This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Author: Rudra Devacharya
Continued from Part 2
And finally, on Sept 11 2001, Osama masterminds the attack on Washington DC and New York City that makes him a household name.
15) The rest is recent history which we know very well.
The Americans launch Operation Enduring Freedom, ousting the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, and replacing them with Karzai. The Pak army/ISI chooses to bend over to the Americans. Their betrayal of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda has lasting consequences. One by one, the Deobandi groups nurtured by the ISI go over to OBL's side. Wahhabandism (alliance of Wahab Islam and Deobandi Islamic schools) becomes a sociopolitical force unto itself, and eventually the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP) is born.
This is exactly the opposite effect of what the Pakistanis had hoped to achieve by inviting OBL to Afghanistan. They had hoped that they could influence OBL to turn his attention away from the West and KSA, and towards India in J&K.
Instead, OBL has turned Pakistan's own proxies (created to wage jihad in J&K) against the US and against Pakistan itself! In effect, forces that were committed to the J&K jihad are now more committed to fighting the Americans in Afghanistan!
Besides this, the generous sources of funding which OBL used to bring into Afghanistan (and of which, some must have been siphoned off by ISI to use against India) quickly dry up under American pressure against the financial conduits. So even that fringe benefit of OBL's presence, quickly disappears for the ISI.
Net gain for India, any way you look at it, compared to the 1990s.
16) 2002 is another pivotal year.
OBL escapes from Tora Bora and into Pakistan proper. From here on he is shielded from the Americans by the ISI in a cat-and-mouse game lasting a decade. The ISI still hopes to use him as a figurehead of jihad in J&K... and if all else fails, sell him out as the ultimate bargaining chip to the Americans.
Meanwhile, the NDA government in India launches Operation Parakram in response to the Parliament Attack. The buildup of Indian troops along the International Border alarms the Americans, who do not want their sizeable commitment of forces in Af-Pak to become embroiled in an Indo-Pak war zone.
Washington now starts to lean on Islamabad to rein back terrorism against India. Notably, terrorism against India in J&K goes into a steady decline from 2002 onwards showing that J&K jihad was completely, entirely in the hands of ISI, and had nothing to do with OBL/Al-Qaeda.
17) From 2005 onwards, the character of the Afghan conflict changes. The ISI begins to use specific proxies among the Taliban to do its bidding in Afghanistan including the Haqqanis, Hafiz Gul Bahadar, Maulvi Nazir, Hekmatyar etc.
Meanwhile the TTP (joined increasingly by Punjabi tanzeems following the Lal Masjid episode) intensifies its attacks on the Pak-Army/ISI. In following years, Swat is overrun, GHQ is attacked. The war overflows the FATA and NWFP into the heartland of Pakistan.
From 2005, ISI terrorism picks up again in India, not so much in J&K but elsewhere. LeT is used to build cadres of local terror cells owing allegiance to SIMI and the so-called "Indian Mujahedin." So far, there was no evidence that any of this is related to Al-Qaeda, TTP or the Wahhabandi tanzeems.
OBL may have provided his blessings to these efforts as a gesture of gratitude to his Pakistani hosts but he did not have either the assets, experience or reach within India to do anything of practical use. The LeT and ISI have far more assets in India than "Al Qaeda" ever did. So why would they need him as a "guiding light" or anything else?
In 2008, the ISI and LeT launch 26/11 against Mumbai in a desperate attempt to force military action by India, hoping that the various tanzeems fighting in Pakistan will unify under Paki-army as a result. It doesn't happen.
18) The Obama administration, from 2008 onwards, takes an increasingly hard line towards Pakistan. Drone attacks are stepped up, and focus increasingly on Waziristan, where those factions of Taliban loyal to the ISI are based. Paki army defiantly refuses to engage in any military action in Waziristan.
Meanwhile it is the sunset of OBL's career. He is now ensconsed in an ISI/Hizbul Mujahedin safehouse far from the Afghan border, and close to the J&K border. Finally, he starts to mention J&K in his speeches. But this is no more than nominal tribute.
