Saturday, August 06, 2005

Osama Bin Laden

By Paul L. Williams© 2005

Osama bin LadenWhere in the world is Osama bin Laden?

Let's face it. He shouldn't be hard to find, especially from a Predator, an aerial reconnaissance vehicle that can read the minute hand of a wristwatch from an altitude of 26,000 feet.

Bin Laden is very tall – slightly over 6'6" – and incredibly thin, less than 150 pounds. He wears shalwart kameez – the loose-fitting tunics and baggy pants of al-Qaida and Taliban soldiers – and, when the weather is cold, he dons a camouflage jacket.

Although he was born in 1957 and far from retirement age, the al-Qaida chieftain appears to be very old. His long scraggly beard is pure white; his face is lined with countless wrinkles; and his shoulders are hunched and rounded. He is bent forward to such a degree that he seems to suffer from a form of osteoporosis. He is left-handed and walks with a cane.

Osama is almost always surrounded by fawning attendants who hail him not as Sultan bin Laden or Emir bin Laden but rather as "awaited enlightened one," the title reserved for the Mahdi."

The Mahdi is the rightly guided caliph who will appear during the last days of human history. His coming is foretold by the Haddith, the sacred teachings that supplement the Quran. In such writings, the Mahdi is depicted as the figure who will bring forth the "Day of Islam," when all people throughout the world – believers and unbelievers alike – will fall in submission before the throne of Allah.

Bin Laden possesses the distinguishing marks of the Mahdi – the high forehead, the prominent nose, the gap between his teeth, and the black mole on his face. He is pleased to point out these features to photographers and reporters from al-Jazeera and other Arabic news outlets.
Mercenaries locate Osama bin Laden in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (area circled)

Despite his pre-eminence among Muslims, the $25 million price tag on his head and the fact that his image is omnipresent in marketplaces, stores, shops, murals on the sides of buildings throughout the Middle East, no one has been able to find him.

This initially gave rise to speculation that he had been killed by the bombings of al-Qaida cells and safe homes at the launching of Operation Enduring Freedom on Oct. 7, 2001.

Such speculation was put to rest by the appearance of Osama with his sidekick Ayman al-Zawahiri on Kabul television in late October 2001. In the broadcast, the twosome sat before a campfire with sticks and appeared like Muslim Boy Scouts about to roast some marshmallows.

In November 2001, after coalition forces seized control of Kandahar, Afghanistan, U. S. officials received word that bin Laden and company were safely sequestered within an impregnable mountain fortress that had been created 350 yards beneath solid rock at the highest peak of the Spin Ghar or "White Mountains," a peak known as Tora Bora.

Elaborate drawings of this fortress were published in major newspapers throughout the world, including The New York Times. The drawings depicted a vast underground complex that contained a bakery, a hospital with ultrasound equipment, a hotel for 2,000 occupants, a mosque, a library, an arsenal for weapons of mass destruction and a hydro-electric plant.

And so the massive bombing of Tora Bora began. For nearly two weeks, the mountain peak was pounded with "bunker blasters" in an attempt to collapse the troglodyte lair of the terrorists. At one point, a "daisy cutter" – a 6,800 kiloton bomb, the largest in the U.S. arsenal – was dropped on the target.

At the end of the siege, coalition forces combed the mountainside in search of hundreds of bodies. But few bodies were found and only 19 emaciated and toothless captives could be rounded up for the victory parade before the international press in Kandahar.

The vast underground complex did not exist. It had been a figment of overactive imaginations of members of the Northern Alliance that had been accepted without question by U.S. intelligence officials.

Next came word that the elusive bin Laden had regrouped his forces and was hiding in the mountainous region of Shah-i-Kot. Two tall, thin and bearded men in shalwart kameez were spotted by an aerial reconnaissance vehicle standing before a tarpaulin at the entrance to a cave. U.S. military heads assumed that the tarpaulin was covering a machine-gun post and that the men, because of their height, dress and posture, were Arabs and, therefore, al-Qaida operatives.

Operation Anaconda, the plan to encircle Shah-i-Kot and squeeze the al-Qaida and Taliban operatives out of their hiding places, got underway on March 2, 2003. Fierce resistance was reported by the coalition forces. Megaton bombs were dropped at the rate of 260 a day to ferret out the terrorists. The reported enemy death toll rose and fell like the fluctuations of a troubled currency: 100, 500, 200, 800, 300. When the fighting came to an end on March 12, only 10 enemy soldiers were taken prisoner and less than 20 bodies were found within the battle zone. The full military offensive, replete with the dropping of 3,250 bombs, had been conducted on largely uninhabited territory.

In the wake of the first phase of Operation Enduring Freedom, U.S. intelligence sources were able to confirm over 500 al-Qaida and Taliban soldiers had fled Afghanistan by scaling the mountains in the south along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and cutting through Afghanistan's southernmost provinces toward the border with Iran, where they found safe haven.

The enemy operatives within Iran included Saad bin Laden, Osama's eldest son; Yaaz bin Sifat, a top-ranking al-Qaida planner; Mohammed Islam Haani, the major of Kabul under the Taliban; and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who had been in charge of al-Qaida's attacks on Europe. By spring of 2002, al Zawahiri, bin Laden's top lieutenant, was spotted in Iran, where he reportedly donned the disguise of an Iranian cleric with a black turban and a dyed beard.

