WHATEVER we may think or say about Husain Haqqani — and his role, statements and explanations — he was not primarily responsible for the US assault in Abbottabad on the night of May 1 and 2, 2011. The final decisions about the fateful incident were not his to make. Whatever he did or did not do, he claims he did not exceed his authorization and instructions. He denies he had anything to do with the planning and execution of the assault, and despite widely held and deep-rooted reservations about his conduct as ambassador in Washington (which may or may not be justified), nothing has surfaced that contradicts his denials.
However, his recent statements do raise questions. In a recent article in the Washington Post Haqqani states
“the relationships I forged with members of Obama’s campaign team … eventually enabled the US to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamic militants”.
This language, without explicitly saying so, strongly suggests, whether intentionally or not, an active and purposeful interaction with US security officials which enabled the discovery and elimination of OBL
“without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military”.
This interpretation of Haqqani’s own statement is neither far-fetched nor unreasonable. But equally Haqqani’s article is not a confession. He goes on to say in the article that
“friends I made from the Obama campaign were able to ask, three years later, as National Security Council officials, for help in stationing US Special Operations and intelligence personnel on the ground in Pakistan. I brought the request directly to Pakistan’s civilian leaders, who approved”…
and these locally stationed Americans proved invaluable when Obama decided to carry out the operation without notifying Pakistan. Once again, while not explicitly saying so, there is here an even stronger suggestion of an active role and a sense of pride in achieving a shared objective.
Our leaders are focusing on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. So?
Pakistan was under an international obligation to cooperate in the apprehension of OBL. An elected government apparently decided to act upon this obligation. The leaders of this government instructed their ambassador in Washington accordingly. They also sent specific instructions to enable the ambassador to facilitate the rapid issue of necessary visas to US Special Operations and intelligence personnel — who obviously disguised their real identities in their visa applications — and who proved “invaluable” when the time for action came. What is wrong or illegal about this? And if there was anything, who should be held responsible: the subordinate and active ambassador or the elected leaders who gave him instructions while allegedly keeping the military and intelligence out of the loop?
But, then, why not stand up and say so — publicly as well as in testimony to the Abbottabad Inquiry Commission? In fact, the president, the prime minister and the COAS declined to meet with the Commission. Haqqani who did meet with the commission has always publicly criticized the US attack on Abbottabad and has similarly denied all prior knowledge of or involvement with the attack. Despite some possible misstatements to the commission regarding the issue of visas there has been no proof of his involvement until the suggestions he has himself made in his recent article. Why is he simultaneously denying any purposeful involvement with the US assault on Pakistan and strongly suggesting the contrary in his recent article in the Washington Post?
Whatever conclusions one may draw about the consistency and purpose of his statements and the credibility of his behaviour as Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, they do not add up to treachery. He was, at most, a willing instrument of his political superiors. Unfortunately, that is what politically appointed ambassadors are now expected to be. Nevertheless, in embellishing his personal role — for reasons one can only speculate about — while distancing himself from any responsibility for what occurred, Haqqani has effectively pointed a finger towards his civilian leaders at the time. No wonder, they are denouncing him and calling for another commission of inquiry!
Our media and political leaders, however, are concentrating on the person of Haqqani rather than the real tragedy of Abbottabad itself. This is a measure of their immaturity and irresponsibility which ensure their continuing irrelevance for the suffering people of Pakistan.
In 2013, PILDAT (Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency) noted a leaked interim draft of the Abbottabad Commission, and concluded that the Abbottabad assault was the
“result of inadequate threat assessments, narrow scenario planning and insufficient consideration of available policy options. If the institutions and whole system of governance were ‘dysfunctional’ they were so because of irresponsible governance over a sustained period, including incorrect priorities and acts of commission and omission by individuals who had de jure or de facto policymaking powers”.
PILDAT further noted that according to the draft report the
“government’s response before, during and after May 2 appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility, and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside government. Institutions either failed to discharge responsibilities that legally were theirs or they assumed responsibility for tasks that legally were not part of their duties, and for which they were not trained. This reflected the course of civil-military relations and the power balance between them.”
