Understanding the Pakistani dimension

Posted on May 2, 2011


I woke up this morning to a text from a friend saying, ‘That’s Obama re-elected in 2012…’ M’boss at Egremont, Nik Darlington, had also texted me asking if I wanted to write something on Osama Bin Laden. Why, I wondered. The news came as a pleasant surprise. I listened to this song to celebrate, because, for some reason, it sounded appropriate. After reading much of the instant analysis, I decided not to write anything, given more serious and scholarly people like Leah Farrell and Daveed Gartenstein-Ross were close to hand. So I oiled myself up, grabbed Duff Cooper’s Talleyrand and spent the afternoon sunbathing. It was a wise decision.

Only a fool would shut himself off completely from the biggest news story since, er, last week, and I followed developments on Twitter. To me, the most interesting aspect to this drama has been the Pakistani dimension. Given his hideout was a compound located a couple of hundred metres from a military academy, Islamabad must’ve been aware of his presence, if not giving him sanctuary. But given Generals Kayani and Pasha, the heads of the Army and the ISI respectively, were informed about the operation beforehand, why did the Pakistani military establishment feel Osama was expendable? Xavier Rauscher, a regular sparring partner of mine, heard a French commentator say that the so-called Arab Spring had dealt a blow to al-Qu’aida, which made Osama less valuable to Pakistan. I think this is balls, personally. Whatever value they felt he had, it was limited to the AfPak theatre; I don’t see how his standing on the other side of Asia comes into, say, General Kayani’s calculations (especially given these uprisings have yet to succeed).[1]

[1] I’m very sceptical of comment pieces about how, politically, Osama bin Laden died when the so-called Arab Spring began five months ago. Politically, any importance he had to the Arab world died a while ago. These pieces also conflate Osama with al-Qu’aida affliates. As Marc Lynch wrote today, a ‘small but dangerous salafi-jihadist base has always been outside of current political currents in the region, and will continue to seek opportunities to act when appropriate.’ Secondly, they conflate takfiri terrorism with Islamist fundamentalism, and assume that the so-called Arab Spring – by being all democratic’n’shit – has dealt a blow to the latter too. Reading Duff Cooper’s Talleyrand, I noted grimly that the Jacobins didn’t take over France and unleash the Terror until two years after the Revolution began; it backed up Henry Kissinger’s warning that rarely is the outcome of a revolution the same as how those who began it wanted things to end.