Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Vaccination Ruse To Catch Bin Laden; Drone Program Now In Doubt Over Ongoing Rift

You have to give the CIA credit. They were more than willing to try unconventional means to track down Osama bin Laden and to gain intel they believed necessary to confirm whether they got their man.

The CIA apparently ran a vaccination ruse to obtain DNA information. But perhaps more importantly, the fallout from the bin Laden raid continues to affect the security situation in Afghanistan and the frontier provinces in Pakistan. The drone program and military aid programs to Pakistan are in doubt as the Pakistanis continue to seethe over the raid:
The vaccination program was set up as the C.I.A. was struggling to learn whether Bin Laden was hiding in the compound, and adds a new twist to the months of spy games that preceded the nighttime raid in early May that killed the Qaeda chief.

It has also aggravated already strained tensions between the United States and Pakistan. The operation was run by a Pakistan doctor, Shakil Afridi, whom Pakistani spies have since arrested for his suspected collaboration with the Americans. Dr. Afridi remains in Pakistani custody, the American official said.

Getting DNA evidence from the people hiding in the Abbottabad compound would have been a significant coup, because it would have allowed the C.I.A. to match the samples with DNA from other members of the Bin Laden family that are on file at the C.I.A. — providing the first hard evidence in years of his whereabouts.

The American official said that the doctor managed to temporarily gain access to the compound, but that he never saw Bin Laden and was not successful in getting DNA samples from any Bin Laden family members. Obama administration officials have said publicly they were not sure whether Bin Laden was in Abbottabad when dozens of Navy Seals commandos stormed the house in May.

The existence of the vaccination program was first reported by a British newspaper, The Guardian. A C.I.A. spokesman declined to comment.

It is unclear how the C.I.A. first recruited Dr. Afridi to work for the United States. The Guardian reported that he used a team of nurses and other health workers to administer Hepatitis B vaccinations throughout Abbottabad, even starting the program on poor fringes of the town to maintain a low profile.

Pakistani military and intelligence operatives were furious about the American raid that killed Bin Laden, and relations between the United States and Pakistan have only plummeted since. Pakistani officials have suggested that they might use troops to repel another incursion into Pakistan, and many American officials believe that Pakistan seems more concerned with hunting C.I.A. informants than with finding Qaeda operatives.

American officials said they planned to suspend as much as $800 million worth of military aid to Pakistan — a move partly designed to chasten Islamabad for expelling American military trainers — and several influential American lawmakers have suggested attaching more strings to the billions of dollars sent each year to Pakistan.

Also at stake is the C.I.A.’s armed drone program, which has carried out hundreds of strikes in Pakistan in recent years and has killed several senior operatives from Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Pakistan has threatened to expel C.I.A. operatives working on the drone program from a base in southern Pakistan, and the C.I.A. has set up contingency plans to run more flights from a base in eastern Afghanistan.
It is interesting that the Pakistanis seem to be more interested in catching those who may have provided intel to the CIA in the hunt for Osama bin Laden than they are in going after other terrorists hiding in their midst.

Drone airstrikes continue, including one that killed 38 people, and the Pakistanis continue to express their displeasure about those ongoing airstrikes. They threaten to stop US operations from airbases inside Pakistan, and the CIA and US military are contemplating carrying those operations from bases inside Afghanistan.

At the same time, Pakistan is also threatening to reduce/eliminate troops from along its border with Afghanistan, which would enable the Taliban to expand operations on both sides of the border, if the US suspends $800 million in aid.

Pakistan is also looking towards China for military aid, equipment, and assistance.

The Pakistanis are currently engaged in military operations against certain Taliban elements, but they aren't willing to eliminate those Taliban factions because the Pakistani ISI has long used the Taliban to influence events in Afghanistan. They aren't going to suddenly reverse course and no longer seek to influence the outcome in their neighbor.
Pakistan is seeking to preserve ties with the Taliban and other militants that it has used for decades to gain political influence in Afghanistan, according to Imtiaz Gul, director of Islamabad’s Center for Research and Security Studies.

The reliance on guerrillas to project power across Pakistan’s borders is part of an effort to compensate for its smaller size compared with arch-foe India, against which it has fought three wars since the countries separated at independence from the U.K.

Any army offensive “is not going to give satisfaction to the Americans, because Pakistan wants to keep a relationship with some of the groups there,” including the one led by Afghan tribal leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, said Gul.

The U.S., which is withdrawing some troops and planning to end its combat role in Afghanistan by 2014, is pushing Pakistan to crush the Taliban in its territory while helping bring its leaders to peace talks. The U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan describe Haqqani as a major enemy.
Things in South Asia are getting a whole lot more dangerous because Pakistan's ongoing limited actions to deal with the Islamists and Taliban who seek to destabilize the region results from the refusal to cut longstanding ties with those elements.

No comments: