Wednesday, May 25, 2011
Questions about Usama that have no valid answers so far
The media have not raised so far several important questions about Usama bin Ladin, nor have Americans provided any evidence to give answers.
Let us take them up.
Did the American helicopters really come from Afghanistan?
Not at all. If they did, they would have been exposed within minutes. It never occurred to the great investigative minds in the media, here and abroad, that another radar system is also in place that covers every square kilometer of the country and never sleeps. (Air Force radars are fully active only when a war starts or a war-like situation arises. When Indians intended to raid Hafiz Saeed’s complex near Muridke in the aftermath of the Bombay attacks, they had to change their mind when they found that our planes were ready to hit back the moment Indians crossed the border.)
The air control system of civil aviation monitors all aircraft. Any plane or helicopter entering our territory has to submit its flight plan to get permission. Any intruder, such as a hijacked plane, is reported and air force jets scramble immediately. If American helicopters tried to go ahead without permission, our fighter planes would have forced them down to ground or back to their Bagram base.
The claim that the helicopters were not visible to radars is false. Even if the two HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopters were supposedly invisible Stealth type, what about the two CH-47 Chinooks that are always very much visible? (They helped in relief work after the earthquake in Azad Kashmir.)
The helicopters actually flew from the NATO base near Tarbela. From there, the distance to Abbottabad was less than 10 kms, only a few minutes away. After returning from Abbottabad, the helicopters flew to Bagram, as normal flights from NATO base to Bagram.
Najam Sethi, of Geo, reported the same night that helicopters flew from Tarbela. (If he cannot get facts from the Americans, nobody else can.) Sethi contradicted himself the next night, not because he was wrong but presumably, because the admission would have led to a shrill demand that NATO must be asked to leave Tarbela.)
Did the helicopters remain unnoticed during the operation?
No. It was just not possible. There were four helicopters, one pair for operation and another for backup. Their rotors were running all the time during the 40-minute operation. They made a lot of noise, even the Stealth type. Their lights were also shining in the moonless, pitch-dark night. The neighbors did notice them. So did the authorities, who are reported to have placed a security cordon immediately around the Usama house and asked people to stay away.
Could the U.S. stop the destruction of its helicopters by our air farce?
It is difficult to believe Obama’s claim that he had given "instructions to engage” PAF fighters, if attacked. It just seems to be an afterthought to shore up people's morale.
Usually two fighter planes scramble to engage intruders. Suppose our planes engaged the helicopters when they were close to Abbottabad and destroyed them. What could the 20 aircraft, including F-18 Hornets, supposed to be flying in Afghan space, do to stop our fighter planes? Even if they were able to destroy the two PAF fighters, the mission against Usama would have failed and Pakistan would have found it impossible to cooperate further with the U.S. in Afghanistan. The cost would have been too high for the U.S.
Were the U.S. helicopters really invisible to our radars?
If U.S. claims that its planes were ready in Afghanistan to engage our fighters, it proves that the helicopters were not invisible to radars and thus were vulnerable to attack.
In any case, American helicopters were not very invisible. According to Aviation Week, an authoritative publication on such matters,"… it is believed that a helicopter cannot yet be made as radar-stealthy as a fixed-wing airplane, as helicopters generally operate at low altitude and against ground clutter." (See http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?channel=defense&id=news/awst/2011/05/09/AW_05_09_2011_p22-318890.xml&headline=null&next=10
Moreover, the claims of defense contractors (in this case of helicopter makers) are not always accurate. The manufacturer of Patriot missiles made a lot of propaganda about their effectiveness during the first invasion of Iraq in 1990. The reality later turned out to be quite different.
Meanwhile, is it not ironical that the country that could build a $60-million Stealth helicopter, did not find a pilot to operate it properly?
How long did Usama stay in Abbottabad?
There is no proof, no evidence whatsoever that the stay was for six years. The house was built six years ago but that does not mean Usama was the only occupant since then. Amal, Usama’s third wife, is reported to have said that the family lived there all those six years. CIA does not have even common sense, not to speak of intelligence, if it believes that she was telling the truth. (Incidentally, to cover the earlier period, she also said that the family stayed for over 2½ years in a village near Haripur, when no villager saw any stranger living there during that period.)
