Posts Tagged ‘Osama bin Laden’

Deal or No Deal

What say you, Howie Mandel + Briefcase Ladies? Deal or No Deal?

It has been over a week since news broke that Osama bin Laden was killed in a U.S. operation in Abbottabad, and developments are still unfolding, tensions are still building, and we still are not quite sure what the hell is really going on.

On Monday, our illustrious PM Yousaf Raza Gilani made a speech before the Pakistani Parliament, strongly rejecting allegations of Pakistan’s complicity in hiding Osama bin Laden or incompetence in tracking him down. On the topic of what went wrong, Gilani did admit that there had been an intelligence failure, but refused to take sole responsibility, instead noting,  “It is not only ours but of all the intelligence agencies of the world.”

Good deflection, Jadoogar.

Gilani also used the speech as an opportunity to highlight the U.S. violation of Pakistani sovereignty, saying Pakistanis are “rightly incensed” about the covert U.S. operation on the country’s soil. He emphasized,

Abbottabad hosts a routine Military training institution, which does not require any elaborate special defence arrangement. There is no denying the US technological ability to evade our radars. We regret that this unilateral action was undertaken without our concurrence.

In several interviews post-raid, former President Pervez Musharraf came out as one of the most vocal critics of the U.S. operation, also calling it a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

But on May 9, the Guardian’s Declan Walsh reported that the U.S. and Pakistan had struck a deal in 2001 permitting a U.S. operation on Pakistani soil to go after Osama bin Laden. Walsh noted,

Under its terms, Pakistan would allow US forces to conduct a unilateral raid inside Pakistan in search of Bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Al Qaeda No3. Afterwards, both sides agreed, Pakistan would vociferously protest the incursion.

A former senior U.S. official told the Guardian, “There was an agreement between Bush and Musharraf that if we knew where Osama was, we were going to come and get him. The Pakistanis would put up a hue and cry, but they wouldn’t stop us.”

Mushy! You got some ‘splaining to do!

Not surprisingly, Musharraf doth protested such reports. In an interview Wednesday, he told ABC News, “Never! And this is the assertion being cast by the Guardian and I rejected that. I condemn such an insinuation. There was no such deal.”

Interestingly, though, the Guardian wasn’t the only outlet to “cast such an assertion.” In the Friday Times last week, Ali Chishti alluded to something similar, when he quoted former intelligence chief Shah Mahboob Alam who also said, “The U.S. initiated a unilateral action based on an understanding with Pakistan from years ago.”

On Wednesday, Reuters cited more sources – current and former U.S. officials – who further said “the message that the United States would dispatch forces to go after bin Laden if it found him in Pakistan was repeatedly passed on to Pakistani authorities so that, at a minimum, Islamabad should have had no illusions about the U.S. position.”

So, deal or no deal?

It is no secret that Bush and Musharraf had a close relationship post-9/11 attacks.  In a joint statement between the two leaders in November 2001, they reaffirmed “the strength and vitality of the bilateral relationship between the United States and Pakistan,” with Musharraf welcoming Bush’s decision “to lift a number of economic sanctions that would allow for the resumption of cooperation with Pakistan.”

Mush: I got you, bra. Bush: Na, bra.

Unless Musharraf suddenly changes tact and admits to a deal (not likely) we really won’t be sure of anything, particularly if the “understanding” that was met was never put in writing. Nevertheless, given the U.S.-Pakistan history of covert deals (hello, drone strike policy), struck so that the U.S. can achieve their interests and the Pakistan state can pretend like they don’t know that we know, we can at least be justifiably suspicious.

The significant part of the deal-or-no-deal debate though, is how it has shifted our attention away from what’s really important; i.e., how the Pakistani military and our intelligence agencies either managed to allow one of the biggest intelligence failures to happen, or worse yet, how they managed to keep OBL hidden as their strategic interest for so long [read Shahid Saeed’s piece at Dawn for words of wisdom as well as Chris Fair’s piece for the AfPak Channel]. Forget holding the Pakistani military and ISI accountable to the Americans – hold them accountable to us, the Pakistani citizens, who bore the brunt of these misgivings.

