Brig. SAMSON SIMON SHARAF | Sunday | 8 May 2011 | The Nation
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—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 TheNation in December 2009, I had assessed the next 18 months and beyond as crucial for Pakistan and reiterated that “Pakistan must reassert itself” on February 20. 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 full-fledged conventional multi-directional night attack on a border outpost in Dir, a border skirmish at Angoor Adda and now the operation to kill Osama bin laden.
Writing an article, Pakistan: A Rudderless State, earlier in TheNation in November 2010, I had cautioned the security planners of Pakistan to beware of the 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 our 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 Pakistan had resulted in the elimination of numerous prized targets both from TTP and Al-Qaeda. The efficiency of information gathering was such that many high value targets deemed missing and believed to be 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 the CIA agents into Pakistan. Since this influx was not a part of the working agreements between the ISI and CIA, Pakistan’s security establishment felt that they were being stabbed in the back.
Counter security efforts, on part of Pakistan, identified hundreds of locations in the country in which the US agents had located themselves 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 the agency forced budgetary reallocations for its operations in Pakistan. With huge funds to play around, the CIA could now buy off anyone, including Al-Qaeda agents whose data Pakistan had shared with the 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 the 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 the US 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-Qaeda trail may have been exposed, or double crossed and could be used to blackmail Pakistan into coercion.
This column appeared in Pakistan’s The Nation. Mr. Sharaf, a retired brigadier of Pakistan Army, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org