Pakistani defector was key in Osama bin Laden operation: officials

By AFP
Published: May 12, 2015
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the Pakistani military source told AFP the defector had no knowledge his target was bin Laden but was instead given a task that would help verify the terror chief's identity. DESIGN: AMNA IQBAL

the Pakistani military source told AFP the defector had no knowledge his target was bin Laden but was instead given a task that would help verify the terror chief's identity. DESIGN: AMNA IQBAL

ISLAMABAD: Two former senior Pakistani military officials told AFP on Tuesday that a defector from an intelligence assisted the US in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, but denied the two countries had officially worked together.

The officials’ accounts comes after the publication of a controversial new report by US journalist Seymour Hersh in which he claims to have uncovered a secret deal between Washington and Islamabad per which the Abbottabad raid was orchestrated to kill the al Qaeda chief in 2011.

Read: Kayani, Shuja Pasha knew of OBL raid in advance: author

The White House has flatly rejected Hersh’s claims that Pakistan was told in advance about the May 2, 2011, Special Forces raid in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

The operation had sparked allegations Pakistani authorities had colluded with al Qaeda, a claim still denied by Islamabad.

Read: Osama bin Laden killed

A source — who was a serving senior military official at the time of the raid — told AFP on Tuesday that the defector was a “resourceful and energetic” mid-ranking intelligence officer whose efforts were critical to the operation’s success.

Hersh’s report quoted a senior US security source as saying that a “walk-in” asset approached the then-Islamabad station chief for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in 2010, promising to lead them to bin Laden, who according to the journalist had been “imprisoned” by Pakistani authorities at the Abbottabad compound since 2006.

Read: White House rebuts claim Pakistan role in Laden raid

However, a Pakistani military source told AFP the defector had no knowledge his target was bin Laden but was instead given a task that would help verify the terror chief’s identity.

The source declined to elaborate on what that task was, but a Pakistani investigation had found that the CIA ran a fake vaccination programme with the help of physician Dr Shakeel Afridi who managed to obtain DNA samples.

On the defector’s role, the source said: “This guy was inducted at a much later stage only to carry out the ground confirmation.”

He added that the defector did not belong to the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the country’s main spy agency, but another branch, and was now residing in the United States.

Another former official, ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul, told AFP he was also aware of the defector.

“That is in my knowledge, that someone defected,” he said. “There was too big a reward, he became a mole and agent to put in practice their plan.”

The US had placed a $25-million-dollar bounty on information leading to the capture or killing of bin Laden — a sum Washington has said it never paid because no human informants were used.

According to Hersh’s report, the US learned that Pakistani authorities had bin Laden in their custody and were hoping to use him as a shield against al Qaeda and Taliban attacks.

Later, Hersh reported, the US convinced Pakistan to stage a fake raid to kill bin Laden, providing a boost for US President Barack Obama — then in his first term — while also allowing the Pakistanis to deny having anything to do with the killing.

Both former Pakistani officials, however, and several other serving officials, have dismissed the allegation that such a deal had been brokered.

The then-serving senior military official said that in the aftermath of the raid, “the mood here and the reaction here was of great frustration even at the top level.

“If the top guys had been part of the plan — they were the worst hit. They were almost forced to resign.

“With the kind of bad name and reputation that came with such a great risk, it wasn’t worth it.”

A leaked Pakistani government report in 2013 said bin Laden arrived in Pakistan in the spring or summer of 2002 — after the 2001 US-led invasion of Afghanistan — and settled in Abbottabad in August 2005.

The report, which coined the term “governance implosion syndrome” to explain the extent of official failures to detect him, said he was once stopped for speeding and enjoyed wearing a cowboy hat.

Hersh’s report has been met with some scepticism, but an editorial in Pakistan’s English-language daily Dawn argued it should force the government to officially release the findings of the 2013 investigation, and bring the country’s powerful military-run intelligence agencies under civilian supervision.

Qazi Khalilullah, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesperson, meanwhile said the government was investigating Hersh’s account and would announce its reaction soon.

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Reader Comments (33)

  • Naeem Khan
    May 12, 2015 - 10:40PM

    It is time to name the Army General who defected for $25 million, why it is so sacred not to mention his name. Let the nation know how some of our people will sell out for money and then settle in the US. If Army is protecting him then those who are protecting a defector should be exposed too. I just hope it is not a Punjabi General.Recommend

  • cautious
    May 12, 2015 - 11:59PM

    Later, Hersh reported, the US convinced Pakistan to stage a fake raid to kill bin Laden, providing a boost for US President Barack Obama — then in his first term — while also allowing the Pakistanis to deny having anything to do with the killing.
    .
    Hersh apparently doesn’t know that the USA military consist largely of middle class Midwestern Republicans who would NEVER sacrifice their honor/integrity to promote Obama. There is ZERO chance that the Democrats could orchestrate this without having a leak from the Republican owned military. Recommend

  • Romeo
    May 13, 2015 - 12:13AM

    @Naeem Khan

    Army will not let its name tarnish. Its well known in the military circles that most Generals and Sr Officers do the bidding of the western countries and ultimately defect to the West. President/General Musharraf moved to the UK (Bought a home in london) and settled down. UK does a hue & cry for democracy, but let (Dictator) Musharraf in. They are all on direct payroll of the western agencies.

    But you need to note that Nawaz Shareef is on the Saudi Payroll. No one is a saint. Just accept the fact and move on. Recommend

  • N
    May 13, 2015 - 12:13AM

    Coal business will make hands and face black so with General kayani and companyRecommend

  • OBSERVER
    May 13, 2015 - 12:29AM

    it was major(DR) who took the DNA sample…Dr.Afridi was made scape goat and hatred was created against vaccination as a result we lost so many polio workers Recommend

  • Peshawar
    May 13, 2015 - 1:25AM

    @Naeem Khan:
    how do you know its a General who defected? and the amount as well? Recommend

  • cautious
    May 13, 2015 - 1:33AM

    Whats worse – a individual who discloses that a country is harboring OBL or the country that is harboring OBL? I doubt anyone outside of Pakistan would have harsh words for the person(s) who helped locate a mass murdering terrorist. I doubt anyone outside of Pakistan would have sympathy for a country that was hiding OBL.Recommend

  • Mani
    May 13, 2015 - 1:34AM

    It looks like the guy defected just for a green card as per account the reward amount ($25 million) was not paid to anybody. If you know the army you will realize that so many other generals would have acted the same had they been given the opportunity. Recommend

  • Luqman Hafeez
    May 13, 2015 - 1:37AM

    It is time to name the Army General who defected for $25 million,

    The report identified him as a “mid-ranking intelligence officer”. As far as I know, a general doesn’t happen to be so.Recommend

  • Shahid Ahmed
    May 13, 2015 - 1:44AM

    @Naeem Khan. Why not a Punjabi General? Kindly explain your logic. Thanks.Recommend

  • Curious
    May 13, 2015 - 2:54AM

    Probably the most provocative article today – yet only one response after 8+ hours? Anecdotal evidence that “free press” still has a ways to go before it becomes reality in Pakistan..Recommend

  • Zahid
    May 13, 2015 - 3:09AM

    This conspiracy against Pakistan, the author is madRecommend

  • Notcredibile
    May 13, 2015 - 3:26AM

    Why would Pakistan have to collude with the USA to kill a terrorist who was hiding next to the Pakistan Military Academy? Recommend

  • someone
    May 13, 2015 - 5:13AM

    Shakeel Afridi should sue Pakistani govt.Recommend

  • Kolsat
    May 13, 2015 - 5:34AM

    @Naeem Khan: So you have no objection to Pakistan giving safe home to Osama and lying to the world about it. Great! how many other fugitives pakistan is hiding currently?Recommend

  • Zafar
    May 13, 2015 - 6:06AM

    @Naeem Khan:
    According to the article he was in intelligence. I doubt that means he is a general. Recommend

  • Mirza
    May 13, 2015 - 6:26AM

    ET, be fair and you censor it but please do not ignore all of it. Thanks. This is such a big mess and we are caught red-handed and cannot get out of it even with the most creative lies. The right thing to do is disclose our official version of the events but we have none other than anger against those who have found and killed the most wanted terrorist.
    Even if we believe a mid level military official helped USA reach OBL and not our top generals. It is not believable that a mid level officer can find OBL out of our military base and the whole army and ISI failed to do so! There is no way to get out of this except try telling the whole truth. Recommend