As a nation, we often point fingers outwards instead of at ourselves. Conspiracy theories reign supreme. Political pot shots to garner votes and popularity are the norm. And amidst this circus, no one seems to give a damn about anyone but themselves. Pray tell, how can we hope for any progress if accountability is never even part of the vernacular?

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Well friends, it appears after years of searching for Osama bin Laden, the hunt is over. Caput. Capiche. Ding dong the Wicked Witch is dead. Three cheers for freedom. The war is over.

Not so fast.

America may have pulled the trigger on the iconic OBL, but the “War on Terror” is not over. Tuck the #Winning hash tag and vat of tiger blood away for now, and let’s back track.

OBL, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and head of Al Qaeda, was not, contrary to public opinion, hiding in a cave in the mountains along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border. Oh no. He was killed in a well-secured compound in Bilal Town,  a residential area of  Abbottabad, Pakistan (which, despite what Wolf Blitzer will tell you on CNN, is not a suburb in Islamabad, it’s 150 km north of the capital). According to Al Jazeeera‘s Rosalind Jordan in Washington, the operation had been in the making for the last 9 or 10 months. President Obama said in his remarks Sunday night:

Last August…I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden.  It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground…finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice. Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.  A small team of Americans carried out the operation with extraordinary courage and capability…After a firefight, they killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body.

The Globe and Mail interviewed Abbottabad resident Esham ul Haq, who said he heard explosions and gunfire around 12:45 a.m. local time (PST) and the noises continued until about 2 a.m., followed by silence. Pakistani news agencies had also reported that “three loud blasts” were heard late that night near the Pakistani Military Academy Kakul Road and a military helicopter crashed. According to GEO News, heavy firing was reportedly heard before the crash.

Since news of the death broke, Express 24/7 confirmed that a team of four U.S. helicopters were sent to the area for the  40-minute-long operation. The LA Times cited U.S. officials, who said American operatives killed Osama bin Laden, his adult son and three others, including a woman used as a human shield during the firefight. Reports have not yet confirmed the whereabouts of AQ’s #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri. A senior intelligence official told the outlet, “In the end it was the matchless skill and courage of these Americans that insured the success of this operation.”

Therein lies a significant detail – no mention of Pakistan’s role in the operation, despite the Wall Street Journal citing a senior Pakistani official, who claimed the crashed helicopter belonged to our Army. Express 24/7 later reported that Pakistan’s military was not part of the nighttime operation, but noted that later, “Pakistani forces joined in.” President Obama, meanwhile, noted in his speech Sunday,

Over the years, I’ve repeatedly made clear that we would take action within Pakistan if we knew where bin Laden was.  That is what we’ve done.  But it’s important to note that our counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan helped lead us to bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding. Indeed, bin Laden had declared war against Pakistan as well, and ordered attacks against the Pakistani people.

Currently, the details surrounding the death and the operation are still unraveling, and while I’m hesitant to make concrete conclusions at this time, I do think the lack of reported cooperation between the U.S. and Pakistan for this operation is telling. First, the LA Times reports that Pakistani officials were not told beforehand about the operation. While this could be for a number of reasons, one possibility is the increasing trust deficit in U.S.-Pakistan relations, particularly on the intelligence front.  Another possibility is the fear that perceptions of U.S.-Pakistan joint operations could result in backlash for Islamabad, particularly given the anti-U.S. sentiment in the country.

The fact that our own officials have been vague for years on the hunt and capture of Osama bin Laden also raises a red flag, [see this past post on Qureshi’s interview with Wolf Blitzer two years ago]. OBL wasn’t in a cave or in Afghanistan (as Karzai breathes a giant sigh of relief). He was in Abbottabad – for at least nine months (or via @DaveedGR for years) – living in a high-walled compound owned by a courier and his brother, two known bin Laden confidantes noted the LA Times. It was, noted the news agency, a property valued at $1 million “with extraordinary security features…Its 12 and 18-foot walls were topped with barbed wire. Internal walls provided extra security. It had no internet and telephone connection. And its resident burned their trash rather than dumping it.”

It was also located near a Pakistani military academy, which begs the question, was bin Laden hiding in the area because he was an ISI asset? Or did the Pakistani military know he was there and was helping U.S. forces monitor his presence? Did Pakistan know that the U.S. knew that they knew? The questions are endless and speculation is infinite.

At the end of the day, Osama bin Laden’s death, while deeply symbolic, will not greatly impact Al Qaeda’s tentacled wide network, [see Five Rupees’ insight here]. U.S. military analyst Mark Kimmit told Al Jazeera, “We still have an Al Qaeda threat out there and that will be there for a number of years.” It will, however, add major boost to President Obama’s administration before his reelection campaign and invigorate millions around the world who have been impacted by the numbers of vicious AQ terror attacks throughout the years. All I can pray for is that more AQ attacks will not ensue in the wake of these developments.

P.S.: Obama’s remarks cut into Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice. Poetic.

Whoops. (Via Newsweek)

You're fired.

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GQ image: Gary Faulkner doesn't need to wear fur. Gary Faulkner skins you and wears it!

Gary Faulkner, i.e. the “Bin Laden Hunter,” i.e. “Step Aside Jack Bauer, there’s a New Bad Ass in Town,” i.e., “What is this Guy Smoking?”, is somewhat of an enigma. He is a  50-something with failing kidneys, a criminal record, and a calling to track down Osama bin Laden, or, as he likes to call him, “Binny Boy.” When Pakistani authorities caught Faulkner attempting to cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border back in June, he was armed with a pistol, dagger, sword, Christian literature, and night-vision goggles. It was his 8th time visiting Pakistan to track down OBL.

I’ve written about Faulkner before, here and here. But nothing prepared me for the awesomeness that was in this month’s GQ. Oh yes. That GQ. Here are some gems from the piece, though you really should read it in its entirety:

  • “Gary’s youngest brother, Scott, a doctor in Fort Morgan, Colorado, drove him to the Denver airport two weeks earlier, on May 30. ‘He was in great spirits,’ says Scott. ‘He was excited about his trip. I remember he was looking at his crossbow, deciding whether or not he should take it.'” Yes. He just said crossbow. He is not kidding.
  • “‘I believe that is going to go down in history,’ his other brother, Todd, tells me, ‘and kids are going to write essays about that 200 years from now.'” Forget 200 years from now! I’ve written two posts already! And damn it, give Gary Faulkner a freaking reality show, Fox!
  • In response to “You’ve been described as everything from hero to crackpot,” Faulkner responded, “I’m a little of everything. I’ve done crack, I’ve done crank, I’ve done coke, I’ve done pot, I’ve done everything in the world out there.… You know, I’ve been to prison, I’ve been shipwrecked, blown up, shot, stabbed. My story does not just start here; it started when I was 5 years old, the first time I tried to hot-wire a car.…” Oh sweet baby Jesus.
  • “‘He just had a dream about hunting down bin Laden,’ remembers Jim Sage, who has worked on construction jobs with Faulkner over the past decade. ‘In his dream he was supposed to get there without his feet touching the ground.’ At first, Faulkner took this to mean that he had to go by boat. So he bought a twenty-one-foot yellow-and-white yacht called the Piña Colada…he set sail from San Diego. He figured he’d head west across the Pacific and work it out from there.” Later Faulkner took the “feet not touching ground” thing to mean he should get there by hang glider. You can’t make this stuff up.
  • “Gary says he was told that Al Qaeda had not only noticed him but photographed him and was circulating his picture. After dark that night, believing they were soon coming to get him, he headed up the mountain…’It’s old-school for me, because I used to be a thief, so nighttime is my time. I laugh. Here I am in the middle, they’ve got a squeeze play going on, and once again I slipped away in the night.'” For some reason, this is my mental image when I read that [circa Zoolander, when he’s toiling in the mine]:

(Zoolander image) "Whee! Can't catch me Al Qaeda!"

