Children walk past the house of former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 8, 2011. A new Pakistani report says the "extent of incompetence" in failing to detect bin Laden despite the size of the house was "to put it mildly ... astounding, if not unbelievable."
Children walk past the house of former al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 8, 2011. A new Pakistani report says the "extent of incompetence" in failing to detect bin Laden despite the size of the house was "to put it mildly ... astounding, if not unbelievable." Anjum Naveed/AP
We've waded through the 336-page Pakistani report on the circumstances surrounding the killing of Osama bin Laden to find the most interesting bits. As we noted yesterday, it was obtained and published by Al Jazeera.
First of all, it starts more like a novel than a government-commissioned report:
"Today was Amal's turn for the Shaikh to be with her ..."
Here are some of the key takeaways:
— Bin Laden wore a cowboy hat when he moved around the compound in Abbotabad to avoid detection from above. He treated himself with traditional Arab medicine when he felt unwell, and ate chocolate with an apple when he felt sluggish.
— Bin Laden arrived in Pakistan "sometime in the spring or summer of 2002" and lived in at least six different places over nearly a decade. They included two places in the tribal areas of western Pakistan (South Waziristan and Bajaur), as well as Peshawar, Swat and Haripur. Members of his family also lived in Karachi, Quetta and the Iran-Pakistan border area. Bin Laden lived in Abbotabad from 2005 until his death in 2011.
— The al-Qaida leader evaded detection due to a "collective failure of the military authorities, the intelligence authorities, the police and the civilian administration. This failure included negligence and incompetence and at some undetermined level a grave complicity may or may not have [been] involved."
— The report says the Pakistani government, military, intelligence and security agencies did not know bin Laden was in the country, but "the possibility of some ... direct or indirect and 'plausibly deniable' support cannot be ruled out, at least, at some level outside formal structures of the intelligence establishment."
— Intelligence and security incompetence and laxity at the very least resulted in bin Laden's large and conspicuous compound escaping attention over the years. "To crown it all," the report notes, the bin Laden house "was enumerated in a house survey with the comments that it was ... uninhabited! Since August 2005, there were never less than 25 people living in it. The extent of incompetence, to put it mildly, was astounding, if not unbelievable."
— The Pakistani government did not undertake steps to determine whether or not bin Laden was in the country, but the country's spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, more or less exclusively worked with everything related to bin Laden.
— "Culpable negligence and incompetence" were behind the failure to track bin Laden, but "connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be ruled out." The report adds: "Informed officials ... who often reflect actual administration thinking have suggested connivance at some level in the broader structures of the intelligence community in Pakistan."
— The U.S. was able to carry out its raid without detection because, the advanced technology of the aircraft aside, India remained the focus of Pakistan's military "despite a growing American threat including actual border raids, drone strikes, special operations, the spread of a hostile spy network, [and] public and private warning of the limits of American patience with Pakistan's alleged support for militants attacking American soldiers in Afghanistan."
— Pakistan's air force only learned about the U.S. raid from a TV report. It then scrambled jets, but the Americans had left by then.