US-Pakistan deal on Osama Bin Laden: "Too much to absorb" says expert

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Washington, May 13: The story by investigative journalist, Seymour Hersh which points at a deal between the US and Pakistan on Osama Bin Laden has opened up the Pandora's box.

While many believe that the US and Pakistan had struck a deal on this issue, the White House was quick to deny this report.

Osama Bin Laden

Michael Kugelman senior associate for South Asia at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars feels that the story by Hersh is not at all reliable. Speaking with Oneindia, Kugelman says that the story is based on a lot of unknowns and there is too much anonymous sourcing in the report.

The story is not reliable:

Michael Kugelam says, " I don't think this story is very reliable at all. There is too much anonymous sourcing, and the few sources that are named are not very plugged in to what is going on.

The story also talks about deep and sustained levels of bilateral intelligence cooperation between the Pakistanis and Americans that to me seems wholly unrealistic, given how low bilateral relations had sunk in early 2011, the time when much of Hersh's story takes place."

"This is essentially an elaborate conspiracy theory. Hersh is basing his story on a lot of unknowns and what appears to be a lot of heresay, and spinning it into a narrative that is so detailed and so organized and so intricate that in the end it seems "too perfect"-and in that sense not realistic," Kugelman also adds.

Kugelman further points out, "I do think that portions of the story could be based on truth. I am sure that someone, or some people, within Pakistan's security establishment knew that Bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound. I wouldn't be surprised if several people connected to the Pakistani state-perhaps retired intelligence officers-helped facilitate his move to Abbottabad."

However, the idea that Pakistan and the US both knew about Bin Laden's presence for a number of years, and that they worked together to keep this secret, is to me very fanciful and simply not very likely at all.

There is a lot to absorb in this story:

There's a lot to absorb in Hersh's lengthy story. The White House has denied the allegation that Pakistan cooperated on the raid. This article takes the practice of anonymous attribution to a new level.

Hersh's 10,356-word account is based nearly exclusively on a handful of unnamed sources-which can't be fact-checked-and mainly one retired U.S. intelligence official.

One of the only named sources is Asad Durrani, a former director of Pakistani intelligence in the early 1990s. In an Al Jazeera interview this year, Durrani insinuated that Pakistani intelligence knew about Bin Laden's presence in Abbottabad. But Durrani retired more than 20 years ago.

Even in a country where retired security establishment figures retain influence and access, such a long separation from public service suggests that Durrani is not the most plugged-in source.

Hersh's account features voluminous, sometimes paragraphs-long quotations. Some are suspect for logical reasons; among the skepticism expressed online, for example, was a point on social media that the way in which a "former Seal commander" reportedly spoke about SEAL missions is unrealistic.

Other remarks appear absurd or, at the least, ill-informed. The retired U.S. intelligence official says that Pakistani military officers believe they are the "keepers of the flame against Muslim fundamentalism." Based on what I've observed as an analyst of Pakistan, I would argue that it's more accurate to say the Pakistani military is a keeper of the flame of fundamentalism, thanks to its associations with militant groups, Kugelam says.

The US-Pakistan relations:

Kugelman also points out that in early 2011, U.S.-Pakistan relations were in deep crisis thanks in part to Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor who was arrested after killing two people at a crowded intersection in Lahore. According to Hersh, at that point the CIA and Pakistani intelligence were closely cooperating and jointly planning the raid on the Bin Laden compound.

He writes that the retired U.S. intelligence source said that a Pakistani intelligence "liaison officer" flew with the SEALS on the night of the raid. Unless the crisis in relations was an elaborate cover, it beggars belief to assume such close intelligence cooperation.

Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter who has broken major stories, including the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This account purports to explain an elaborate conspiracy theory, and-as I have written previously-such stories sometimes contain elements of truth.

Still, the issues of sourcing and substance suggest taking Hersh's account with a healthy dose of salt.

OneIndia News

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