The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) on the request of its director, released 321 gigabytes of images, audio, text, and video gather at Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There will debates, analyses and commentaries on the data. Last year, May the 2nd marked the fifth year of Osama Bin Laden’s death. The official Twitter account of the Central Intelligence Agency began “live tweeting” the accounts of the operation on Bin Laden’s compound as they unfolded during the actual raid, reminding the world how United States killed the most wanted fugitive on earth. But was Osama Bin Laden actually what he was portrayed as?
Born to a Yemeni migrant, Mohammaed bin Awad bin Laden, who settled in Saudi Arabia after the world war one and started his construction company in 1930’s. Soon after meeting King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud, Awad bin Laden grew his business empire named as the Saudi Bin ladin Group, a gigantic corporation blessed by the Saudi royals themselves due to which the family became the wealthiest non royal in the Kingdom and till date all major governmental projects are handled by the company. Osama was born in an immensely wealthy family and enjoyed a princely childhood despite having a big family and studied at King Abdul-Aziz University, where he earned his degree in business administration while some reports suggest his later degree was in civil engineering.
His religious inclination was no different from that of the locals who practiced the state induced Wahabbi-ism which is closely associated with the Sunni version of the Islamic religion, hence the sacredness of the Kingdom which houses Islam’s two Holiest sites was precious to him. Osama’s personal views however, did not alone make him the most wanted terrorist in the world. The phrase “One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” goes a long way in explaining the story of Osama Bin Laden.
To understand the rise of Osama Bin Laden, few chapters of mostly ignored world history need to be investigated. While still living his routine life in Saudia Arabia and posing no threat, Bin laden was unaware that his one voluntary decision would change the course of his life. The tale of this protagonist-turned-antagonist starts in Afghanistan. After the fall of King Zahir Shah of Afghanistan, the tug of power within the tribes started to unsettle the country. The power of governance landed in hands of the pro-Soviet Nur Mohammad Taraki in 1978 whose aims of modernizing the country, faced a serious backlash from the mostly conservative society and the government lost control in the major parts of the country by 1979. The Afghan government then requested the Soviet government under Leonid Brezhnev to send covert troops for support and advisory role. On 24th of December, 1979 the 40th Army arrived and staged a coup, killed the President and gave power to Babrak Karmal; a rival and a socialist.
The Soviets then, clearly underestimated the local tribes who disapproved both the Soviets and their ruler, marking the beginning of the Soviet Afghan War which lasted nine years (1979-1989). It is imperative to keep in mind that while the Soviets were in Afghanistan, United States and the Soviets were in a phase of Cold War which was mostly played on foreign soil by both countries in desperate attempts to maintain their world domination. At the time, Pakistan was “all in walk” with the United States of America for personal reasons. Operation Cyclone was initially planned by the C.I.A to flush out the Soviets from Afghanistan with the assistance of ISI. Pakistan in return for its support would get an assistance package worth 3.2 billion dollars of economic aid and military sales.
The relationship which later turned into an abusive one when the war on terror was imposed on Pakistan after 9/11 with a clear message” you are either with us or against us”. Local Afghans ( The Mujahideens) took up arms against the Soviets and their own army , resulting in intensive war which led many to flee to neighboring Pakistani cities and Iran , many of whom are still hosted by both countries.
Osama’s entry in the play did not emerge until the world , primarily the Muslim countries started to take notice of the issue that Pakistan faced in terms of number of Afghan refugees fleeing their country and the Soviet’s refusal to leave the country. In January of 1980, foreign ministers from 34 Muslim countries gathered for the meeting of Islamic Conference ( now known as the Organization of Islamic Countries ) and adopted a resolution demanding “the immediate, urgent and unconditional withdrawal of Soviet troops” from Afghanistan, while the UN General Assembly passed a resolution protesting the Soviet intervention by a vote of 104:18. Back at home the Arab countries preached against the Soviets and claimed that their brothers in Islam were under non- Muslim aggression, leading to forming sympathies for the Mujahideens.
