Journalism in the Public Interest

Bin Laden Mission Underscores Murky History of U.S. Raids in Pakistan


The hideout of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is pictured the day after U.S. Special Forces raided the compound in a ground operation that resulted in bin Laden's death. (Farooq Naeem/AFP/Getty Images)

The nighttime attack on Osama bin Laden’s compound by the elite Joint Special Operations Command isn’t the first time U.S. troops have entered Pakistan for covert raids. In the past, such incidents have drawn protests from the Pakistani government, though it has a history of condemning in public actions that it has endorsed in private.

Details on the latest mission are of course very sketchy, and we thought it would be helpful to run through what’s known about previous raids—and just how much remains unknown even years later. Details have been particularly difficult to pin down given frequent denials by U.S. and Pakistani officials.

In 2005, a secret operation by Navy Seals to capture al-Qaida members in Pakistan was aborted because Bush administration officials felt it was too risky and could jeopardize U.S. ties with Pakistan, the New York Times reported in 2007.

Both the New York Times and Los Angeles Times had reported that in 2006, a Navy Seal team raided a militant compound in Pakistan. That year, the Washington Post published a piece on the hunt for Osama bin Laden, quoting U.S. officials saying that the Joint Special Operations Command had been given the authority to enter Pakistan under certain circumstances—with the understanding that the Pakistan government will deny having granted permission. (The National Journal has more on JSOC and the special ops team that carried out the Osama mission.)

In September 2008, the U.S. conducted a ground raid in Pakistan by helicopter-borne special forces. It seems to have been the first publicly acknowledged U.S. ground raid in Pakistan and was decried by Pakistani officials, who called the attack a “gross violation of Pakistan’s territory” and threatened retaliatory action.

Then in 2009, the UK’s Guardian newspaper quoted a NATO official stating that the scope of the raids was beyond what has been reported, extending as far back as 2003:

A former Nato officer said the incursions, only one of which has been previously reported, occurred between 2003 and 2008, involved helicopter-borne elite soldiers stealing across the border at night, and were never declared to the Pakistani government.

"The Pakistanis were kept entirely in the dark about it. It was one of those things we wouldn't confirm officially with them," said the source, who had detailed knowledge of the operations.

Asked about the reports, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in December 2009, “I’ll defer to my colleagues at the Pentagon, but I would question the validity of those reports.”

The United States also denied a report last year in the New York Times that said that senior military officials were pushing a plan to expand special forces ground raids in Pakistan. These denials came as the Washington Post reported last year that the Obama administration has expanded the scope of the Special Operations forces, growing their presence to more than 74 countries in 2010.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, asked about the plan for more raids in Pakistan, would only quote NATO’s statement, which denied the report:

I think the best thing to do is to quote ISAF. And let me read their release from last night, if I can find it in my stack. “There’s absolutely no truth to the reporting in The New York Times that U.S. forces are planning to conduct ground operations into Pakistan. ISAF and U.S. forces, along with their Afghan partners, have developed a strong working relationship with the Pakistan military to address shared security issues. The coordination recognizes the sovereignty of Afghanistan and Pakistan to pursue insurgents and terrorists operating in their respective border areas.”

Despite this supposed “strong working relationship,” the Obama administration has been upfront about the unilateral nature of its latest strike.

“We shared our intelligence on this bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan,” a senior administration official told reporters. “That was for one reason and one reason alone: We believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel.”

Pakistani leaders were informed shortly after the raid, and they not only haven’t had their usual response of fury and condemnation, they seem to have barely responded at all. The Pakistani foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the death. Reuters notes that Pakistan’s president, prime minister, military spokesmen and spy agency have not said anything publicly about the raid.

WikiLeaks cables also show that in recent years the Pakistani Army quietly approved the deployment of U.S. special forces to provide support to Pakistani military operations. “These deployments are highly politically sensitive because of widely-held concerns among the public about Pakistani sovereignty and opposition to allowing foreign military forces to operate in any fashion on Pakistani soil,” the October 2009 cable noted.

Another cable, from February 2009, described a U.S.-Pakistan relationship based on “mutual mistrust.” “Pakistan hedges its bets on cooperation because it fears the U.S. will again desert Islamabad after we get Osama bin Laden,” the cable read. “The relationship is one of co-dependency we grudgingly admit—Pakistan knows the U.S. cannot afford to walk away; the U.S. knows Pakistan cannot survive without our support.”