  • “He has told me that he doesn’t particularly care for the media nickname that seems to have stuck the most, Rocky Mountain Rambo, but I’m not so sure. When I see him write down his name for strangers, he’ll write “Rocky Mountain Rambo” beneath it, and when there’s a problem finding a New York hotel reservation, he wonders aloud whether he might have been booked under the name Rocky Mountain Rambo.” Personally I prefer the Bin Ladenator, but that’s just me.

The piece is about 10 pages long, but it is worth reading, not just for the laughs, or the headache that may ensue afterwards, but because there really is no one else like Gary Faulkner.

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Tere Bin…Laden

It’s official. Bollywood’s releasing a new film this weekend. But given that the Indian film industry releases the largest number of movies in the world (about a 1000 a year, according to some sources), this isn’t really news.

Except when the film in question is called Tere Bin Laden and it stars Pakistani crossover/pop star Ali Zafar. According to The News’ Instep magazine this past Sunday,

It’s a big, big, scratch that, huge deal to see a Pakistani star promoted this way in India…Indeed, if Tere Bin Laden turns into a box office smash, Ali Zafar will reach a level of stardom hitherto unprecedented in our industry and he will also become a one of a kind phenomenon in Bollywood…After all, which actor does Bollywood have who can act, dance and sing his own songs? The answer is none. Ali Zafar is a rare breed.

Yeah! Take that, Bollywood! Billie Jean is not your lova!

Seriously, though, the film is garnering major buzz (and tweets), and is described as “a tongue-in-cheek comedy about an ambitious young news reporter from Pakistan who is desperate to migrate to the U.S. in pursuit of the American dream.” When the journalist comes across an Osama bin Laden look alike, he decides produce a fake Osama video “and sell it to news channels,” leading to serious ramifications.

Director Abishek Sharma told Reuters, “The film looks to give a fresh perspective to the repercussions of 9/11 that a lot of people are facing but…through humor.” Zafar, in his interview with Instep writer Muniba Kamal, noted, “I knew that I didn’t want to do a typical Bollywood film with romancing a girl around trees. I didn’t want to play second lead in any film and when I was offered the script, I read it and I could see myself doing it. It’s very funny. I think I suit the role.”

Comedy or not, producers are opting to shorten the film title to Tere Bin when it’s released in Pakistan, “so as not to draw the ire of militant Pakistani Islamists,” noted the Wall Street Journal.

Me thinks said militant Pakistani Islamists may be “ired” anyway, seeing as how they probably watch television and know the real name is actually Tere bin Laden. But I digress.

What is great about a film like Tere Bin (Laden) is that it doesn’t really have to stretch the truth to be funny or satirical. Because these days, you just can’t make up some of the stuff in the news. For example:

  • Back in January, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released fresh images of Osama bin Laden, using “digital enhancement” technology to show what the Al Qaeda leader would look like today. What kind of “technology” you ask? Google. Turns out the FBI updated the bin Laden photo using the grey hair, jaw line and forehead of Spanish politician Gaspar Llamazares. Not so intelligent.

Ridiculously good Eugoogling.

  • Gary Faulkner, the Bin Laden Hunter. Nuff said.
  • According to Chinese news agency, People’s Daily Online, the Afghan Taliban is “training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops.” No, really. Monkeys are apparently being armed with “AK-47 rifles and Bren light machine guns in the Waziristan tribal region near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.” And this isn’t the first time! According to the news agency, the CIA also “trained massive “monkey soldiers” in the Vietnam War and dispatched armed monkeys to dangerous jungles to launch assaults on Vietnamese soldiers. Today, the Taliban forces have given the American troops some of their own medicine.” Wow.

Bow down to Monkey Soldier, Yankee!

So yes. Excited for Tere bin Laden and Zafar’s Bollywood debut. But also secretly hoping for a sequel that uses the aforementioned details we call news. Because monkey soldiers, Gary Faulkner, and Spanish MPs-turned-doctored-bin Laden-images are a hilarious combination that you just can’t make up. I think Paul the Octopus may even predict a smash hit!

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I <3 Gary Faulkner

No, really. I do.

If you haven’t watched the recent interview with Gary Faulkner, the now-dubbed “Bin Laden Hunter” [see this previous post], see below:

While many have found Faulkner’s actions bizarre/amusing/disturbing/tragic/all of the above, I’ve started to actually kind of like the guy. Here’s why:

Interviewer: Gary Faulkner, how does it feel to back in the USA?

