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‘Collective incompetence’ behind failure to catch Osama, says Pakistan report

Pakistan failed to detect Osama bin Laden during the six years he hid in Abbottabad because of the “collective incompetence and negligence” of the intelligence and security forces, the country’s official report into the killing of the al-Qaida chief in 2011 has concluded.

The much-anticipated report is withering in its criticism of Pakistan’s dysfunctional institutions, which were unable to find the world’s most wanted man. Nor does it rule out the possibility of involvement by rogue intelligence officers who have been accused of shielding him.

“Given the length of stay and the changes of residence of [Bin Laden] and his family in Pakistan . . . the possibility of some such direct or indirect and ‘plausibly deniable’ support cannot be ruled out, at least, at some level outside formal structures of the intelligence establishment.” It warns that the influence of radical Islamists inside the armed forces had been “underestimated by senior military officials whom the commission met”.

The inquiry by the Abbottabad Commission heard testimony from some of the most powerful people, including former spy chief Ahmad Shuja Pasha, who shares much of the authors’ despair about Pakistan, warning it is a “failing state”.

The publication of the judge-led inquiry has long been delayed amid fears that it might be suppressed for decades.

In addition to its scorching criticism of institutions, it also reflects official fury at the behaviour of the U.S. The report concludes that in sending special forces to raid a house inside Pakistani territory the U.S. “acted like a criminal thug”.

It concurs that the incident was a “national tragedy” because of the “illegal manner in which [Bin Laden] was killed along with three Pakistani citizens”.

It says the May 2, 2011 operation was “the American act of war against Pakistan” and illustrated the U.S.’s “contemptuous disregard of Pakistan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity in the arrogant certainty of its unmatched military might”.

The report repeatedly returns to the remarkable failure of the police, army and civilian authorities to investigate the unusual house where he hid for so long.

“How the entire neighbourhood, local officials, police and security and intelligence officials all missed the size, the strange shape, the barbed wire, the lack of cars and visitors . . . over a period of nearly six years beggars belief.” It notes that the house was even declared uninhabited in an official survey, though 26 people were living there.

The report notes that Bin Laden required a support network “that could not possibly have been confined to the two Pashtun brothers who worked as his couriers, security guards and general factotums”.

Other people involved in protecting Bin Laden should have been discovered.

The report says: “Over a period of time an effective intelligence agency should have been able to contact, infiltrate or co-opt them and to develop a whole case load of information. Apparently, this was not the case.”

The report also contains much criticism of the U.S., in particular the CIA for its failure to share intelligence fully with Pakistan’s ISI.

At one point the CIA gave Pakistan phone numbers to monitor that would ultimately help identify the all-important Bin Laden courier that led the CIA to the house in Abbottabad. The CIA never explained their significance and the ISI failed to properly monitor the numbers, the report said. — © Guardian Newspapers Limited, 2013

Keywords: Osama bin Laden killing, Abbottabad, intelligence failure, Pakistan intelligence, Al-Jazeera report

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