It is unfounded to imagine that OBL played any significant role in J&K jihad, alongside the Paki-Army/ISI who betrayed him by bending over to the Americans. Why would he, when wars far more important to him were going on in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Yemen? Why would he, when J&K had never been a matter of consequence to him in the first place?
19) Some have suggested that, near the time of his capture, OBL was a virtual hostage of the ISI in their Abbotabad safe-house. However, it's important to note that while ISI had him by the balls, he also had them by the balls. It's not as if they could force him to take any greater role in J&K than he wanted, or force him to become involved to any greater extent than lip-service for politeness' sake.
What could the ISI do to him? Hand him over to the Americans? In doing so, they would lose their primary trump card, their greatest bargaining chip of all. They would also earn the instant wrath of all the jihadi tanzeems that still remained loyal to Paki army, and possibly of allied Taliban factions in Waziristan as well (the formerly ISI-allied Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan has already declared Jihad against Islamabad following the American raid on Abbotabad!)
By 2011 the Paki army/ISI had been forced into a corner. 89% of drone attacks by the US in 2010 had been against ISI-proxy Taliban factions in N. Waziristan. Meanwhile TTP in Orakzai, Malakand and Bajaur had begun to hit back in force against the Paki army, including raids in Dir and Swat. The Raymond Davis episode, among other things, had forced US-Pakistan relations to the point of nearly public hostility.
The Paki army/ISI knew they could not keep up the show of defiance for very much longer. By summer the IMF had to approve critical loans that Pakistan needed to survive. If the only way out of this was to play the trump card that is to sacrifice Osama Bin Laden, who was never any use to them against India anyway... so be it.
19) This brings us to the final chapter concluded last weekend: the American raid on the Abbotabad HM Safehouse where OBL was hiding.
The event is shrouded in mystery. Could the US have conducted the raid without any knowledge of the TSPA/ISI top-brass? Unlikely.
However awesome the stealth helicopters, the NAVY seals, the high-tech jamming gear etc, there were just too many things that could have gone wrong with a purely unilateral operation, for Washington to risk it. From JSOC choppers getting shot down, to a fire-fight in urban Pakistan including civilian collateral damage, to the mistaken launch of a Pakistani nuke against India. Just too many unpredictable outcomes to consider, if the US had actually "gone it alone."
BUT BUT BUT... if Pakistan AGREED to let the US snatch OBL, why did they not bargain for a more Honour and Dignity (H&D)-saving facade? Why did they not insist that OBL be "found in the border regions of Afghanistan" rather than the very embarrassing location of Abbotabad? Why did they not angle for more recognition of their cooperative role so that they could get generous baksheesh in reward from the US Congress? Why did they submit to a raid that makes them look so very bad, in terms of H&D, and in terms of casting suspicion on their role in harbouring OBL all these years? Why did they let SEALS cart away incriminating evidence from the location instead of delivering Bin Laden to the Americans on their own terms?
There is only one possible answer: the Pakis may have agreed to let the US snatch OBL on such humiliating terms because the only alternative available to the Pakis was WORSE. Uncle Sam has something so damaging to the Pakis, that he was able to threaten them with it, and dictate the terms of how the OBL raid was going to go or else....
What is that "WORSE" thing? I don't know.
There is a suspicion that it might revolve around two trials currently taking place in the US, though. The trial of Tawwahur Hussein Rana in Chicago; and the trial in NY where the families of American 26/11 victims are suing the Pakistan Army and ISI. Things which could have come out in those trials and become public information, may have been even more damaging to Pakistan than the mere fact of OBL hiding in Abbotabad all these years.
20) For India... Well for the last 20 years, we have faced jihad alone. We will face it alone for the next 20.
USA/Al-Qaeda squabbles don't matter to us; USA-Pakistan lovefest doesn't matter to us; Pakistan-China double teaming doesn't matter to us.
We have survived the connivance of all these parties under much worse circumstances, when we were much weaker. With the wisdom of our ancestors, the courage of our people, and the virtuous sword arm of Dharma on our side we shall continue to survive it until we prevail.