Eight points to consider.
Osama bin-Laden has been killed. U.S. president Barack Obama made the announcement over an hour ago. We have more questions than answers about the nature of the operation that led to his killing and what cooperation, if any, was received from other governments. Some points for us to consider:
- The fact that bin Laden was killed outside Abbottabad (75 miles from Islamabad) is significant. Abbottabad is reported to house several retired Pakistani army and intelligence officers.
- Mr. Obama’s mention of President Zardari, and not Gen. Kayani/DG-ISI Lt. Gen. Shuja Pasha is equally significant. We know that the operation was in the works since August 2010, and gained momentum over the last six weeks. It is also important to note Mr. Obama’s mention that the operation was entirely executed by the U.S. — this was not a joint operation with Pakistani special-ops forces. It is not clear at what point the Americans informed the Pakistanis. If it turns out that the Pakistani civil administration was informed days or weeks before the operation, this is a significant victory for the civil administration over the military-jihadi complex (MJC). If the Zardari government was informed ex post facto, it will still affect civil-military relations in Pakistan, but on a relatively lesser scale.
- We cannot read too much into President Obama thanking Pakistan for its cooperation. The U.S. president was speaking in general terms — lest we forget, there is still a battle raging in Afghanistan for which the U.S. requires Pakistan’s assistance. There was not much else Mr. Obama could have said about Pakistan’s duplicity.
- Given the fact that U.S. Navy SEALs traveled from Afghanistan to Pakistan and executed the operation, it is likely that some level of Pakistani cooperation — whether direct, or indirect — was required. If it turns out that cooperation was provided by Pakistan’s FIA and not the ISI, this is again, a significant moment in civil-military relations in Pakistan.
- If, in the remote possibility, any assistance was provided by Pakistan’s military/ISI, it only means that Osama bin Laden had become expendable to them. The torch had been passed.
- Expect the battle between the civil administration and its goons, and the Pakistani military and its goons to play out openly in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This will also effect the U.S.’s ability to move men and resources from Pakistan’s tribal areas into Afghanistan. This can be significantly consequential to the U.S.’s war in Afghanistan.
- The MJC will look to reassert itself as quickly and as decisively as possible. It will set its sights on high-value targets in Pakistan, Afghanistan or even India.
- Critically, the Indian government needs to guard itself against possible terrorist activity in mainland India. ISI or al-Qaeda inspired attacks on Indian soil in the immediate future cannot be ruled out. India is perhaps the most vulnerable target for the Pakistani MJC to counter-punch the Zardari government, which is ostensibly engaged in a “peace process” with New Delhi.