Chasing a moving target: Where is Osama?

Published: October 30, 2010
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Controversy surrounds the figure of OBL: some believe he is a CIA agent, while others laud him as a true mujahid.

Nine years after 9/11, speculation is still rife about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden and his aides.

A recent statement by an unnamed Nato official puts his presence in the area between Afghan and Pakistani border, close to the Kurram Valley. Is this a big surprise?

The denial by the Pakistani government was swift, as usual, and the Interior Minister categorically put the burden on Nato to provide the credibility of the claim.

Now, Mr Malik may be an interior minister, but he is not a wise one. In the past, we have seen the usual denials on other allegations as the first reaction. Secondly, to exactly pinpoint where certain people may be present is difficult and subject to change.

There is a large number of Muslims, especially Pakistanis, who believe that OBL is a messiah, a great mujahid who has given the allied forces a run for their money. They see him as a  sign of unmatched courage, resilience and valour. Then there are the usual conspiracy theorists who think that OBL and his associates are all CIA operatives and working on behalf of the CIA. They make a passionate case for how the Americans, OBL and his mujahideen were all in cahoots when the Soviets were the common enemies.

To all those who make illogical arguments, I always provide simple logic to clarify my position. American foreign policy is based on self-interest and is subject to change. Simply speaking, a domestic pet is harmless and very useful when it protects you and your house, but the moment it starts to attack you or your loved ones, all bets are off the table. You will make every effort to put that pet to sleep. Hence the change of heart of the US towards its former allies subsequent to 9/11 is logical and understandable.

Even in Pakistan, the political scene changes according to the circumstances. We all remember East Pakistanis as our brothers. When the same brothers were killing us or vice versa, we no longer had the same affection for them. Without going into the details of this dark chapter of our history, my point is that we cannot solely blame the Americans for making a U turn on their policy.

There is no denying that the US policy of leaving Afghanistan high and dry after the retreat of Soviets was short sighted and wrong.  The world saw its repercussions and acknowledged that the ill-conceived wars of the Bush administration brought havoc.  The world we live in today is quite different from what it was a decade ago.

The common belief that high-value targets such as OBL and his deputies cannot hide without proper protection by intelligence agencies on both sides of the Af-Pak border holds a lot of weight. The troublesome or perplexing part of this whole episode is that, nine years of fruitless searching can be taken as an abject failure of the intelligence community or as valid doubt about who might really be shielding these leaders.

On the other hand, the brutes and barbarians in the Pakistani backyard are glorifying these leaders and unleashing countless attacks on common Pakistanis. All this is done only to demonstrate their displeasure over the American presence in the region. People who buy into all of this are strongly cautioned that even if the Americans were to pack their bags and leave, this murder and mayhem will not come to an end.

Although it is unlikely, the capture of high-value targets by allied forces will not cause the genie to go back into the bottle, so to speak. The only way out of this mess is to create, cultivate and nurture a culture that condemns the violence to its fullest extent. Simply speaking, if a product has no potential buyers, it is destined to fail and will be off the market rather quickly.

d.asghar

D. Asghar

A mortgage-banker by profession who also loves to write.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.