To ensure the expulsion of Soviets from Afghanistan, which seemed to suit the interests of many countries including the U.S and Pakistan alike, it only deemed fit to arm and fund the local fighters. Hence the process of foreign support and training started off in Pakistan and China, the money and weapons were primarily supplied by Arab countries and the U.S. The young and religiously active Osama Bin Laden was then in his late twenties and skilled in carrying out tasks of operating heavy machinery required for construction purposes.
The call for Jihad made by the Arabs against the Soviets soon reached Osama and due to his closeness to the Saudi Royal family, he offered himself voluntarily and asked to be sent to Afghanistan along with his men, money and machinery. This however did not happen overnight and his mission was delayed for a time but later on was given a green signal marking the start of the rise of Osama as a hero. He became active in not only being an on ground agent by the Saudis but also helped in construction of numerous tunnels for protection and in spreading the Saudi version of Islam. As documented by the National Security Archive, “the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) played a significant role in inserting U.S. influence in Afghanistan by funding military operations designed to frustrate the Soviet invasion of that country. C.I.A covert action worked through Pakistani intelligence services to reach Afghani rebel groups.”
By the mid-1980s, the Soviet contingent was increased to 108,800 and fighting increased throughout the country, but the military and diplomatic cost of the war to the USSR was high. By mid-1987, the Soviet Union, now under reformist leader Mikhail Gorbachev, announced it would start withdrawing its forces. The final troop withdrawal started on 15 May 1988, and ended on 15 February 1989. The war was considered part of the Cold War. Due to its length it has sometimes been referred to as the “Soviet Union’s Vietnam War” or the “Bear Trap” by the Western media, and thought to be a contributing factor to the fall of the Soviet Union.
The Soviets finally had to pull out from Afghanistan and the rest of the world cared less about the aftermath of them creating armed and super-skilled Mujahideens who learned the art of guerilla warfare. Even at the time of their war with the Soviets, these fighters understood the advantage of fighting in their own backward and the only advantage Soviets had was their air power. After the supplies to the Mujadieen or later called Taliban, neither country who assisted them kept a record of “how much and how many” supply was put in to create this organization that timely served everyone’s purpose. Hence after the withdrawal, Taliban, with its head as Mullah Omar made Kandahar as its headquarters and soon took over most part of the county.
Joining the Taliban in this bid of taking over Afghanistan, a large number of sympathetic Muslim fighters, including some from Arab countries, like Saudi Arabia and African countries, like Somalia, Sudan , Egypt and several others volunteered and joined the Taliban ,they brought with them finances as well as the equipment. Amongst those was included Osama Bin Laden who headed Al Qaida. (A fact that former Afghan President, Hamid Karzai does not agree upon, and states that neither Al Qaida not the Taliban exists). Osama was the strongest ally. At that time, he was also rubbing shoulders with the top U.S government leaders and military leadership as well.
After Osama thought he had given enough of his resources to the Mujahideen (since the term has more religious affiliation) he returned to his homeland by 1990 along with few of his other men, and was welcomed as a hero by locals and the Royal family alike for defeating the Soviets and freeing the Afghani brothers from the aggression of a non-Muslims state. Osama enjoyed this hero like treatment till the Invasion of Kuwait (part of the Gulf war) under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein on August 2nd, 1990. After a two day battle, most of the Kuwait was under the Iraqi military and Saddam announced it as a 19th division of the state of Iraq. This rattled the nerves of the neighboring Gulf countries. This is when Osama turned against the US, offering his services again and requested Late King Fahd and defense minister Prince Sultan who was close to the U.S establishment.
After Osama’s experience in Afghanistan, he requested the Saudi King not to depend on Western Powers for assistance, rather use the Muslim fighters to free Kuwait and protect Makkah and Medina. His request was denied, leaving Osama furious over the decision of letting U.S forces into the Kingdom. Soon after the 82nd U.S Airborne Division landed in Dhahran. Osama was forced to criticize the monarchy over breaching the sacredness of the Holy Land. Speaking against the Saudi Royal family or their decisions is a punishable crime in the Kingdom. At first Osama was asked to stay silent on the matter but he continued his open rant, the government knowing he had a following of many , realized that the person they hailed as a hero could pose a threat in form of an uprising within the country and was a loose end. This led to Osama’s exile from the Kingdom, revoked his nationality as a Saudi and was put on a blacklist.
Osama’s next stop was Sudan (1992) , where he used his construction skills and humanitarian assistance to win over people and the government , he also worked on increasing his militants who later attacked a U.S carrier ship off the cost of Aden , although the attack was meant to take place in international waters ; it was a clear message of Osama’s animosity towards the U.S.
The U.S learned Osama was active in Sudan and began pressurizing the Sudanese government via Saudis to expel or hand over Osama. A failed assassination attempt on Osama’s life by the C.I.A made him flee Sudan and to his final operational round –Afghanistan where he met Mullah Omar and began a series of attacks against U.S and those who shut him out (including Saudis) , which soon made him the most wanted man with a price worth of billion dollars on his head. After 9/11, Pakistan faced the heat of the blast all the way , Musharaf was made to side with U.S on its war on terror while U.S troop landed in Afghanistan to hunt down the culprits and Osama. Little was learned by the U.S from the Soviet’s mistake of invading Afghanistan, where now militants were trained enough to beat the U.S troops. Pakistan on the other hand was asked to negotiate with the Taliban to hand over Osama but in return Pakistan witnessed a spike in terror attacks, causing the country to tremble. Drone attacks within the Pakistani airspace caused loss of human life and an uproar against the U.S and its dual polices. U.S recently passed a bill accusing the Saudis for 9/ 11 bombing – to which the Saudis have responded by threat to pull out 750 billion worth of assets in U.S. Making the Kingdom, second country Pakistan responsible for assistance to terrorists.
U.S spent billions of their tax payer money in hunting down Osama but was in vein in initial years. So, did the U.S kill the very agent it assisted in creating or yet alone has his killing made the world a safer place? The Bush administration made various claims about their achievements against war on terror, but also blamed Pakistan and the intelligence services of harboring terrorist in the northern tribal areas. Many militants mostly of Arab nationalities did not return back to their perspective countries after Osama left for the Kingdom, hence under Benazir’s regime, she ordered arrest and exile of such militants, forging them back to Afghanistan. As for Osama, less claim that he stayed in Pakistan and died after being injured in the bombing of Tora Bora, where a network of tunnels was traced by the U.S military or in 2005 but not in Pakistan .C.I.A’s hunt for Bin Laden within Pakistan damaged the “polio drive” to a massive extent and till date health workers are targeted for being foreign agents collecting DNA samples. U.S’ vow to fight terrorism and to make the world a facer place has done less good and more harm (current example ISIS ).
Since no hard evidence or even a trace of Osama was found, the U.S staged the Abbottabad raid, causing the then Air chief of Pakistan air force to resign in protest. After pressuring Zardari’s government and clearly violating all international laws and treaties , a team of U.S navy seals perfectly acted to kill Osama in few minutes time. Since then many theories have been afloat regarding the incident but the damage done to Pakistan’s repute alone has not been earned back again. Pakistan carried out Zarb-e-Azab to clear its backyard of a now a rouge organization.
Osama, now is a dead man with a thousand tales but in its obsession to act as the world’s watchdog, U.S has more often created elements and agents like Osama for timely use. The splinters of which come back to haunt the U.S again. As for Pakistan, history should serve some serious lessons and under no circumstances participate in covert operations that can become a long time headache for the country. Osama’s death, however remains a conspiracy within itself but certainly the world did not get any safer.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.