(1/5 was not Pakistan’s Day)
By Brig Samson S Sharaf
For Pakistanis, this is not time to feel embarrassed and to hang heads in shame over the simplicity and quickness of the operation that killed Osama Bin Laden. It is rather, a time for a long overdue bugle cry that Pakistan is at War. 1/5 was not Pakistan’s Day inasmuch as 9/11 exposed the vulnerabilities in USA’s homeland security.
Writing in Nation in December 2010, I had assessed the next eighteen months and beyond as crucial for Pakistan and reiterated it in my article ‘Pakistan Must Reassert Itself’ on 20 February. I had written, ‘the next 18 months and beyond will test Pakistan to the verge”.
Between the 14th and 17th months we have witnessed the Raymond Davis Case, a drone attack on a peaceful jirga, a fully fledged conventional multi directional night attack on a border outpost in Dir, a border skirmish at Anghoor Adda and now the operation to kill Osama Bin laden.
Writing earlier in November 2010, ‘Pakistan a Rudderless State with a resilient Nation’ I had cautioned the security planners of Pakistan to beware of Cold Start Type operations from across the Durand Line. I had also written about the heavily fortified US and ISAF citadels in Afghanistan that would be used as pivots of such operations against Pakistan. No one in Pakistan’s security establishment and the media took notice of the warnings.
2009-2010 had been remarkable years of Pakistan’s fight against militancy. During this time, joint intelligence operations led by Pakistani had resulted in elimination of numerous prized targets both from TTP and Al Qaida. The efficiency of information gathering was such that many high value targets deemed missing believed killed had been brought back into focus and neutralised, some amongst them US nationals. But by mid 2010, this cooperation began to wane due to the direct influx of CIA agents into Pakistan. This influx was not part of the working agreements between ISI and CIA. Pakistan’s security establishment felt that they were being stabbed in the back.
Counter security efforts on part of Pakistan indentified hundreds of locations in Pakistan in which US agents had hired or located inside Pakistan covertly. Some of these locations were heavily fortified and the activities inside them were always dubious. After much rallying, Pakistan was able to force the closure of some of these locations but not all. Meanwhile, the network of CIA’s local informers was spreading, a reason why CIA forced budgetary reallocations for its operations in Pakistan. With huge funds to play around, CIA could now buy off anyone including Al Qaida agents whose data Pakistan had shared with USA. They put tags on many such targets and monitored all their movements and places of visit. Consequently, what they have been able to track with their superior technical resources and heavy monetary disbursements is a trail of redoubts within Pakistan where militants have contacts and hiding places. Then came the Raymond Davis shooting and some issues became public.
There is definitely a trove of very important information that USA has extracted from shared sources and double crossing. One such is the hideout of Osama Bin Laden, his courier trails and much more. The biggest vulnerability that Pakistan faces is that some of its own assets within this Al Qaida trail may have been exposed, or double crossed and could be used to blackmail Pakistan into coercion.
With all this information coming from electronic chatter, media and social websites, I was able to piece a MOST DANGEROUS HYPOTHESES that predicted covert sting and intelligence and overt JSOC operations inside Pakistan that subsequently became the theme of my articles on the subject. Having been vindicated, this does not end here.
I have followed the information about the Kakul raid on a real timeline with startling conclusions.
According to information available on twitter and TV Channels, the explosion and helicopter crash were successively reported before mid night on 1 May 2011.
The call to President Zardari came well past midnight implying that it was made much after the operation had been completed. I am also sure that Zardari was told by President Obama to ask PAF not to interfere in the flight path of the US aircrafts.
Concurrently, by the time Pakistan Air Force scrambled, the US troops were well outside Pakistan’s air space.
As an operational planner, I am wary of the fact that Pakistan’s surveillance system on the Western Front did not respond. The systems are deployed in layers in multiple redundancies to ensure that some elements of information do manage to beep through. The electronic systems are reinforced with human resources wherein even a section commander in a border post is trained to immediately report a violation/activity in real time. Why such a credible system was forced into passivity should be the subject of an inquiry and a story of the future. Surprisingly, much credible chatter emanated when the US helicopters made the exit.
I am also aware of the safety layers in US military procedures and purely on technical grounds feel that this operation was carried out by at least four or even more helicopters including transport versions, with credible fool proof backups all along. Simply put, the operation had a sizable operational and logistical trail.
Already information is available that the operation had ground, intelligence and pathfinder support from US assets very close to the target area.
Does this also imply that there was some sort of complicity by Pakistan to facilitate such an operation? Does this mean that US helicopters did not enter Pakistan’s air space on the day of the raid and were pre positioned for such an operation? However, what can be concluded with accuracy is that CIA agents have penetrated every nook and corner of Pakistan under the eyes of Pakistan’s counter intelligence, a fact that will be vindicated in the near future.
Reaction of Pakistan’s Defence Forces to the raid was slow in coming. Complicity at the cost of such a disgrace appears a bad bargain and unrealistic. The Army and Air Force cannot absolve themselves. The reaction of ISI that will never become public is perhaps that of betrayal. Many of its intelligence assets that it had shared with CIA have now double crossed and as Shaukat Qadir says made Al Qaida richer.
My analysis leads me to conclude that some levels of selective complicity existed, and it is this that combined with pre positioning of US assets inside Pakistan.
Foreign aircrafts have operated in Pakistan with impunity during the earthquake in 2005, floods, training missions etc. It is nigh possible that these flights were also used to dump hardware at secret locations that could subsequently become pivots for such operations. Troops for such operations could move into Pakistan under the garb of training, diplomatic staff and travellers coming to Pakistan from USA/ Europe, and local recruitments. Remember that some US soldiers as reported by the media spoke fluent urdu in a Pakistani accent.
Then there is also the much hyped issue of CIA contractors in Pakistan. Many of them have since returned but not before completing the ground work for an effective CIA presence in Pakistan all through the Long War.
The retired CGS of GHQ, Lt. Gen (R) Shahid Aziz had once claimed that he himself had reported evidence of US amphibious landing on the Balochistan Coast with the trails leading to interior Balochistan. If these landings indeed took place, where did these forces ultimately go; or where did they dump and move their cargo?
There is also the case of over 22,000 missing containers. Even if a mere hundred of them carried military hardware and knocked down helicopters, where has all the cargo gone and has anyone noticed it. The theory gets credence from a fact that in one of the ambushes, a container had a complete disassembled Blackhawk helicopter of the type used in Kakul.
My hypothesis is that from 2010 onwards, USA had built up a considerable covert military presence in Pakistan facilitated through visas bypassing the standing operating procedures, indiscriminate entry of containers into Pakistan, holding back of scanning equipment to scan these containers and bribes offered by the container operators from Karachi to the Afghan Border. Even the NLC was foxed into this in the name of business. As a military professional, I know that you do not need huge radioactive machines to scan these containers. A good thermal imaging device abundant in Pakistan can do the trick.
It is these reasons that put the Government of Pakistan and the Defence establishment at odds, something like a reverse replay of Kargil. While President Zardari like ever will use the occasion to push the army and ISI back, shore up new alliances to hedge his government, the security establishment may fight back in the name of national Interest. If this happens, it will set a confrontational environment with re alignment of strange bedfellows. As Pakistan will be destabilised further, Obama’s war in Afghanistan would be over and the Long War in Pakistan begun.