CIA has no idea how shrewd women are in this part of the world. A police party raided the home of a wanted criminal in a remote village. To get him time to escape, his wife took off her clothes, sat under a hand pump in the courtyard and shouted, “Don’t enter the door. I am taking a bath.” By the time her “bath” was over, the husband had run away from the back of the house.
If Usama’s wife had said that the family had been there only for a few months, there would have been incessant questions about all of earlier stays. Giving the details of all previous stays truthfully would have exposed al-Qaida supporters all the way. Does it make sense that she would betray her husband’s faithful followers?
It is also inconceivable that Usama could depend entirely on a single courier to run his organization for so many years. Suppose he was killed in an accident, was abducted or was arrested for some reason. How could Usama find someone to replace him? Advertise in newspapers? (Incidentally, CIA now recruits agents through newspaper advertisements.)
CIA is quite dumb to insist that Usama stayed so long in Abbottabad without providing any supporting evidence. Blaming us for his “long stay” is sheer bullying.
Was it not possible for Usama to have Internet and mobile phone?
Singapore Computer Bureau prepared a database for motor vehicles about 20 years ago. The bureau head explained proudly to a visitor that the entire data was now available to investigate theft and other crimes. “How do you access the data?” the visitor asked. “By entering the license plate number,” he replied. “What if the plate had a fake number?” The head was speechless. It had never occurred to him that fake plates were quite common and data should be accessible also by entering chassis number, engine number, etc.
CIA experts are no better. If somebody bought a laptop, got a wireless Internet connection and, after passing through several hands, the computer ended up with Usama, how could they find out the ultimate user? Similarly, somebody in a faraway place could buy mobile SIMs, which are dime a dozen, activate them and pass on to Usama. Usama could use a SIM just once and then destroy it. How could CIA locate him?
The story about Usama’s courier having been traced through a mobile phone does not make sense. He could not be stupid enough to use a SIM more than once and that too in Abbottabad.
Even if Arabic phone calls were recorded, CIA could not have made much use of them. The U.S. agencies already have phone call recordings of hundreds of thousands of hours in the languages of our region, waiting to be transcribed (to be done only by U.S. citizens for security reasons). By the time, their transcription is completed, all al-Qaida agents would have died natural death.
It is also astonishing that Americans could not locate a satellite dish receiver in the Usama house that was getting Arabic channels most of the time. There could not be many such dishes in Abbottabad, or even the entire country. When the U.S. National Security Agency claims to tap even a landline phone anywhere in the world, what was so difficult in following a digital signal from a satellite to a receiver? Even the satellite with most Arabic channels, Arabsat, was quite well-known.
Was Usama really killed in Abbottabad?
It was quite possible to immobilize Usama with a stun gun or something else, arrest him and take him away. It may well have happened, at least for some time, though he would have to be killed quite soon, as nothing remains secret in the U.S. for long.. (Iranian President says that Usama was alive “for some time.”) Americans certainly needed Usama to know all about his organization and plans. (That was why they left his wives and children behind, who were the next best source of information.)
So far, the U.S. has not provided incontrovertible evidence to prove his death. It was not difficult to get a lookalike, kill him and disfigure his face to make it difficult to identify him clearly.
Secrecy leads to doubts and suspicions. Questions about the final hour of Usama will always remain there. The live video feed from the Abbottabad operation to CIA headquarters and then to the White House could also be given to CNN for the whole world to watch. There would have been still many ifs and buts but most people would have been satisfied about the authenticity of the operation.
There is, however, no doubt that Usama was very much there with his family because it is inconceivable that he would leave them unprotected, without his own reliable guards being present. He would have allowed his wives and children to go to his home country if he believed they were not safe with him. Most probably, he believed he would be soon on his way to Yemen along with his family (as I suggested in my earlier article, “Usama’s plan that went awry” (see below).