Where in the world is Osama?

Published: July 24, 2010

The writer is a master's student in public policy at Princeton University [email protected]

Where is Osama bin Laden? He could be hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, or Afghanistan or maybe hanging out in the south of France. It shouldn’t matter. In the nine long years since 9/11, we’ve seen the world change and we’ve seen al Qaeda’s empire expand rapidly both in popularity and complexity. It’s no longer controlled by one man or one militia and continuing to fixate on the perpetrators of the “original sin” will hardly lead to success in the war on terror.

In Hillary Clinton’s most recent visit to Pakistan, she once again said, what is fast becoming the American government’s favourite catch-phrase when interacting with Pakistan: “Where is Osama?” This is followed by an insinuation of “we know that some elements in the [Pakistan] establishment know where he is.” Well if you know the people who know then why don’t you just tell us so that we could expedite the process of finding Osama and get on with the real task of reconstructing a world forever changed by the perpetrators of terrorist acts and the war
on terror.

If the case of Pakistan is at all any kind of example to the world, then the world should be aware that al Qaeda is not just a hydra with many heads but it has spawned off and given rise to countless other terrorist enterprises that operate under their own leadership and mandates. If Osama is found and prosecuted by the Americans, it will not accomplish much, unless he is some kind of genius enterprise manager who is able to keep his fingers on the pulse of every rag-tag terrorist group out there and coordinate, sanction and finance their operations. If that is the case then taking him out will definitely hamper the functioning of Terror Inc but it will not put an
end to it.

For far too long, America has focused on the image of the perpetrators of these terror networks as people they could bomb out of caves. However, time and again, terror groups around the world have shown their skills and savvy in using technology and complex financial transactions to their benefit. Terror Inc seems to be a sophisticated conglomerate of smaller terrorist outfits that need to be defeated using a more refined approach than consistently harping on finding and prosecuting one man.

Clinton’s recent comments in Pakistan suggesting that the Pakistani government is hiding Osama (or at least knows about his presence) speak volumes about the lack of trust between the US and Pakistan. It also reveals that America is still fixated on a rather narrow approach to defeating the menace of terrorism. And it makes the Americans look either incompetent or petulant. If the US government despite all its military might, superior intelligence resources and effective diplomacy is unable to get past the layers of secrecy that the Pakistani government supposedly shroud regarding Osama’s location then either the former is incompetent or the latter is far more creative and competent than it lets on.

So in the interest of world peace, Ms Clinton should stop insinuating that we know where Osama is. If she knows something then please come out with it and save us having to play this game of cat and mouse. We have more important matters to tend to than finding one man. We are a nation at war with a variety of terrorist militias spanning the length and breadth of our country. We have young boys and girls being recruited by terrorist organisations each day and we have thousands that are pushed closer to it due to hunger, poverty and lack of justice. We need to focus our energy on formulating a comprehensive strategy to deal with rising militancy and its underlying causes. Finding Osama should be far down on our list of national priorities and yours.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 24th, 2010.

Reader Comments (8)

  • Maryam Q
    Jul 24, 2010 - 12:06AM

    Great article. I completely agree. Recommend

  • Hamood
    Jul 24, 2010 - 12:44AM

    I used to think maybe American invasion of Afghanistan will pacify the terrorism problem in the region. It however, has worsened it. America has failed to pacify Afghanistan in 9 years and has instead destabilized Pakistan. In their mad rush to get the perpetrators of 9/11 W and his cronies went all gun-slinging cowboy style in Afghanistan without any strategy, there was nobody on the ground to take on the terrorists so they just slipped from the “border” into Pakistan. I hope the Americans realize what a folly this so-called war on terror is. You should not use a sledgehammer to kill mosquitos and that’s what Americans are doing right now. They should withdraw bulk of their forces and keep the CIA and special forces units in Afghanistan to keep rattling the terrorists there because that is all you will need to take care of a few thousand terrorists.Recommend

  • Hisham
    Jul 24, 2010 - 12:44AM

    I’m not sure what the author is so confused about. Do you really think the symbolic value of capturing Osama or Mullah Omar is inconsequential?

    Pakistan is sheltering the leadership of the Afghan Taliban as well as some unsavoury characters like Masood Azhar, Hafiz Saeed and probably Osama and an Al-Zawahiri. The US knows this but also needs Pakistan’s leverage over the Afghan Taliban and also cannot think of acting against Pakistan unilaterally cos of the nukes and all.

    It’s Pakistan’s state policy to shelter these militants because of the leverage it gives them over Afghanistan and India.

    People like you with your feigned outrage and confusion over what is really a very simple situation provide cover to the Pakistani establishment’s very pragmatic decision to support terrorism. Recommend

  • muhammad yousaf
    Jul 24, 2010 - 8:41AM

    you are absolutely right, that is just because of our baseless and unqualified leaders who haven’t time to discus or think about the problems of their people. Osama is just a character through that america is interfering in internally matters of Pakistan.Recommend

  • imran
    Jul 24, 2010 - 11:10AM

    once he was reported to hv went down the hole with Alice to the WONDERLAND…..but later CIA caught Peter Pan and got info fm his interrogation that Peter has seen Osama with the one eyed Captain Hook aka mulla Omar on The jolly roger in NEVERLAND……and Pakistan raised its eyebrow on the intellengence abt the NEVERLAND…..Recommend

  • Arsalaan Haleem
    Jul 24, 2010 - 12:11PM

    @Imran: LOL…very nice. You could write a nice little children story on your theory :)Recommend

  • Saira Rehman
    Jul 24, 2010 - 1:21PM

    I agree with u marium that in no way America is going to be satisfied with us. They have completely forgotten that we are a nation and we do have some other crucial issues to solve at national level too.Nonetheless, we cannot over shadow the inefficient political leadership which is failed to deliver any thing to nation.Our youth should try to understand the whole melodramatic situation and avoid to practice any kind of extremism.Recommend

  • Jul 24, 2010 - 1:56PM

    Nice article though raised more questions regarding Osama.
    @Imran: RoFLoL … Man you wrapped up the whole story in few sugarcoated words :-)Recommend

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