The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

The OBL watch

with 5 comments

A man holds a box of Pakistan-made "Super Osama Bin Laden, Kulfa Balls" milk and coconut flavour hard candies bought at a bazaar in Kandahar city (REUTERS/Jorge Silva)

In the days following 9/11, there was barely a minute where one didn’t hear the name Osama Bin Laden uttered. Fast forward eight years, and one barely heard of him, unless it was a brief mention in a journal piece. There was a brief flurry of excitement in September when a new recording surfaced but that was it.

Until a few weeks ago, when a plethora of statements about OBL emerged. Where is he? Where was he? Is he dead? Is he alive? Pakistan really should have captured him by now, don’t you think?

I spent a few months reading several books about Pakistan and the war on terror, the narratives were so similar that at some point I felt I could rattle off OBL’s entire history. But there were still nuggets of information that have popped up this year:

From Vanity Fair, an excerpt of son Omar bin Laden’s book (Angry Arab on the book here):

Many people found my father to be a genius, particularly when it came to mathematical skills. It was said that his own father was a numerical genius who could add up large columns of numbers in his head.

My father was so well known for the skill that there were times that men would come to our home and ask him to match his wits against a calculator. Sometimes he would agree, and other times not. When he would good-naturedly accept the challenge, I would grow so nervous that I would forget to breathe.

And then there’s the report that has been doing the rounds this month of OBL’s escape from Tora Bora:

Most of the Tora Bora complex was abandoned and many of the caves and tunnels were buried in debris. Only about 20 stragglers were taken prisoner. The consensus was that al Qaeda fighters who had survived the fierce bombing had escaped into Pakistan or melted into the local population. Bin Laden was nowhere to be found. Two days later, Fury and his Delta Force colleagues left Tora Bora, hoping that someone would eventually find bin Laden buried in one of the caves.

There was no body because bin Laden did not die at Tora Bora. Later U.S. intelligence reports and accounts by journalists and others said that he and a contingent of bodyguards departed Tora Bora on Dec. 16. With help from Afghans and Pakistanis who had been paid in advance, the group made its way on foot and horseback across the mountain passes and into Pakistan without encountering any resistance.

I actually didn’t find anything shocking about it altogether – the ‘missed chances’ described in books on Al Qaeda and OBL are numerous – and telling of how the world’s most wanted man has become a sidebar of sorts in this epic AfPak saga.  There seems to be – at least on the record – no credible intelligence of where OBL has been recently, though this report of OBL having been in Afghanistan this year was interesting.

That said..

Al Jazeera’s Imran Khan blogged about why finding OBL is key:

If Osama is captured or killed, the Taliban will still be a force to be reckoned with. Neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan will become secure. But if you are the US government right now and you need something to that suggests your new AfPak strategy is working, then Bin Laden’s head on a platter is looking like a good idea right about now.

Sadly, say many in Pakistan, Bin Laden’s head will not make a difference for long term peace in the region.

And on another tangent: Iran seems to be holding OBL’s relatives in custody.

Everyone wants a piece of OBL in this part of the world!

On a side note: For anyone interested in Jordanian politics, this post up at The Black Iris – and the comments – should be your read of the week.


Written by Saba Imtiaz

December 22, 2009 at 3:53 am

5 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I can understand where Imran Khan is coming from, so much of U.S. strategy in the region is contingent on OBL and Al Qaeda, but I really believe even OBL’s symbolic power has decreased over time – obviously, there are far more dangerous guys out there today from the TTP to Lashkar-e-Jhanghivi to the Haqqani Network and Hekmatyar. It really speaks to the ideology of Al Qaeda vs. localized groups as a whole – AQ is far of an imagined intangible organization, with recruitment and interaction online than in person, while these localized organizations have much more immediate objectives in mind etc.


    December 22, 2009 at 7:51 am

    • One could argue, then, that does the symbolic value of catching OBL outweigh the strategic one? I would think that its the former but could it be a trigger to the collapse of the other organizations?

      Saba Imtiaz

      December 24, 2009 at 6:22 am

  2. i agree with the point of Kalsoom that AQ is an imagined and intangible organization, and i believe that AQ works as the state agent (property dealer) of so called super power. where ever us want to have a piece of land OBL and AQ are assumed to be present there.


    December 23, 2009 at 6:11 am

  3. lolz


    January 14, 2010 at 5:42 pm

  4. Great article.

    playing games

    February 25, 2015 at 10:22 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: