Prevarication by the Pakistani government cost America the chance to kill Osama bin Laden in an airstrike near the Afghan border two years ago, the Sunday Telegraph has been told.
A CIA lead that the al-Qaeda leader was hiding in a remote province was squandered because the Pakistani government delayed giving permission for the attack on its soil, according to a senior Western diplomat.
By the time US officials got the go-ahead, bin Laden had left the suspected hideout in Zhob, in the Baluchistan province of south-west Pakistan.
The near-miss was cited by the diplomat as the reason why America chose not to consult Islamabad before the US missile strike in Pakistan’s Bajaur region two weeks ago. The January 13 attack, prompted by a tip that bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was hiding in a local village, killed 13 civilians. Speaking of the Zhob attack, the diplomat, who asked not to be named, said: “For unknown reasons, Pakistani officials delayed in giving permission…which ultimately gave these militants time to move to an unknown location.”
According to his account, which was backed by sources within Pakistani intelligence, the CIA picked up electronic traffic suggesting that bin Laden and his bodyguards had sought temporary shelter in Zhob, which is dominated by Pathan and Baloch tribesmen sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Fearing that a commando raid would cause massive casualties to both sides, with no guarantee of success, the US decided to launch a strike by laser-guided missiles, fired from Predator drones.
No surprise there. And with Bush in office we won’t make the same mistake twice as evidenced by the recent strike that killed 5 top Al-Qaeda members. That obviously would not have happened if we had advised the Pakistanis.