The leaked draft also observed the ISI had
“become more political and less professional”.
Because of a lack of consensus in the Abbottabad Commission, the final report submitted to the then prime minister, comprised a main report, and a dissenting report.
Very irresponsibly, the government has not presented the full report to parliament or made it public despite a unanimous resolution of the Senate and National Assembly.
The Commission of Inquiry Act of 1956, moreover, is expected to be replaced by a new act which will require the government to make such reports public within 30 days of submission. The prime minister, accordingly, should now release the main and dissenting report without further delay. This matter, and not hounding Haqqani, should be our urgent priority.
Author: Ashraf Jehangir Qazi; the writer is a former ambassador to the US, India and China and head of UN missions in Iraq and Sudan. He was a member of the Abbottabad Commission; firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: ashrafjqazi.com
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2017
Haqqani’s Article Revives Tale of OBL Raid
WASHINGTON: Some people in Pakistan did help US officials in getting to Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, says Husain Haqqani, the country’s former ambassador to US, as does renowned US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh. Talking to Dawn on the strong reaction to his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Mr. Haqqani said:
“Some people helped, but they did so independently. Yes, there’s some truth in Seymour Hersh’s story.”
In the Post article, Mr. Haqqani indicated that the contacts he made with the Obama team during the 2008 election campaign ultimately led to Osama bin Laden’s elimination in May 2011
“Of course, I was right. I believe it even more now, as I know more than I did when I wrote the piece,”
said Mr. Hersh when Dawn asked him if he still believed the article he wrote in May 2015 for the London Review of Books was right. The article was later included in his book, The Killing of Osama bin Laden, published last year. Mr. Haqqani said the May 2, 2011 US raid that killed Osama in a compound in Abbottabad was
“a bleeding wound” for most Pakistanis “who still want to know why it happened and how.”
Although Pakistan formed a commission to probe the US raid, its findings were never made public, leaving the space open for rumours and speculations.
Mr. Hersh recalled how
a retired Pakistani military officer tipped the US embassy in Islamabad about Bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, received $20 million as reward, was relocated to the United States and was now living in a Washington suburb with his new wife.
Former diplomat says he’s surprised over reaction to his write-up as he has made no disclosure in it.
“Your government knows who he is. [Former US president Barack] Obama should not have talked about it right after it happened. He was to be shown in the Hindukush, not Abbottabad. That was the arrangement,”
Mr Hersh said. He said that he mentioned the name of the then CIA station manager in Islamabad, Jonathan Bank, in the article because he knew he would never deny it. “He is an honourable man. That’s why he did not deny it.” “All the CIA had to do was to produce Bank and have him deny it, but he did not, so they produced another retired CIA official,” Mr. Hersh said.
However, Mr. Hersh heavily relied on a single unnamed “retired senior intelligence official” in the article that contradicts the Obama administration’s account. Mr. Hersh also claimed that Bin Laden had been in Pakistan’s custody since 2005. He reported that his housing and care were being paid for by the Saudis; and that once Bin Laden’s location was revealed to the US,
Pakistanis agreed to let US special forces raid his compound with the explicit understanding that Bin Laden was to be assassinated.
Americans were also supposed to delay announcing that Bin Laden had been killed for a few weeks and claim that he died in a firefight on the Afghan side of the mountainous Afghan-Pakistan border. Mr. Hersh claimed that Obama administration officials were so eager to cash in politically that they reneged on their pledge and disclosed the true location of the raid almost immediately.
Reviewing Mr. Hersh’s book for The Los Angeles Times in April 2016, Zach Dorfman, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, wrote that there exists “a plausible historical pattern, which lends credence — if not absolute credibility — to his account”.
Mr. Dorfman noted that two senior US investigative journalists, Carlotta Gall and Steve Coll, also said that their own reporting corroborated, to various degrees, Mr. Hersh’s account. Mr. Dorfman pointed to the decades-old relationship among the American, Pakistani and Saudi intelligence agencies and noted that the Obama administration did little to probe OBL’s presence in Abbottabad, although their reaction would have been completely different had Bin Laden been found in a Tehran neighbourhood.
