So Bin Laden is dead, but there is considerable confusion in the wake of the assault. Namely, was he in a ISI (the Pakistani CIA, more or less) safehouse? I am tempted to invoke Heinlein’s Razor here, but it has been unclear to me over the last decade whether the ISI is incompetent or insidiously clever (sometimes the two are indistinguishable). The government has changed hands in that time, but as a general rule of thumb, governments do not control their intelligence agencies any more than Obama controls Microsoft, and vice versa.
So. Were the Pakistani military and intelligence agencies involved here? Right now I don’t think so – I think it’s just a big humiliation for the ISI and the Pakistani military that threatens their relations with the U.S. and torpedoes any peace deal with India – though I have a question or two.
The choppers (the surviving Blackhawk and the Chinook) made it out without any interference “before the Pakistanis scrambled jets to shoot down the unknown intruders,” but that makes no sense. If they wanted to evade jet interception, they would have flown straight back to Jalalabad in Afghanistan, an hour away for a Blackhawk. Instead, they flew over 800-miles to the USS Carl Vinson in the Arabian Sea. That’s at least 5 hours for a Blackhawk with a max speed of 183 mph (it wouldn’t have needed to refuel if coming from Jalalabad and carrying external fuel tanks, but the Chinook or another chopper could have refueled it in-air). According to the NY Times, the raid happened at 4:00-4:30 EST; the news broke around 10:20 EST, so I assume it wasn’t released until the choppers were on the carrier.
Now I can see not telling Pakistan about the raid until it was under way- the Blackhawks needed an hour, minimum, to fly to the compound. If there was any connection between the ISI and Bin Laden, or the military and Bin Laden, he could have been tipped off in that time. The compound apparently had no land line or internet connection, but that doesn’t mean it was isolated from cells or satellite communication. Apparently Pakistani jets were scrambled, but as we’re not mourning the deaths of two dozen SEALs and associated personnel, a hell of a phone call must have taken place the second the choppers reached the compound, or perhaps shortly earlier.
In all the accounts I’ve seen and read so far, all the tension in the mission’s observers disappears when Bin Laden is confirmed dead. So I assume Pakistan was in the loop as of that moment – the choppers could fly out safely, and the compound could be seized by the P. military. I would be curious to learn more about the exact timing – it will tell us, the public, how much the U.S. really trusted Pakistani intelligence/military before the raid.
More will come out soon, I think, as the intelligence seized from the compound is analyzed – if the ISI or the military set Bin Laden up there, or tolerated his presence in any way, that’s where the proof would be. Again, I suspect pure incompetence, but we’ll see.