  • raw is war
    May 13, 2015 - 7:09AM

    @Naeem Khan:

    all of you guys got sold out long time back. Maybe 1000 years back.Recommend

  • Avtar
    May 13, 2015 - 7:22AM

    @Naeem Khan: It is time to let Dr Afridi go free. According to Wikileaks most Pakistanis in higher echelons provide information for the US Green card. Here we are talking about millions of dollars and normally if you have a quarter million dollars you can get immigration.Recommend

  • Avtar
    May 13, 2015 - 7:30AM

    Pakistan is nothing to be ashamed of this fiasco. They milked Uncle Sam to the hilt: $1B a year to fight the war on terror. Bestowing Bin Laden with a bit of hospitalityat ABT, $5B was provided gratis to Pakistan for handing a few innocents to the US. Plus numerous Pakistanis got Green cards.Recommend

  • observer
    May 13, 2015 - 8:07AM

    @Peshawar:

    “how do you know its a General who defected? and the amount as well? “

    It was Musharraf or shuja Pasha. Could be both.Recommend

  • MerryShaikh
    May 13, 2015 - 8:33AM

    @Naeem Khan:

    “Let the nation know how some of our people will sell out for money and then settle in the US. If Army is protecting him then those who are protecting a defector should be exposed too. I just hope it is not a Punjabi General.”

    If revealing the hideout of a global terrorist is ‘selling out’, whose side are you and your sympathizers on? Recommend

  • Anon
    May 13, 2015 - 8:56AM

    Pakistan is full of traitors…….you show them money, they will sell their mother for it…..Dr. Shahid Masood recently told in a television program that Pakistani generals were ready to surrender all their nuclear weapons if they are given 100 billion dollars….May Allah save this nation from its citizens…Recommend

  • khan420
    May 13, 2015 - 9:07AM

    Will somebody someday count the number of bureaucrats and generals who have got foreign nationality after retirement. You will get the number of traitors. Recommend

  • sidr8321@yahoo.com
    May 13, 2015 - 9:34AM

    US$ 25,000,000 – The asking price for a Pakistani army Brigadier to betray Pakistan!!! Ask BRIGADIER USMAN KHALID!!! Recommend

  • sidr8321@yahoo.com
    May 13, 2015 - 9:35AM

    US$ 25 million!!!! Brigadier Usman Khalid has a bank account in the US with this amount!!!!Recommend

  • Khan
    May 13, 2015 - 9:58AM

    Bureaucrats, politicians, generals, count the number of these who have got foreign nationality after retirement.Recommend

  • JSM
    May 13, 2015 - 10:24AM

    Trustworthy Pakistanis. Osama trusted them and paid with his life.Recommend

  • Bobb Mack
    May 13, 2015 - 1:10PM

    Dear ET, Your patience seems admirable. Most of the commentators above are a moth comprising a variety of insects flying onto this page from a neighbouring gutter. You need to demoth the site for more mature thoughts.Recommend

  • Singh
    May 13, 2015 - 3:15PM

    These types of defectors (gaddhar) are present every where in every society who will sell themselves for money. The question is who got how much? This nation has already lost its trust. @Naeem Khan: Recommend

  • JSM
    May 14, 2015 - 7:33AM

    @Bobb Mack:
    Truth hurts. Doesn’t it??Recommend

  • Muhammad
    May 14, 2015 - 12:44PM

    @Romeo:
    It sounds eminently ridiculous to suggest that most generals do bidding for the West and ultimately defect. Defections are known to occur everywhere in the world but to say that most Pakistani generals do that amounts to blowing things out of proportion. There is nothing wrong in settling in a western country – in fact a large number of skilled and unskilled people from Pakistan are working and settled abroad. I am not trying to promote generals interests here but wish to say that at the current moment it is only army which is keeping Pakistan breaking further Can you name one general who truly defected (Gen Musharraf’s was not technically a defection). Unfortunately we are always trying to find scapegoats when faced with challenging issues and getting nowhere.Recommend

  • JTM
    May 16, 2015 - 7:56AM

    The alleged ex-ISI informant, Brig. Usman Khalid, has lived in London with his family for decades, and clearly was never relocated to the US nor had any need for that or US citizenship, having UK citizenship. He was also never with the ISI.
    You would have thought the journalist levelling the accusation, Amir Mir, would have at least done some basic research. Shoddy reporting. Recommend

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