Mr. Haqqani, in his conversation with Dawn, appeared more interested in the reaction to his Washington Post article than in how and why Bin Laden was found and killed in Abbottabad.“The reaction in Pakistan surprises me. I said nothing new,” he said.
He said what he wrote about his close diplomatic ties established during the 2008 Obama campaign was also already in the public domain.
“So, there’s no admission or confession in my article. Seems that some people read into things what they want to read.”
He noted that relations established during the 2008 campaign advanced to a relationship with the United States, which helped them to find OBL. This, he said, was being misinterpreted in Pakistan as him having enabled the operation against OBL, which he said was not what he wrote.
Mr. Haqqani said Americans stationed lot of people in Pakistan during that period who helped in the OBL raid.
“Again, I made no statement to the effect that anybody in the embassy helped that. The article clearly says that Pakistan was not taken in the loop about the raid.”
Mr. Haqqani said he gave no unauthorized visa to any US citizen.
“It is sad that in Pakistan, to this day, no effort has been made to find out more about OBL being in Pakistan, and how Americans were able to find him when our own agencies could not.”
Responding to a question about some Pakistanis helping Americans in catching OBL, he said:
“I wish Pakistanis would be happy to take some credit for eliminating the most wanted terrorist in the world instead of abusing me for re-stating known facts.”
Meanwhile, the PPP, which appointed him Pakistan’s 24th ambassador to Washington in April 2008, has disowned him. During a parliamentary debate on Monday, PPP leader Syed Khurshid Shah said Mr. Haqqani’s Post article was
“an act of treason”.
SEYMOUR Hersh is an investigative journalist and author of The Killing of Osama Bin Laden and The Dark Side of Camelot among other books.
Author: Anwar Iqbal; Published in Dawn, March 15th, 2017
Ready to Give Statement to Commission, says Hussain Haqqani
Dawn.com, Updated March 16, 2017
Husain Haqqani, Pakistan’s former ambassador to the US, said on Wednesday evening that he was ready to record his statement with a parliamentary commission if an investigation into recent claims he made in an op-ed published by the Washington Post is pushed forward.
Journalist Mehar Bukhari, who hosts the ‘NewsEye’ show on DawnNews, had asked Haqqani if he would appear before a commission — if one was set up — to which the former ambassador responded in the affirmative.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had earlier on the same day called for a commission to probe Haqqani’s claims that his ‘connections’ with the Obama administration enabled the US to target and kill Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan.
“Many commissions have been set up and a report also released, but until today the Supreme Court has not taken action on this report,” Haqqani claimed.
“Someone sitting outside the country can stay there and give a statement. If a commission wants a statement from me, they should ask in writing… I will give a statement via video link,”
he said. However, he maintained that
“nothing new has been said that must be denied.”
In his article published in the Washington Post on Friday, Haqqani had defended the Trump team’s contacts with Russia during and after the 2016 US presidential elections, saying he had also established similar relations with members of the Obama campaign during the 2008 elections.
Those contacts “led to closer cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in fighting terrorism over the 3 1/2 years I served as ambassador” and “eventually enabled the United States to discover and eliminate bin Laden without depending on Pakistan’s intelligence service or military, which were suspected of sympathy toward Islamist militants,” the op-ed said.
Haqqani on Wednesday added that
“the Americans took advantage of the ties that we facilitated and conducted an operation … I also wrote that in this operation, we were not taken into confidence. This includes the army and the civilian government.”
“The problem arose when the discussion took place about the increasing number of Americans in Pakistan, because they’d given us a very large aid package — $7 billion. When they increased their numbers, some of our people said if we’re taking their aid, we should let them come here too.”
“A spy does not inform you that he is a spy before he visits … Many Americans came in larger numbers; surely there were spies present among them,”
“I wrote that this is what happened, but I did not say that anyone intended this on purpose,”
“The point is that Central Intelligence Agency operatives who notified and came to Pakistan, they all notified the Inter-Services Intelligence. They didn’t phone me and say I’m a CIA man, I’m travelling, please give me a visa,”
“Osama bin Laden was found in Pakistan not because someone was issued a visa, but because he was in Pakistan,”