The time may come when the USA’s soverignty may be violated by someother country and I hope that people will remember"The ends do not justify the means”! I know that this went on during Nam with cross-border incursions to try and take out certain individuals and sadly,we still have Communist Vietnam and the loss of many of my friends!

I began to wonder aloud last evening if President Obama’s authorization to use manned drones in Pakistan a week or so ago had anything to with this action.  Wouldn’t surprise me.  In order to have positive ID, it seems to me one of more people would have to witness bin Laden being where he was said to be. Knowing that his las few meetings with National Security staff were held in secret, my summation is probably not far from the truth.
Next I am waiting for Obama to be criticized by the ‘usual suspects:’  Boehner and Cantor, anyone on Faux News and the Drugster himself.  They can’t stand that we have a black president.

robert alder

May 2, 2011, 5:58 p.m.

Osama bin Laden was a CIA asset, apparently with advanced kidney disease. He is the decoy of the 911 ‘inside job’, and a ‘face’ for the faceless war on the noun ‘Terror’ that is used by the shadow Global Government to create fear that they can exploit. He could have been died years ago of natural causes, after successfully completing his CIA mission to introduce the epoch of ‘War on Terror’.

Who will be the new face? Ahh, don’t need one now, because ‘al Queda’ is an established brand that can be faked anywhere, anytime?

Anyone who objects to this atrocity exhibition, and tries to engage it on it’s own terms (pre-emptive strikes, civilian ‘collateral damage’, covert operations) is branded ‘terrorist’ or ‘enemy combatant’.

I suspect this ‘assassination’ was theatre for the masses. But why now? What comes next? Certainly on a domestic front, even Republicans will love Obama now (for a while). Witness the cheering crowds that gathered outside the White House (really no different to the crowds in Benghazi cheering the news of the murder of Ghadafi’s son and three grandchildren). And shame on you NATO. Sickening. What have we become?

This new round of ‘the celebration of death’ is a sickness in our ‘civilizations’. We are being immunized against our own human expression of empathy, and hardened for worse to come. Obama will get his opponents in Congress to spend spend spend on the military now that he can say..‘it was expensive, but it worth it’ (assassinating the myth of ‘Osama bin Lied To’). Burial at sea? You must be joking. Which sea? And which sea is close to Pakistan? Or did he ‘get dropped from a rendition aircraft’?

Let’s see the film of the ‘burial’ ceremony “in keeping with Muslim tradition” (have you ever heard of the tradition of muslims being ‘buried at sea’?).

“They (Navy Seals) took his body into custody”?? Like, arrested a corpse? Think they ‘read him his rights’?

The hateful, disgusting racist comments being posted on facebook (in the tens of thousands), are an indicator of the heartless ignorance of the masses who are now conditioned for war-without-end. Brainwashed and pumped for the next invasion.

The stock market has jumped, the theft accelerates…now Libya, Syria, Iran…Watch this space….

I have generally been supportive of ProPublica and their pieces on Gulf Oil Spill, the problems with crime labs and the excellent write-up on the deficiencies in forensic pathology dealing with murder.
  So I am terribly disappointed that your staff has chosen to perpetuate this Bin Laden hoax.  The information is readily available to anyone
who has followed the general outline of events that have come to define
“the war on terror”.
  I fully expect your organization to follow-up and write the correct version
of this ridiculous farce in the coming months. Failure to do so is an act of treason—an accessory to a massive fraud that tells me you’ve sold out your country.  For the record—Bin Laden died 12-13-01, possibly a mercy killing given his failing health due to renal failure.
He also publicly stated on video he had nothing to do with 9-11.
For the sake of this country, our country, I pray you’ll get it right.

Hoax?  Nixon also said, in not so many words, that he had nothing to do with Watergate.  You are setting up a ‘Wag theDog’ situation.

edward engelberg

May 2, 2011, 9:46 p.m.

Jared? Sounds familiar. “Among other hoaxes”—Hitler died during the Putch in Munich in the Twenties; Mussolini a year later. And Elvis IS alive and well, in Pakistan!


The fact that Bin Laden was suffering from what was, as I understand it, advanced kidney disease, were any medical devices found in the compound?
Was a detailed diagram of the body written?
Maybe it would have shown a scar from a kidney transplant.

This one question answered would go a long way for me .

Sorry wasn’t finished.

