Daily brief: al-Qaeda confirms bin Laden’s death
Click: all of the AfPak Channel’s coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden (FP). Targeting trains American intelligence analysts have reportedly discovered, based on documents and information recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that the slain al-Qaeda leader remained involved with planning attacks against the United States, rather than acting only ...
Click: all of the AfPak Channel's coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden (FP).
Click: all of the AfPak Channel’s coverage of the death of Osama bin Laden (FP).
American intelligence analysts have reportedly discovered, based on documents and information recovered from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, that the slain al-Qaeda leader remained involved with planning attacks against the United States, rather than acting only as an inspirational figurehead in recent years (NYT, Post, Guardian, WSJ, BBC, CNN, Tel, Times, AFP). Handwritten notes from February of 2010 indicated that al-Qaeda was considering an attack timed to the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 strikes on New York and Washington that involved targeting railroads in the U.S., though officials said there was no evidence that the plot was more than "aspirational."
The C.I.A. reportedly maintained a safe house in Abbottabad, a military garrison town a few hours’ drive from the Pakistani capital of Islamabad, for months before the May 2 raid, and developed an extensive network of local informants and other sources (Post, NYT, Reuters). The New York Times reports that the last time U.S. forces thought they had bin Laden in their sights was in 2007 near Tora Bora, Afghanistan (NYT).
Today, U.S. president Barack Obama is planning to meet with some members of the Navy SEAL team that carried out the raid, which involved secret, radar-evading helicopters (CBS, CNN, NYT). Since 2009, the U.S. has been secretly increasing the ranks of "hunter-killer commandos" in Afghanistan, and used this increase to "try to pressure the Pakistanis themselves to move against militants" (WSJ). For more on the legal aspects of the bin Laden raid, read our sister newsletter, the Legal War on Terror (FP).
Al-Qaeda has just released its first confirmation of bin Laden’s death in a statement posted on militant websites dated May 3, saying that his blood "will not be wasted" (Reuters, AP). Pakistani officials tell the Wall Street Journal that bin Laden split from his number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri, around six years ago, because bin Laden reportedly had money troubles and was losing popularity in the network, though U.S. officials say they had not heard of a split (WSJ). U.S. officials did say they had strong evidence that the funding for the al-Qaeda leader had been an issue.
Five years in the same room
One of the three wives of bin Laden has reportedly told Pakistani intelligence, which is carefully managing a "a steady drip of testimony" from the women and children in their custody, that she had lived in the same room in the Abbottabad compound with bin Laden for five or six years (Guardian, McClatchy, WSJ, Guardian, AP, CNN, BBC, ABC). Pakistani authorities say they will not allow the U.S. automatic access to the survivors, who are believed to be held in at a medical facility in Rawalpindi (ET, ET). Pakistan’s foreign ministry has said the women and children would be returned to their countries of origin, though since Saudi Arabia revoked bin Laden’s citizenship in 1994, his relatives in the country would have to adopt the children. Maulana Abdul Aziz, the head of the radical Red Mosque in Islamabad, has reportedly offered to adopt bin Laden’s children (Toronto Star).
The Pakistani Army speaks
In the first public reaction from the Pakistani Army to the U.S. raid that killed bin Laden, Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani warned that a repeat of the operation would not be tolerated and would lead to a review of Pakistan’s "level of military/intelligence cooperation with the United States" (NYT, Post, Dawn, Geo, ET/Reuters, AP, WSJ, AJE, FT, FT, Guardian, Dawn). A press release from the Pakistani Army, available here, also strongly warned neighboring India against conducting similar operations, and stated that Pakistan’s "strategic assets" — nuclear weapons — are well-defended. Gen. Kayani also reportedly decided that U.S. personnel in Pakistan — around 275 at any given time — should be reduced to the "absolute minimum" (NYT, DT).
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Adm. Mike Mullen, who reportedly told Gen. Kayani about the Abbottabad raid around 3am local time on Monday morning, said via a spokesman that he had not been informed of any decisions by Pakistan about the presence of U.S. military trainers there (DT, AFP). Top Pentagon official Michele Flournoy said the Obama administration does not have "any definitive evidence" that Pakistan knew bin Laden was living in Abbottabad, which a new poll shows 72 percent of Americans disagree with (NYT, CSM).
Members of the U.S. Congress are calling for a complete review of the U.S.’s some $3 billion in annual aid to Pakistan, after Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on March 18 certified that Pakistan was making a "sustained commitment" to ending support for Islamist militants, a key condition for the provision of aid (CNN, McClatchy). Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari has "ordered a full court press" from Pakistan’s lobby in Washington to counter allegations that Pakistan knew bin Laden was in Abbottabad or helped shelter him (Reuters). Some 1,000 people near Abbottabad protested against the U.S. raid, and in Quetta, the Islamist political party the JUI-F organized a rally to "pay homage" to bin Laden (AFP, AFP). Protests also occurred in Multan and Peshawar.
Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, a top U.S. commander who recently finished a tour in southern Afghanistan, said that Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban, "should be worried" following the raid on bin Laden’s compound because "it shows the Americans are focused" (AFP, Reuters). The Post assesses that legislators seeking to use bin Laden’s death to renew calls to speed up the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan are unlikely to succeed because they "still lack the support of either party’s leadership" and "still do not have an urgent piece of legislation — a bill central to the war effort — to force a distracted Congress to focus on Afghanistan" (Post).
Non-bin Laden news
In the first suspected U.S. drone strike reported since April 22, missiles killed as many as 15 people, including foreign militants and one civilian, in the Datta Khel area of North Waziristan (AFP, AP, ET/Reuters, AP, Geo, Post, CNN, The News). Clashes between militants and Pakistani security forces continue in Mohmand, and in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistani police killed two would-be suicide bombers after their car refused to stop a checkpoint (DT, ET). In Quetta, unknown gunmen opened fire on around 50 people exercising on a soccer field, killing six (AP).
The NYT reports that yesterday’s rally in Kabul against the Karzai government’s reconciliation efforts toward the Taliban attracted more than 10,000 people, mostly from northern Afghanistan (NYT).
Although the Badminton World Federation has ruled that skirts are part of badminton’s official attire, women of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in northwest Pakistan are taking to the courts wearing hijabs and with covered legs (ET). The FATA Sports Board has organized a tournament for May 16.
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