraft, that’s why we don’t see any commitment of resources for developing stealth helicopters, a la the stealth jets like F-35. Moreover, even if it is assumed that the Black Hawks were stealth helicopters, then what about the Chinook that took Navy Seals back to their base in Afghanistan after one of the Black Hawks crashed in Bin Laden’s compound; was that also a stealth version of the Chinooks?
Secondly, we are not sure whether the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad in Afghanistan to Abottabad in Pakistan; because Pakistan had leased several airbases in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces to the joint US Air Force and CIA drone operations, like the Shamsi Airfield for instance, from October 2001 until the Salala incident in November 2011 in which 28 Pakistani soldiers were killed by the US forces based in Afghanistan and the relations between Pakistan and the US reached their all-time low. Bear in mind, however, that the Bin Laden operation took place in May 2011 when CIA still had bases inside Pakistan.
Assuming that the corporate media’s narrative is correct and that the Black Hawks actually flew from Jalalabad to Abbottabad (west-to-east) in 90 minutes, in that case they had to fly through the airspace of some of Pakistan’s most strategic military and air-force installations.
The naïve audience of the mainstream media knows very little about Pakistan; it’s a fact that the Af-Pak border region is the lawless wild west of Pakistan; the US forces can fly drones there because it is totally unprotected on the ground as well as its air-space. This perhaps is the reason why they readily believed the lie which was fed to them about the Osama Bin Laden Operation.
But the area between Attock, Abbottabad and Islamabad is Pakistan’s most sensitive and heavily militarized area.
If we take a cursory look at some of the strategic locations from west-to-east that lie in the alleged flight path of the Black Hawks:
First, there is Pakistan Air Force’s Kamra airbase near Attock which is used for manufacturing JF-17 Thunders in collaboration with China.
Second, one of Pakistan’s biggest ordnance factory (POF Wah) which employs over 40,000 personnel is located in Wah cantonment which is only 60 kms south-west of Abbottabad.
Third, just opposite to the Wah cantonment is the newly built Air Weapons Complex (AWC) which is so sensitive and secretive that even the locals don’t know what kind of ballistic missiles are being manufactured there.
Fourth, Heavy Industries Taxila (HIT) another military site used for building battle tanks and APCs under the direct supervision of Pakistan Armed Forces.
And last but not the least, the Havelian ammunition depot which is only a stone’s throw away from Abbottabad.
Looking at all this data, if some chopper no matter how ‘modified’ or stealthy it might have been, passes through the air-space above, or anywhere near all those military sites, Pakistan must have the most inept armed forces in the world to let that happen.
Apart from the aforementioned sites, Pakistan’s Military Academy Kakul; Pakistan Air Force installations in Kalabagh, Nathiagali; and several Pakistan Army’s regiment centers are also located in Abbottabad. In fact the whole city is a garrison town like Rawalpindi and Islamabad.
For all these reasons, I fully endorse Seymour Hersh’s view that Operation Neptune Spear was a coordinated operation between the Pakistani and the US Armed Forces.
Nauman Sadiq is an Islamabad-based attorney, columnist and geopolitical analyst focused on Af-Pak and MENA regions.