In the wake of various White House accounts of the killing of Osama Bin Laden, Tariq Ali comments on internal tensions within Pakistan—"the ally Americans love to hate"—for the Guardian, warning that "stories are changing rapidly, and nothing can be taken at face value."
Bin Laden had apparently been in a safe house near the Pakistan military academy for six years. Nobody believes this could have happened without the knowledge of senior intelligence officials. A meeting with one such person in 2006, which I recounted in my last book on Pakistan, confirmed that Bin Laden was in the country and being kept safe. The person concerned told me the Americans only wanted Bin Laden dead, but that it was in Pakistan's interest to keep him alive. In his words: "Why kill the goose that lays the golden eggs?" — a reference to the billions in aid and weaponry being supplied to the army ...
Pakistan is in the grip of a fierce debate, its politico-military establishment damned whatever the case. If they admit they were in the know, they stand condemned within their own ranks. There is a great deal of dissension among junior officers and soldiers unhappy about border missions in which they are forced to target their own people. If it turns out that the US didn't even bother to inform the Pakistanis that helicopters were on the way to clip Bin Laden, they stand exposed as leaders who permit the country's sovereignty to be violated at will.
In reality, Bin Laden's death changes nothing, except perhaps to ensure that, economy permitting, Barack Obama is re-elected. The occupation of Iraq, the Af-Pak war and Nato's Libyan adventure look set to continue. Israel-Palestine is stalemated, though the despotisms in the Arab world that Obama has denounced are under pressure - except the worst of them all, Saudi Arabia.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban leaders will be relieved that they can no longer be tarred with the Bin Laden brush, but his killing does not change the situation there one bit. The insurgents might not be in a position to take Kabul, (they never could even during the Russian occupation) but elsewhere they control a great deal. The US cannot win this war. The sooner it gets out, the better. Until it does, it will remain dependent on Pakistan.
Visit the Guardian to read the article in full.
Ali also joined Marwan Bishara for 'Beyond bin Laden,' an "Empire" special on Al Jazeera, to discuss "the symbol of the small group of terrorists" in depth with fellow guests Farwaz A. Gerges, director of the Middle East Centre at the London School of Economics, and Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, and former senior advisor to the Obama administration for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Visit Al Jazeera to watch the programme in full.