NEW YORK: Renowned Pulitzer prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh has made startling revelations in a 10,000 word report about the May 2, Abbottabad raid, which killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, claiming that the raid was planned by the Americans with full knowledge and cooperation of the Pakistan Army and ISI, then headed by General Kayani and General Pasha.
Writing for the London Review of Books, Hersh who had broken famous stories like the Mi Lai massacre in Vietnam and Abu Ghraib prison story in Iraq war, said the White House version that the Osama mission was an all-American affair, and that the senior generals of Pakistan’s Army and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) were not told of the raid in advance was false, as are many other elements of the Obama administration’s account.
“The most blatant lie was that Pakistan’s two most senior military leaders – General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Chief of Army Staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, Director General of the ISI – were never informed of the US mission.”
“This spring I contacted Durrani and told him in detail what I had learned about the Laden’s presence in Abbottabad, and that after his killing the US betrayed promises with Kayani and Pasha and went back on the promise that the killing would not be revealed for about 10 days and would then be claimed as a result of a drone strike.”
Hersh quoted the former ISI chief Gen Asad Durrani saying: “When your version comes out – if you do it – people in Pakistan will be tremendously grateful. For a long time people have stopped trusting what comes out about bin Laden from the official mouths. There will be some negative political comment and some anger, but people like to be told the truth, and what you’ve told me is essentially what I have heard from former colleagues.”
Hersh also claimed in the report that bin Laden had been a prisoner of the ISI at the Abbottabad compound since 2006; that Kayani and Pasha knew of the raid in advance and had made sure that the two helicopters delivering the US Seals to Abbottabad could cross Pakistani airspace without triggering any alarms; that the CIA did not learn of bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the US, and that, while Obama did order the raid and the Seal team did carry it out, many other aspects of the administration’s account were false.
Hersh claims that the major US source of his information is a retired senior intelligence official who was knowledgeable about the initial intelligence about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad. He also was privy to many aspects of the Seals’ training for the raid, and to the various after-action reports. Two other US sources, who had access to corroborating information, have been longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command.
“I also received information from inside Pakistan about widespread dismay among the senior ISI and military leadership – echoed later by Durrani – over Obama’s decision to go public immediately with news of bin Laden’s death. The White House did not respond to requests for comment,” Hersh reported.
The long Seymour Hersh story also claims that Osama’s body was never buried in the sea and he quotes seamen who were on board the US ship saying they never saw any burial. He also says there was no Islamic scholar to lead the last funeral prayers of Osama.Likewise Hersh claims that the story of Dr Shakil Afridi was an after-thought and another person had been authorised by Gen Kayani to get the DNA of Osama.
Hersh claims that a Pakistani ISI officer had walked into the US Embassy in Islamabad and revealed the presence of Osama in Abbottabad and had claimed a reward of $25 million. “The informant and his family were smuggled out of Pakistan and relocated in the Washington area. He is now a consultant for the CIA,” he claims.
“The truth is that bin Laden was an invalid, but we cannot say that,” he quoted the retired official as saying. “You mean you guys shot a cripple? Who was about to grab his AK-47?” It didn’t take long to get the cooperation we needed, because the Pakistanis wanted to ensure the continued release of American military aid, a good percentage of which was anti-terrorism funding.
Hersh says at one point that spring, Pasha offered the Americans a blunt explanation of the reason Pakistan kept bin Laden’s capture a secret, and why it was imperative for the ISI role to remain secret: “We needed a hostage to keep tabs on al-Qaeda and the Taliban,” Pasha said, according to the retired official. “The ISI was using bin Laden as leverage against Taliban and al-Qaeda activities inside Afghanistan and Pakistan. They let the Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership know that if they ran operations that clashed with the interests of the ISI, they would turn bin Laden over to us. So if it became known that the Pakistanis had worked with us to get bin Laden at Abbottabad, there would be hell to pay.”
“At one of his meetings with Leon Panetta, according to the retired official and a source within the CIA, Pasha was asked by a senior CIA official whether he saw himself as acting in essence as an agent for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. “He answered no, but said the ISI needed to have some control.” The message, as the CIA saw it, according to the retired official, was that Kayani and Pasha viewed bin Laden ‘as a resource, and they were more interested in their (own) survival than they were in the United States.”
According to Hersh, “Pasha and Kayani were responsible for ensuring that Pakistan’s Army and air defence command would not track or engage with the US helicopters used on the mission. The American cell at Tarbela Ghazi was charged with coordinating communications between the ISI, the senior US officers at their command post in Afghanistan, and the two Black Hawk helicopters; the goal was to ensure that no stray Pakistani fighter plane on border patrol spotted the intruders and took action to stop them.
The initial plan said that news of the raid shouldn’t be announced straightaway. All units in the Joint Special Operations Command operate under stringent secrecy and the JSOC leadership believed, as did Kayani and Pasha, that the killing of bin Laden would not be made public for as long as seven days, maybe longer. Then a carefully constructed cover story would be issued: Obama would announce that DNA analysis confirmed that bin Laden had been killed in a drone raid in the Hindu Kush, on Afghanistan’s side of the border. The Americans who planned the mission assured Kayani and Pasha that their cooperation would never be made public. It was understood by all that if the Pakistani role became known, there would be violent protests – bin Laden was considered a hero by many Pakistanis – and Pasha and Kayani and their families would be in danger, and the Pakistani Army publicly disgraced.” . Source