Downside of operation Geronimo
Sultan M Hali
Operation Geronimo resulted in the successful elimination of Osama bin Laden, which is being claimed as a major victory by the US. It has revived the popularity of President Obama, which was waning rapidly and provided a closure to the families of the victims of 9/11. The world is ultimately rid of one of the biggest masterminds of terrorism and has concluded one of the costliest and most extensive manhunts in history. Whereas, it is a matter of jubilation for all peace loving citizens of the world, yet the way the US executed unilateral action in operation Geronimo without sharing information has added to the existing environment of mistrust. The unilateral US action violating Pakistani sovereignty has greatly added to the heightened sense of anti-Americanism feelings in Pakistan which has eroded the sense of camaraderie that is essential for conducting a joint counter terrorism campaign against al Qaeda. The episode has further exacerbated the sense of mistrust which is primarily an outcome of such tirades emanating from the US side. Pakistan reserves the right to disengage from US if latter continues to behave in the same boorish and jingoistic manner.
Another negative aspect of the operation is that it has strengthened the stance of hardliners, who abhor cooperating with the US. The US actions have strengthened the position of hardliners who oppose cooperation with US on the basis that this unequal relationship is going to leave Pakistan in a lurch as the US plans to withdraw from Afghanistan. There is a strong possibility that such hawks and extremists bear pressure upon the government to part company with the US, which is indulging in using derogatory terms for Pakistan and also threatening to conduct further adventurism within Pakistan.
The Air Chief has come out boldly in explaining that the operation Geronimo succeeded in ingressing as well as egressing unscathed because it avoided radar coverage by following the nape of the earth, flying below the ridgeline. US AWACs operating within Afghan boundary continuously provided real-time information and guidance to the US Navy Seals flying in the special Blackhawk helicopters. PAF did scramble its fighters to intercept the intruders and missed them by minutes.
The US should realize that Pakistan has taken concrete steps to ensure another violation of Pakistanís sovereignty does not occur and next time it will not be a cakewalk as the defenders of Pakistan will be ready to deter any adventurism. US violation of Pakistanís sovereignty has set a very dangerous precedence which hostile powers, particularly India can try to emulate. India needs to understand that such a transgression will be treated as an act of war by Pakistan. US needs to ensure that India gets this message loud and clear and doesnít embark on an adventure which may plunge the region into the specter of a nuclear standoff.
It is in extreme bad taste that Leon Panetta, the outgoing CIA Director continues to taunt ISI, which had scored major victories against al-Qaeda and any future successes can only be achieved if there is a close and meaningful cooperation between CIA and ISI. CIAís efforts to go alone at the cost of exclusion of the ISI, in the long run, is a recipe for failure. Failure to unearth Osamaís presence at Abottabad should not be allowed to tarnish a sterling performance by the Agency in the past nor be made a measure of its performance in the future. After all the CIA is to bear blame for the lapse of not being able to detect Osamaís presence in the location he is alleged to have been killed. He was their most wanted criminal. 9/11 by itself is a major lapse on the part of CIA. Feeding the US incorrect information regarding the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction is a lapse of culpable neglect and deliberate misrepresentation of facts, which led to the invasion of Iraq and resulted in the death and destruction of 50,000 Iraqis, 4,700 US Service personnel and caused a loss of trillions of dollars to the US taxpayer. US grandiloquent claims and derogatory comments towards Pakistan are humiliating the tremendous sacrifices of 30,000 civilian lives and 5000 security personnel, which widely surpass those made by US/NATO. There is no reason to doubt our national resolve/commitment in the war against terror. The US is basing its verbal attack on Pakistanís security and intelligence agencies on a factor that no attention was paid to the unusually heavily guarded compound in Abbottabad.
The fact is that whereas it is an intelligence failure but compound and structure is a norm rather than exception in KPK. People in KPK are exceptionally paranoid about their privacy and as such any body with any amount of money will have a similar residence so it is not out of the extra ordinary. The US has itself admitted that ultimately, it was the ISI that had provided exclusive leads, which ultimately led them to reach Osama. Even if the US has eliminated Osama, it needs a reality check, since it has not even dented the ideology of Al-Qaeda; unless it eradicates that ideology, the world will not be safe. Al-Qaeda offshoots have sprung all over the globe and are capable of inflicting untold damage to the world, as we have seen in attacks independently conducted by the Bali bomber and likes.
It has now been brought to light that the US troops conducting operation Geronimo were under instructions to fight their way out if Pakistani armed forces had retaliated. This shows that the US had termed Pakistan as a foe rather than the ally. Thus while the US rejoices the death of Osama bin Laden, which even as I write this piece, is being challenged by independent jurists and appellate bodies as extra judicial killing and breach of sovereignty of an independent nation and frontline ally Pakistan, the US should pause and ponder what should be the next steps to rid the world of terrorism rather than make it even more unsafe as a consequence.