There are things that are withheld from us the taxpayers, sometimes for good reason. With this rationalization, I comfort myself.

However this is what I want to know now. Not later.
This is no great state secret.

Osama Bin Ladin was no longer useful as the boggie (sp) man.
New enemies must be found. Why?

I think because most Americans want us out of the wars. Now, already
new threats are emerging. The Osama “loyalists” The Base are planning new ways to attack.

I am saddened by the joy we as Americans exhibited last night. Cheering the death, without regard for the others killed. Early reports
claim his youngest wife among the dead. 

How did the world see this? Not very well I’m afraid. How much better it would have been to gather quietly with respect for all the dead.

We are such a centric nation.
Is it our geographical size that makes us so?
Is it the belief in our exceptionalism?
Is it USA, USA we’ll put a boot in their asses?
Is it because- fill in all the blanks?

Many of my friends believe this and more.
They have no concept of blowback and even less concept of our policies that make us so hated in many parts of the world.
They think we give half of our taxes in aid to other countries!
When I tell them that aid is one half of one percent the don’t believe.
Of course when I say that we give much more in military aid they think that’s great.
No critical thought allowed.

I have read Smedley Butler’s War is Hell.
Nobody wants to think.
They want to feel.

Gotta run. Some are hear to watch Dancing with the Stars. I think thats tonight.

Good Night and Good Luck.

An order was issued for a man to die.  That thought was formost in my mind as I considered the news of Bin Ladens death.  I the last ten years we have lost our right to travel wirhin our own country free from search, of our property and of our physical bodies.  We have the eyes of cameras on us whenever we are in public, and quite often when we are in private, places.  We have had many words and phrases designated as terrorist threats and must face imprisonment if we speak in anger and haste.  Children have been charged with terrorist threats.  For many years, and even now, good Muslim Americans have been hated and feared.  Our young men and women have fought, died, and been irrepairably damaged to defend freedom.  In the end, I don’t think there is one damn thing to celebrate about right now.  We should all be mourning.
Instead, I mourn that we didn’t, as a Nation.  We are as bad as the ones we profess as enemies, who rejoice at the death of another.  We have learned nothing.

Robert….you need to get a life!  This man killed over 3000 American citizens in the name of Al Queda.  You’re probably one of those naysayers who still thinks that 9/11 was a scheme perpetrated by our Government and that Bin Laden is a “puppet” of the U.S…..much like the “birthers.”  Why is it SO difficult to realize that the current Administration is doing a great job?  For those of you who deny this….it’s a sad thing.  So, please, get a life and TRY to realize that sometimes you are wrong.

Jared….much like Robert, you have chosen to believe the ridiculous “story” in an ARAB newspaper about bin Laden dying several years ago.  He’s given video proof of his being alive many times since 12/01, so I’m not sure where you’re coming from.  Again…it’s pretty sad that there are a few individuals who just CAN’T admit to themselves that our government is doing a good job!  Oh well, at least it’s not the majority.

Richard Hill

May 3, 2011, 2:05 p.m.

Osama Bin Laden was a truly evil man who got what he deserved.  I do believe we intended to kill him since it would be totally ridiculous to try him in any court, thus give him a worldwide forum from which to promote further acts of terrorism.  He was buried quickly, as is required by his faith - after DNA, pictures and videos were taken.  These will come to light when the furor settles down a bit.

Special ops teams exist for one reason - to take out special targets.

As the former commander of Seal Team 6 said yesterday on NPR when asked why Bin Laden stayed so long in one place, he said (and I paraphrase) - “He made a big mistake, didn’t he?”

There will always be conspiracy buffs and we simply have to take them as part of a free society that can say anything they wish.  Something called the First Amendment, I believe. 

Rave on, ye fools and knaves, rave on.

Maurice (Maury) Clark

May 6, 2011, 9:42 a.m.

Kudos to our president and the Joint Special Forces on this action. Too often Americans forget that while we are a democracy, a new president from a different party cannot simply walk away from the prior administrations actions as if the sun had set on them. We must clean up the mess, and climb out of the night-soil, in order to progress on the solid land of a different agenda. When I address people on the difference between “short” and “long-term” objectives, I use the following parable of my own creation:
—-If a family takes a child to the ocean who is undergoing treatment for cancer, and that child gets caught in an undertow, you had better solve the water problem first or you lose any chance of having him cured for the long run..
—“Papa” Maury Clark

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