Al-Jazeera dropped an exclusive today of the full text of the Abbottabad Commission Report looking into the May 2, 2011 raid by U.S. Navy SEALs that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. The commission, haltingly borne out of the shock and anger Pakistanis felt at the raid, initially finished its work in 2012, and the report was delivered to the prime minister at the beginning of the year (per Colin Cookman). The report provides some interesting details on bin Laden’s daily life with his family, including their complete seclusion, even from others living in the compound. It also provides eyewitness testimony from surviving bin Laden family members of the raid.
The main thrust of the report, however, is directed toward the Pakistani government, at both the local and federal level, and the Pakistani military in particular. While criticizing the United States for its violation of Pakistani sovereignty, its construction of a CIA network to track bin Laden, its use of a vaccination campaign to mask its intelligence gathering efforts in Abbottabad, and its unwillingness to provide any notification of the raid, it reserves much of its analytical ire for Pakistan’s leadership.
The commission concluded that, despite repeated accusations that bin Laden was hiding somewhere in Pakistan, none of these “were ever systematically checked out or discussed at any level within the government.” While the report does concluded that there was no evidence of active connivance to shield bin Laden, it nevertheless lays out charges of “culpable negligence and incompetence at almost all levels of government”—the placement of a fortress-like structure near Pakistan’s military academy representing a failure of many in authority to ask the right questions. Not only could the relevant agencies (especially the ISI) not uncover bin Laden’s compound, it could neither detect the CIA’s surveillance efforts, nor could its military see the raid as it happened or prepare a plausible response to it, given, the report claims, the U.S.’s overwhelming technological and military superiority.
What is noteworthy is how directly and forthrightly the report draws a line from the tactical failures of May 2 to the crisis of civil-military relations with Pakistan’s national security establishment. This excerpt in particular stands out for its encapsulation of the current issues:
It is the long standing deviation from this fundamental principle [civilian control of the military] of good governance that resulted in Pakistan losing its eastern wing more than 40 years ago and which has ensured continuing instability, insecurity, and the dis-empowerment and alienation of significant segments of the people of Pakistan to this day.
The report’s recommendations all involve greater coordination and oversight at the behest of Pakistan’s civilian leadership, including the creation of a National Security Council, and the appointment of a civilian National Security Adviser. Whether these measures are an adequate beginning, or whether this report can even start a long-overdue elite debate toward that end, remains to be seen.