ISLAMABAD: Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani ordered on Thursday an investigation into the intelligence failure in detecting the presence of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden in his Abbottabad hideout under the army`s nose; and for determining how the US carried out the operation `Geronimo` without the Pakistan military getting wind of it.The directives for a broad-based military inquiry were given at a corps commanders conference at the GHQ as the army decided on an immediate reduction in the US military presence in the country in
protest against the `unilateral American operation` in which the fugitive Al Qaeda chief with $25 million bounty on his head was killed.
“An investigation has been ordered into the circumstances that led to this situation,” a military spokesman said after the conference which focused exclusively on the May 2 pre-dawn US raid and its implications. But he did not share the scope and terms of reference of the inquiry.
In the aftermath of the incident, the military and the ISI have faced numerous questions, with almost everyone asking how it was possible for Osama to live unnoticed at the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul`s doorway for years without any support.
But more importantly, the general public, upset over the liberty with which the US Navy SEAL strike team was able to conduct the operation — a brazen affront to Pakistan`s sovereignty — have started asking about the utility of huge defence budget and the army`s ability to protect strategic installations.
Although the mood at the conference, the army`s topmost forum for discussing matters relating to defence, was that of betrayal by the US, the red-faced army brass addressed some of the concerns being expressed publicly.
A statement issued after the conference admitted inadequacies in military`s intelligence gathering and simultaneously sought to reassure the nation about security arrangements for strategic installations and the military`s resolve to defend the country`s sovereignty.
“As regards the possibility of similar hostile action against our strategic assets, the forum reaffirmed that unlike an undefended civilian compound, our strategic assets are well protected and an elaborate defensive mechanism is in place,” it said.
About the intelligence failure in noticing Osama`s presence in Abbottabad, an effort was clearly made through the media statement to apportion blame to dysfunctional intelligence sharing with CIA.
Military officials said it was the ISI which had initially provided a lead on Osama in the shape of cellphone details of his most trusted courier Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, which the CIA pursued and developed but did not share with the ISI and instead went ahead unilaterally to kill the Al Qaeda leader.
“In the case of Osama bin Laden, while the CIA developed intelligence based on initial information provided by the ISI, it did not share further development of intelligence on the case with ISI, contrary to the existing practice between the two services,” the ISPR statement maintained. Gen Kayani warned the US against any similar undertaking in future. “The COAS made it very clear that any similar action, violating the sovereignty of Pakistan, will warrant a review on the level of military/intelligence cooperation with the US,” the statement said.
In a bid to convey his unease over the operation and that inaction over the raid should not be taken as his tacit endorsement, the army chief announced a reduction in the number of US military personnel in Pakistan.
However, the demand for reduction in the strength of US military personnel, some of them providing training to paramilitary forces in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and others engaged in joint technical projects, was initially made by Gen Kayani almost three weeks before the Abbottabad operation when military officials of the two countries were discussing ways of mending the strained military-to-military ties.
Gen Kayani is reported to be looking at 25 to 40 per cent cut in the number of US Special Operations personnel based in Pakistan.
Responding to his Indian counterpart Gen V.K. Singh`s claim that his (Indian) forces were competent to carry out an operation similar to the one carried out by the US forces, Gen Kayani said: “Any misadventure of this kind will be responded to very strongly. There should be no doubt about it.”