Ahmed Rashid: What Did Pakistan Know?

This aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden. i i

hide captionThis aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden.

Alex Brandon/AP
This aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden.

This aerial image provided by the CIA shows the Abbottabad compound in Pakistan where American forces killed Osama bin Laden.

Alex Brandon/AP

Pakistan's leaders have said they didn't know that Osama bin Laden was living in a large house in Abbottabad, close to the nation's capital. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid, who has written extensively about the Taliban and al-Qaida, discusses what officials might have known about bin Laden's presence, and what impact his death may have on jihadist groups, the war in Afghanistan and the future of U.S.-Pakistan relations.

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"The feeling in Pakistan is very mixed," he tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross. "I think there's astonishment and embarrassment and anger at the idea that [their] intelligence might have been involved in trying to protect bin Laden. But at the same time, there is a very large conservative, fundamentalist, anti-American lobby which would want to try and salvage something from this — and one of the things they can salvage is that the Americans have attacked Pakistan's sovereignty by launching this attack without taking permission. ... All the talk in Parliament over the past 24 hours has all been about the question of sovereignty. For some people, this is a way of escaping the real question, which is: Did bin Laden have protection from anyone?"

Ahmed Rashid is a columnist for the Financial Times. His books include Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam and Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia. Rashid lives in Lahore, Pakistan.

Ahmed Rashid Offers An Update On The Taliban

Ahmed Rashid i i

hide captionAhmed Rashid writes for The Washington Post, El Mundo and other international newspapers.

Photo courtesy of AhmedRashid.com
Ahmed Rashid

Ahmed Rashid writes for The Washington Post, El Mundo and other international newspapers.

Photo courtesy of AhmedRashid.com

Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid says the recent capture of Taliban military commander Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar raises the question: Why now?

"His whereabouts were known for years," says Rashid. "Speculations from Kabul [indicate that] the CIA could've discovered his whereabouts and insist [Pakistani officials] arrest him. But it was also well known that he was in touch with the authorities having talks through representatives."

Baradar's arrest — and the new military tactics used by both sides — has implications beyond Pakistan's borders. Rashid tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross that the capture may complicate ongoing negotiations between Saudi officials and the Taliban leadership.

"[Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, through all the criticism for lack of governance and corruption, one thing he's done is talk to the Taliban leadership," says Rashid. "These talks did lead to further talks — and senior leaders [of the Taliban] actually came to Saudi Arabia and met with Saudi officials and in fact, it's been speculated that Baradar himself was there meeting with officials."

Rashid says that Baradar's arrest may have a long term crippling effect on the Taliban — but even so, the Taliban will remain difficult to defeat using only military force.

"[The Taliban] have penetrated the fabric of Northeast Afghanistan," Rashid says. "They're in the fabric of the country." He adds that defeating the Taliban would involve killing "large numbers of Pashtuns," an ethnic group with a history in southeastern Afghanistan.

Rashid, who is based in Lahore, is the author of several books, including Jihad: The Rise of Militant Islam in Central Asia , Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia and, most recently, Descent into Chaos: The United States and the Failure of Nation Building in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Central Asia.

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