Osama bin Laden mission agreed in secret 10 years ago by US and Pakistan
US forces were given permission to conduct unilateral raid inside Pakistan
if they knew where Bin Laden was hiding, officials say
. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/declanwalsh> Declan Walsh in
. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/> guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 May 2011
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/help/accessibility> larger |
Description: Pervez Musharraf and George Bush, Osama bin Laden death
The deal was struck between Pervez Musharraf and George Bush in 2001 and
renewed during the 'transition to democracy' - a six-month period from
February 2008 when Musharraf was still president but a civilian government
had been elected. Photograph: Joshua Roberts/Reuters
The US and <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/pakistan> Pakistan struck a
secret deal almost a decade ago permitting a US operation against
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/osamabinladen> Osama bin Laden on Pakistani
soil similar to last week's raid that killed the al-Qaida leader, the
Guardian has learned.
The deal was struck between the military leader General
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/pervez-musharraf> Pervez Musharraf and
President <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/george-bush> George Bush after
Bin Laden escaped US forces in the mountains of Tora Bora in late 2001,
according to serving and retired Pakistani and US officials.
Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid
inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and
the al-Qaida No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously
protest the incursion.
"There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where
Osama was, we were going to come and get him," said a former senior US
official with knowledge of counterterrorism operations. "The Pakistanis
would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn't stop us."
The deal puts a new complexion on the political storm triggered by Bin
Laden's death in Abbottabad, 35 miles north of Islamabad, where a team of US
navy Seals assaulted his safe house in the early hours of 2 May.
Pakistani officials have insisted they knew nothing of the raid, with
military and civilian leaders issuing a strong rebuke to the US. If the US
conducts another such assault, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani warned
parliament on Monday, "Pakistan reserves the right to retaliate with full
Days earlier, Musharraf, now running an opposition party from exile in
London, emerged as one of the most vocal critics of the raid, terming it a
"violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan".
But under the terms of the secret deal, while Pakistanis may not have been
informed of the assault, they had agreed to it in principle.
A senior Pakistani official said it had been struck under Musharraf and
renewed by the army during the "transition to democracy" - a six-month
period from February 2008 when Musharraf was still president but a civilian
government had been elected.
Referring to the assault on Bin Laden's Abbottabad compound, the official
added: "As far as our American friends are concerned, they have just
implemented the agreement."
The former US official said the Pakistani protests of the past week were the
"public face" of the deal. "We knew they would deny this stuff."
The agreement is consistent with Pakistan's unspoken policy towards CIA
drone strikes in the tribal belt, which was revealed by the
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-us-embassy-cables> WikiLeaks US embassy
cables last November. In August 2008, Gilani reportedly told a US official:
"I don't care if they do it, as long as they get the right people. We'll
protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it."
As drone strikes have escalated in the tribal belt over the past year,
senior civilian and military officials issued pro forma denunciations even
as it became clear the Pakistani military was co-operating with the covert
The former US official said that impetus for the co-operation, much like the
Bin Laden deal, was driven by the US. "It didn't come from Musharraf's
desire. On the Predators, we made it very clear to them that if they weren't
going to prosecute these targets, we were, and there was nothing they could
do to stop us taking unilateral action.
"We told them, over and again: 'We'll stop the Predators if you take these
targets out yourselves.'"
Despite several attempts to contact his London office, the Guardian has been
unable to obtain comment from Musharraf.
Since Bin Laden's death, Pakistan has come under intense US scrutiny,
including accusations that elements within Pakistan's Inter-Services
Intelligence helped hide the al-Qaida leader.
On Sunday, President Barack Obama
said Bin Laden must have had "some sort of support network" inside Pakistan.
"We don't know whether there might have been some people inside of
government, outside of government, and that's something we have to
investigate," Obama said.
Gilani has stood firmly by the ISI, describing it as a "national asset", and
said claims that Pakistan was "in cahoots" with al-Qaida were
"Allegations of complicity or incompetence are absurd," he said. "We didn't
invite Osama bin Laden to Pakistan."
Gilani said the army had launched an investigation into how Bin Laden
managed to hide inside Pakistan. Senior generals will give a briefing on the
furore to parliament next Friday.
Gilani paid lip-service to the alliance with America and welcomed a
forthcoming visit from the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, but
pointedly paid tribute to help from China, whom he described as "a source of
inspiration for the people of Pakistan".
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