Within Iran, the al-Qaida guests were placed in safe houses by SAVAMA, the Iranian intelligence service. These villas, located in southern Iran, with saunas and swimming pools, are lavish even by American standards. The operatives remain in this villa at this writing.

But where was Osama?

In 2003, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, ISI, informed CIA officials that the al-Qaida head was sequestered in the wilds of Waziristan, a region between Balochistan and the North West Frontier in Pakistan.

In July 2003, Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf shelled out millions in cold cash (thanks to the largesse of the CIA) to tribal chieftains within Northern Waziristan in order to obtain permission for Pakistani troops to enter their semi-autonomous tribal territories. It was the first time that such troops were allowed to set foot within the province since the creation of Pakistan in 1947.
It was small surprise to many observers that the payments were for nothing. The Pakistani troops combed the Tirah and Shawai valleys and discovered not a trace of Osama or any al-Qaida officials.

Attention now turned to South Waziristan. In March 2004, President Musharraf, upon receiving the consent of the chieftains, sent an army of 70,000 into the province. A welter of excitement followed the invasion when Musharraf announced that a high value target had been pinned down. The speculation, fueled by U.S. military sources, was that it was bin Laden or al-Zawahiri. But neither one showed up. There were foreign militants in the area, but less than 600, far fewer than the Pakistani authorities claimed, and most were Uzbeks.

The hunt for Osama bin Laden had grown cold. There were no confirmed sightings; no intercepts of satellite phone calls; no evidence of e-mails. The only assurance of his existence came from his periodic appearances on al-Jazeera. He had performed the most remarkable disappearing act in human history.
Still and all, stories surfaced that he had made his way to Chechnya and that he was safely sequestered among the Uighurs in China.

Where is Osama bin Laden?

His whereabouts cannot be pinpointed by official military and intelligence sources, despite the drones that fly day and night over the Afghan-Pakistani border. Nor can his hiding place be determined by members of the media, who continue to provide c-notes to Pashtuns and Tajiks for useless information.
To discover the whereabouts of the world's most wanted man, it is best to turn to unofficial yet reliable sources, such as the professional soldiers for paramilitary corporations that attend the annual Soldier of Fortune convention in Las Vegas. The mercenaries – "mercs" for short – know where he is since they are anxious albeit not willing to collect the $25 million bounty.

Osama bin Laden is alive and well and living in the valley of Dir within the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan. He has been there since he escaped from Tora Bora in December 2001.

To substantiate this claim, the mercs produce shabnamas or "night letters" that are circulated among the various tribes within the frontier. The night letters contain updates of Osama at work and play and photos of the al-Qaida leader with Maulvi Sufi Mohamed, an old and revered Muslim scholar, who maintains a Taliban-style rule over the valley of Dir with public executions of adulterers, homosexuals, apostates and Christian infidels.

Mercs point out that news of Osama's whereabouts was even published on the front page of the Daily Ummat, the leading Urdu language paper of Karachi, on Aug. 10, 2003. Unfortunately, no one in the U.S. defense department – let alone the U. S. intelligence community – took heed of the article with the smiling face of the great emir before the invasions of Waziristan.

Dir remains within the Malakand Pass, the site of some of the fiercest skirmishes under the British Raj. A Pakistani army fort still stands where the young Winston Churchill shot down rebels and received a citation for heroism. Ironically, it now serves as the headquarters of the leader of the Mujahadeen who has unleashed a wave of terrorist attacks against Great Britain.

Despite the bounty, bin Laden remains not only safe and secure in Dir but also free to travel to other parts of the country, including regular trips to Peshawar and the smuggler-infested bazaar town of Rebat at the center of "the Devil's Triangle," the conjunction of the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
No Muslim will dare to capture or kill him – not even a squadron of elite military personnel from the Musharraf government, let alone a group of professional bounty hunters. It is the duty of all Muslims to honor the revered leader of the Mujahadeen, who has been ordained to bring forth the Day of Islam.

What's more, bin Laden is protected by milmastia – the Islamic code of hospitality that demands protection for fellow Muslims who seek shelter in their country – even if such protection means risking their lives. Believing Muslims know that the $25 million reward comes with the price tag of apostasy and eternal damnation. Mercs point out that Pakistani soldiers and ISI officials are even unwilling to collar Osama and his cohorts when they appear in Peshawar. They don't want to go to hell for money or Musharraf.

Bin Laden remains protected by yet another factor. Any concerted attempt by the United States to invade any part of the North West Frontier Province by crossing the 680-mile border between Afghanistan and Pakistan in an effort to capture the world's most wanted man will be met by the resistance of the vast majority of 20 million Muslims who inhabit the formidable area.

Such resistance could lead to the toppling of the Musharraf regime with the result that Pakistan, with its arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons, would fall under the control of the radical mullahs, who wait in the wings.

At present, the way to Dir, according to the mercs, remains strewn with the bodies of would-be bounty hunters. They have been cast in the pines beside the dirt road. All have been tortured, stripped naked and castrated. Their eyeballs have been plucked from their sockets; their ears have been hacked off; and their tongues have been ripped from their mouths. Notes have been strapped to the groin of every victim. "Do not be angry or shocked," the notes say in Pashtu. "These are the bodies of agents of the USA."


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