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NightWatch 20110503


For the Night of 3 May 2011

North Korea: For the record. A search of public information sources disclosed no North Korean media mention of the death of bin Laden.

India: Reaction. India wants the United States to minimize the role Pakistan plays in the future of Afghanistan and to attach tougher conditions to the aid it provides Pakistan, an unidentified senior Indian official said. According to the official, India fears the United States will accelerate its exit from Afghanistan as a result of Usama bin Laden's death, which will increase Pakistani influence in the region and ease the pressure on militant groups targeting India.

The official said the job is not finished in Afghanistan and the withdrawal will be disastrous. According to the official, the only reason to give Pakistan a major role in Afghanistan would be if the United States needed to stop the war quickly. India would prefer the United States to develop its partnership with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and leave Pakistan out of the picture, the official added.

Comment: The discovery of bin Laden living in luxury in a Pakistani military town confirmed India's worst fears about Pakistani perfidy and support for terrorists. Whatever little bit of trust was restored in the past month from Prime Minister Singh's "cricket diplomacy" has been undermined. The hard-line Hindu nationalists have been vindicated.

The fact of bin Laden's residency in mainstream Pakistan could lead to a loss of confidence in Prime Minister Singh's government.

Pakistan: Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, said Pakistan will do a full inquiry as to why its intelligences services were not able to track al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden earlier, AFP reported May 3. Bin Laden obviously had support within Pakistan, but it is unknown if that support came from the state or the society, Haqqani said. He added that many Pakistanis share bin Laden's extremist beliefs and would protect him. He said Pakistan as a nation must re-evaluate its view of the whole problem, adding that any questions about intelligence failures will be addressed.

Comment: For ten years, the world has heard Musharraf, Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani deny that bin Laden was in Pakistan. Now it has been established that he lived for six years on the outskirts of Islamabad, which includes the time when Musharraf was President.

The two primary hypotheses are quite clear: Pakistani intelligence and security officials knew about and supported bin Laden and lied or Pakistani intelligence and security, plus the national executives, are utterly incompetent and untrustworthy. It will take some time for sufficient evidence to emerge to determine which conclusion is the more accurate. Meanwhile, the international perceptions of official mendacity and incompetence will run in parallel.

Pakistan will have a hard time reassuring any country that its word is true. A fragile civilian government might not be able to survive the repercussions of the raid and the implications of finding bin Laden in Abbottabad.

Special Comment: The Washington Post published on 3 May the unofficial official version of the operation to neutralize bin Laden. Four US helicopters with US Navy SEALS in two waves were involved. They flew nap of the earth and through radar-masked valleys without detection, executed their mission and flew back safely with the body.

An alternative narrative was published by Asia Times onLine's Syed Saleem Shahzad on 3 May that is worth consideration. According to this version, the operation to Abbottabad was the second of the year and mimicked the US operation to snatch Umar Patek, the man responsible for the Bali bombing in Indonesia in 2002.

In this version, Pakistan again gave permission for US helicopters to stage from a Pakistani base and forces were alerted to provide assistance to the US as necessary. The US did not inform Pakistan that bin Laden was the target, but allowed Pakistani intelligence to believe that the second raid was a follow-up to round up supporters of Patek.

The Washington Post account and the Asia Times onLine account are not necessarily contradictory. Each leaves out portions of the raid that the other potentially supplies. There is no profit to either side at this early period after the raid to divulge the entire truth because of the potential for backlash, but a blend of the two seems much more plausible than either one alone.

Al Qaida-US: Ten hard drives, five computers and more than 100 storage devices, including discs, DVDs and thumb drives, were taken from the compound where bin Laden was hiding, a senior U.S. official said on 3 May. The U.S. administration received three sets of photos, including images of bin Laden's body at a hangar after he was taken to Afghanistan; this photo provided the most recognizable image of his face, the official said. There were also photos of bin Laden's burial at sea on the USS Carl Vinson -- both before and after the shroud was put on -- and of the raid itself, including pictures of the two deceased brothers and one of bin Laden's dead sons of approximately 18 years of age as well as of the inside of the compound.

Comment: Syed Saleem Shahzad made four points. The al Qaida leaders anticipated the death of bin Laden for years and made preparations by decentralizing operations and forming a leadership committee to elect a new leader in the even of bin Laden's demise.

Secondly, al Qaida leaders deliberately kept bin Laden separated from his deputy Zawahiri. Zawahiri has been the operational leader of al Qaida for the past six years.

Third, because of the loss of computer files, all plans for future operations will now be stopped. Contacts and financial donors would be high priority exploitation items, after plans in progress. The computer files should prove highly embarrassing and compromising to many people in many countries, with any luck at all.

Finally, the alternative narrative of Pakistani support is the one that the Pakistani Taliban believe. It has made them more determined than ever to topple the government in Islamabad, but now with more support from Afghan Taliban than before.

Afghanistan: Taliban reaction. The Afghan Taliban said 3 May that they have not seen sufficient evidence yet to convince them that al Qaida leader Usama bin Laden is dead. A statement emailed to media by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the United States has not provided acceptable evidence to back up the claim of Usama bin Laden's death, nor have aides close to the al Qaida leader confirmed or denied his death.

Syria: Update. Syrian security forces moved into Baniyas on the coast in northwestern Syria on 3 May, a protest leader said. Security personnel are in the city's main market, and the army has closed the northern entrance while security forces blocked the south, the protestor said. He said Alawite villages in the hills overlooking the city had been armed and protestors are facing militias from the east. Protestors waved bread as a mark of solidarity with protestors still under siege in Daraa in southwestern Syria.

Egypt-Palestinians: For the record. Representatives of 13 Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, signed a pact in Cairo on 3 May that paves the way for elections within a year. Bilal Qassem, politburo member of the Palestine Liberation Organization, confirmed the signing, which was attended by Egyptian intelligence officials.

Comment: The next major step is application for recognition as a state and membership as a state in the United Nations, followed by national elections.

Libya: A car bomb exploded in Benghazi near the headquarters of the Libyan rebels on May 3, a rebel military spokesman said. The explosion occurred about 200 yards from the headquarters, but there were no casualties. According to a journalist at the scene, a white Chevrolet exploded right before evening prayers. It is unknown who planted the bomb.

Comment: Qadhafi's daughter said in an interview published by the New York Times a week ago that many senior personnel who sided with the rebels in Benghazi remain friends of the Qadhafis. They went with the flow, but have been loyal to Qadhafi. This bombing establishes that there are pro-Qadhafi forces in Benghazi and that they are dangerous.

End of NightWatch for 3 May.

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