The OBL watch
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:
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.
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.