Hiding in plain sight

The immensity of the revelations is hard to take in. For the last six years, four of them during the presidency of George W. Bush, while the U.S. was unable to find bin Laden because, as the government thought, he was hiding in a cave in the wild inaccessible region on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border which was outside the practical reach of U.S. intelligence and U.S. Special Forces, and also while many conservatives continued to declare in an all-knowing manner that bin Laden had been killed in Tora Bora in 2001 (the most confident of these “Osama is dead” people being Mark Steyn, who has been disastrously wrong on virtually everything of substance he has said in his career), during all that time, bin Laden was living in a large comfortable mansion built especially for him in the British-built, modern city of Abbottabad, a half mile from the Pakistan equivalent of West Point. Hell, he might as well have been living in a luxury apartment at the Watergate.

Also I’ve read (though not confirmed from reliable sources) that a large number of Special Forces soldiers have been killed in the course of the efforts to locate bin Laden in the dangerous border region over the years.

Was it really impossible for us to glean from any of our contacts in Pakistan during all those years that bin Laden was living in Pakistan, hiding in plain site? Were we really trying to find bin Laden, or were we going through the motions?

Here are excerpts from three items in today’s New York Post that bring out the basic facts about Osama’s hiding place in Abbottabad:

Story one:

ABBOTTABAD, Pakistan—Osama bin Laden may have fooled Pakistan’s security establishment, but the neighborhood kids knew something was amiss when they started making healthy profits every time a ball sailed over the barbed wire-topped wall separating the world from its most wanted terrorist, The Australian reported Tuesday.

“If a ball went into bin Laden’s compound the children would not be allowed to get it,” said local ice cream vendor Tanvir Ahmed. “They were given money instead; 100-150 rupees ($2-$3) per ball.” And there were other signs.

Story two:

However, the al Qaeda leader lived and died in a massive, fortified compound built in 2005 and located on the outskirts of Abbottabad, some 60 miles from the capital of Islamabad. It stood just a half-mile from the Kakul Military Academy, Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point, and close to various army regiments.

Story three:

WASHINGTON—Osama bin Laden lived for the past five to six years in the compound deep inside Pakistan where the al Qaeda leader was killed by U.S. forces, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser said this morning….

“Well I think the latest information is that he was in this compound for the past five or six years and he had virtually no interaction with others outside that compound. But yet he seemed to be very active inside the compound,” White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan said on the CBS Early Show program.

“And we know that he had released videos and audios. We know that he was in contact with some senior al Qaeda officials,” Brennan added.

“So what we’re trying to do now is to understand what he has been involved in over the past several years, exploit whatever information we were able to get at the compound and take that information and continue our efforts to destroy al Qaeda,” Brennan added….

He said the United States was eager to learn from the material about the circumstances of bin Laden’s residence in Abbottabad.

“I know the Pakistanis are interested in this—how did bin Laden stay at that compound for the past six years or so and be undetected? What type of support did he have outside of that compound—in the Abbottabad area or more broadly within Pakistan?” Brennan said.

Also, here is Mark Steyn admitting, with an honesty rare for him, that he was wrong for the last nine years about bin Laden being dead.

- end of initial entry -

Timothy A. writes:

A couple of questions come to mind.

Now that Mark Steyn has admitted that he was premature in announcing Bin Laden’s demise, I wonder if we will hear from his fellow Cornerite Michael Ledeen who has insisted for several years that Osama died in Iran in 2005 where he had been hiding out after Tora Bora.

Also, will Pakistan face any consequences for sheltering Bin Laden for the last half-decade?

LA replies:

Gosh, in Ledeen’s mind, the whole universe really revolves around Iran, doesn’t it?

Five years ago I asked him to back up his assertion that the Iranians were sending Iraqi Shi’ites into Iraq to mass murder Iraqi Shi’ites. When he kept talking around the topic and failed to back up the statement, and I kept questioning him on it, he said I was calling him a liar and he ended our correspondence. He might have admitted that he had exaggerated in his initial statement and the facts didn’t quite support it; after all, we all make mistakes of interpretation from time to time and jump to unwarranted conclusions and we need to correct ourselves. But it wasn’t in him to do that.

Ralph P. writes:

I was intrigued with the name of the city in which Osama was found—Abbottabad. Did not sound Pakistani at all.

From Wikipedia:

The town of Abbottabad in British India was the headquarters of the then Hazara district, and was named after Major James Abbott who founded the town and district in January 1853 after the annexation of the Punjab. He remained the first Deputy Commissioner of the Hazara district between 1849 until April 1853. Major Abbott is noted for having written a poem titled “Abbottabad”, before he went back to Britain, in which he wrote of his fondness for the town and his sadness at having to leave it.

Abbottabad by James Abbott

I remember the day when I first came here
And smelt the sweet Abbottabad air

The trees and ground covered with snow
Gave us indeed a brilliant show

To me the place seemed like a dream
And far ran a lonesome stream

The wind hissed as if welcoming us
The pine swayed creating a lot of fuss

And the tiny cuckoo sang it away
A song very melodious and gay

I adored the place from the first sight
And was happy that my coming here was right

And eight good years here passed very soon
And we leave you perhaps on a sunny noon

Oh Abbottabad we are leaving you now
To your natural beauty do I bow

Perhaps your winds sound will never reach my ear
My gift for you is a few sad tears

I bid you farewell with a heavy heart
Never from my mind will your memories thwart

Posted by Lawrence Auster at May 03, 2011 02:17 PM | Send

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