Friday, June 24

Cell phone links bin Laden courier with militant Pakistani group that has close ties with ISI and Pak military

"Heeeere lizard lizard lizard"

"It is as if the Pakistani powers that be have had, ever since Al Qaeda's retreat from Afghanistan and their withdrawal into Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi, a precise idea of where the chiefs of Al Qaeda could be found. It is as if Pakistan's formidable intelligence service, the ISI, had not only localized but kept these public enemies of the U.S. -- and theoretically of Pakistan -- under observation, handy for periodic culling.

It is as if these people were bargaining chips, with the Pakistanis drawing from their reserves of terrorists and cashing them in one by one, depending on the needs of their relationship with the great American 'friend.'

Optimists will be delighted to learn that there is a country where people know a little about the hiding places of Osama bin Laden's lieutenants, as well as about Bin Laden himself, perhaps."
-- Bernard-Henri Lévy, 2005

“The question of ISI and Pakistani Army complicity in Bin Laden’s hide-out now hangs like a dark cloud over the entire relationship” between Pakistan and the United States." -- Bruce Riedel, 2011
Seized Phone Offers Clues to Bin Laden’s Pakistani Links

By Carlotta Gall, Pir Zubair Shah and Eric Schmitt
June 23, 2011 - 11:00 PM EDT
The New York Times

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The cellphone of Osama bin Laden’s trusted courier, which was recovered in the raid that killed both men in Pakistan last month, contained contacts to a militant group that is a longtime asset of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, senior American officials who have been briefed on the findings say.

The discovery indicates that Bin Laden used the group, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, as part of his support network inside the country, the officials and others said. But it also raised tantalizing questions about whether the group and others like it helped shelter and support Bin Laden on behalf of Pakistan’s spy agency, given that it had mentored Harakat and allowed it to operate in Pakistan for at least 20 years, the officials and analysts said.

In tracing the calls on the cellphone, American analysts have determined that Harakat commanders had called Pakistani intelligence officials, the senior American officials said. One said they had met. The officials added that the contacts were not necessarily about Bin Laden and his protection and that there was no “smoking gun” showing that Pakistan’s spy agency had protected Bin Laden.

But the cellphone numbers provide one of the most intriguing leads yet in the hunt for the answer to an urgent and vexing question for Washington: How was it that Bin Laden was able to live comfortably for years in Abbottabad, a town dominated by the Pakistani military and only a three-hour drive from Islamabad, the capital?

“It’s a serious lead,” said one American official, who has been briefed in broad terms on the cellphone analysis. “It’s an avenue we’re investigating.”
Harakat “is one of the oldest and closest allies of Al Qaeda, and they are very, very close to the ISI,” said Bruce O. Riedel, a former Central Intelligence Agency officer and the author of “Deadly Embrace: Pakistan, America, and the Future of the Global Jihad.”

“The question of ISI and Pakistani Army complicity in Bin Laden’s hide-out now hangs like a dark cloud over the entire relationship” between Pakistan and the United States, Mr. Riedel added.

Indeed, suspicions abound that the ISI or parts of it sought to hide Bin Laden, perhaps to keep him as an eventual bargaining chip, or to ensure that billions of dollars in American military aid would flow to Pakistan as long as Bin Laden was alive.

Both the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan, and the panel’s ranking Democrat, Representative C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, said this month that they believed that some members of the ISI or the Pakistani Army, either retired or on active duty, were involved in harboring Bin Laden.

Bin Laden himself had a long history with the ISI, dating to the mujahedeen insurgency that the Americans and Pakistanis supported against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Two former militant commanders and one senior fighter who have received support from the ISI for years said they were convinced that the ISI played a part in sheltering Bin Laden. Because of their covert existence, they spoke on the condition that their names not be used.

One of the commanders belonged to Harakat. The other said he had fought as a guerrilla and trained others for 15 years while on the payroll of the Pakistani military, until he quit a few years ago. He said that he had met Bin Laden twice.
He and the other commander, who spent 10 years with Harakat, offered no proof of their belief that Bin Laden was under Pakistani military protection. But their views were informed by their years of work with the ISI and their knowledge of how the spy agency routinely handled militant leaders it considered assets — placing them under protective custody in cities, often close to military installations.

The treatment amounts to a kind of house arrest, to ensure both the security of the asset and his low profile to avoid embarrassment to his protectors.
Yes. That is how Pakistan's military was able to magically locate members of al Qaeda when they found it expedient.

There is much more to the Times report than I've quoted here, so I hope you'll read the entire piece at the Times site.

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