The joke is already circulating that President Obama knew how to find Osama bin Laden’s compound because it’s near a golf course.
It’s also right next door to the Pakistani military academy, in a section of the city where many of the residents are senior military officers. (H/t: Free Republic) The idea that bin Laden could possibly have been living there without the knowledge of the Pakistani military, much less the ISI (intelligence service), strains credulity to the breaking point. These senior officers live with their families under the security that is necessary in a nation full of Islamist bomb-throwers. They and their security forces know who’s in their neighborhood. There are three other army training centers in Abbottabad as well. The city is crawling with military.
We might compare this to the US hiding an international war criminal in a walled estate a block from West Point, except that our security isn’t as thorough and suspiciously vigilant.
What this means, of course, is that we have known for some amount of time that Pakistanis were providing a compound for bin Laden. We knew where he was and how to breach his compound. (Marc Ambinder says the Navy SEALs were conducting dry-run missions at a replica compound in Virginia in early April.) We couldn’t have had that knowledge without knowing his situation among the Pakistanis.
Indian media have put out several reports today that bin Laden was in an ISI safe house and the Pakistanis knew he was there. But whatever the provenance of those reports, I’m not sure we really needed them. The geography speaks for itself.
There has never been a good alternative to dealing with the Pakistanis as a nominal ally. Their perfidy in this matter is something it’s hard to seek vengeance for. It’s not something Republicans would handle better than Democrats, or vice versa. I’ve had serious criticism for some of the Obama administration’s attitudes and methods in dealing with Pakistan, but pinning fault on him for this situation would be unfair.
What do we do? We certainly don’t react in a way that would jeopardize the campaign in Afghanistan. I’m hopeful that Obama won’t. I’d like to think his administration could come up with a more constructive level of engagement with Pakistan, but that’s unlikely. I suspect the administration will downplay the glaring evidence that senior Pakistanis not only knew where bin Laden was but had assigned him his address, and seek to move on. It’s a tough planet.