Archive for category Osama Bin Laden Death

Osama Bin Laden, Pakistan, Nuclear Weapons and the Dead Man Switch

Osama Bin Laden is dead. Good riddance.

Kudos go to President Obama, US Intelligence and the US Military.

There are questions that remain. What about the whereabouts of Ayman al Zawahiri the Al Qaeda number two (presumably now number one)? Al Zawahiri is supposed to be more of the operations specialist when Bin Laden was supposedly more of the financier and inspirational leader. Although Bin Laden turning out to be in a mansion in the large Pakistani city of Abbotabad with computers on the premises, rather than in a cave in Waziristan may indicate that Bin Laden was more in control that we were led to believe.

Pakistan is not looking good in this matter. The mansion was the largest in the neighborhood, less than a mile from a Pakistani Military Academy. “Hey who lives in the big house down the way?” would be a natural question. Someone at a fairly high level in Pakistan knew the answer.

When I grew up in New York City in the 1970’s one of the largest drug dealers in the neighborhood lived down the street from a police station. As a naïve kid I asked, “The whole neighborhood knows the drug dealer lives there. Why don’t the police arrest him?” A friend looked at me as if I were crazy, “Of course the cops know he lives there. Somebody must be getting paid not to arrest him.” It made sense.

Somebody in Abbotabad knew it was Bin Laden in that compound. That is why he felt secure enough to have a wife and elder son there with him. A fugitive on the run does not risk his family being caught with him unless he feels safe. The only way he would have felt safe there, is if local, and possibly national, officials knew he was there and were looking the other way.

Then again, it was never truly in Pakistan’s national interest to find Bin Laden. For a decade, the US has spent Billions and Billions of dollars in Afghanistan and Pakistan – primarily motivated by rooting out Al Qaeda, the Taliban and especially Bin Laden. The US national interest lies more naturally to align with Pakistan’s rival India. We do business with India, the Indian military and especially the Indian navy are a counter balance to China in the region.

But since the US wanted Bin Laden we had to do business with Pakistan. Once the US no longer has an interest in Afghanistan and therefore Pakistan, all of that money will dry up. By keeping Bin Laden out there, Pakistan kept the gravy train on the track. Pakistan also has domestic political reasons to shelter Bin Laden as the Bin Laden post-mortem demonstrations indicate. So Pakistan had more self-interest reasons to keep Bin Laden alive than to turn him over. It appears that some in Pakistan decided to play that game with the US.

The question now is about Bin Laden’s “Dead Man Switch.” When a suicide bomber walks into a public place, the smart ones will rig a “Dead Man Switch.” It can be a plunger that the terrorist has to keep depressed or the bomb goes off-creating a disincentive to simply shoot them. Shoot the bomber, his thumb goes limp, the bomb goes off, innocent people die. A similar device, a foot pedal, was used by the Chechen terrorists who took over the Russian school.

It would be a big surprise if Bin Laden did not set up a system where upon his death or capture by the US, it would be a signal to launch planned terror attacks. The apparent complicity of Pakistan, the world’s only current Islamic nuclear power is troubling in this context.

A.Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani bomb is revered in his country. He may have aided North Korea with their nuclear program and in all probability Iran with theirs. If Pakistani officials in the know were bold enough to hide Bin Laden from the US, how can they be trusted with nuclear materials?

Let’s hope that Osama Bin Laden’s Dead Man switches all fizzle, and that none of them are nuclear.

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