Faulkner: Fantastic! I mean, it’s good – good to be back on native soil…Good to see you guys are still here too.

(Translation: Good to know there wasn’t a nuclear apocalypse in my absence. There’s just so many disasters Gary Faulkner can tackle at a time!)

Interviewer: Tell us about your trip – why did you go, what were you aiming to do?

Faulkner: There are a lot of people that talk, and this is one of our downsides of our society…too many people talk, too little action. Me, I’d rather do action, talk later.

(Translation: The only thing Osama bin Laden will hear when I choke hold him is the sound of awesomeness.)

Faulkner: There are people out there talking smack…you can say I’m a religious freak, you can say I’m a Rambo or a samurai or whatever, but you know what, I’m a person that said, you know what I’m going to get off my ass and do something…I’m on dialysis, I put my life on the line…now when you’re able to stand up and put your life on the line, then we’ll talk. Until then, you shut your mouth, you sit down and get to the back of the bus, better yet – you get off the bus, because this ain’t your bus, this ain’t your ride.

(Translation: When Bruce Banner gets mad, he turns into the Hulk. When the Hulk gets mad, he turns into Gary Faulkner.)

You may think Gary Faulkner is crazy. Mentally unhinged, even. But you have to admire the guy’s conviction. And he has a point – how many of us sit around talking, and how many actually try to get things done? Not a lot. And thanks Gary, for also challenging the “all Pakistanis are terrorists” perception. This warm & fuzzy Pakistani appreciated it.

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"Gary Faulkner. He's so hot right now."

This piece, entitled, “The American Bin Laden Hunter” was first published on Foreign Policy‘s AfPak Channel:

Step aside, Jason Statham. There’s a new action hero in town.

Pakistani authorities detained Gary Faulkner, a 52-year old American man who has reportedly been searching for Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden since September 11, 2001. Faulkner, who was found about nine miles short of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border Sunday, was allegedly trying to enter Nuristan, a province in Afghanistan.

Muhammad Jaffar Khan, the police chief of Chitral, in northwest Pakistan, told reporters, “[Faulkner] told the investigating officer he was going to Afghanistan to get Osama. At first we thought he was mentally deranged.” However, after seeing that the American was armed with a pistol, dagger, sword, Christian literature, and night-vision goggles, police realized “he was serious.”

So serious, in fact, that he initially resisted arrest, threatened to fire on police, and later told interrogators he was going to Nuristan “to decapitate Osama bin Laden.” According to Khan, when asked whether he felt he had a chance in capturing bin Laden, Faulkner answered, “God is with me, and I am confident I will be successful in killing him.”

Faulkner, a construction worker from California, previously visited Pakistan seven times, and this was his third trip to Chitral. According to police officials, he arrived in Chitral on June 2 “as a tourist,” checked into a hotel, and was given a security escort before disappearing.

The story of Gary Faulkner is both bizarre and fascinating. First, what if he had avoided police capture and crossed into Afghanistan? What would be the implications if Faulkner had actually caught and killed the al-Qaeda leader? Perhaps Pakistani authorities will be so impressed with Faulkner’s dedication that they will unleash him into the tribal wild, keeping their fingers crossed for an end to the ever-annoying “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden” question. For now though, the American has been detained for questioning in Peshawar, leaving us to only ponder potential future scenarios:

Potential scenario #1: Faulkner signs a contract with Fox for a new reality competition show tentatively titled, “Who Wants to be a (25) Millionaire?” Faulkner, the host of the reality series, leads young wannabe Faulkner-ites into Pakistan/Afghanistan, where they compete to capture bin Laden, armed only with spoons and baby powder. The winner receives $25 million and title of Top Bin Laden Hunter.

Potential scenario #2: Sylvester Stallone, famous monotone actor and director, replaces former it-boy Jason Statham with Gary Faulkner as a cast member on his upcoming film, The Expendables, about a team of mercenaries on a mission to South America to overthrow a dictator. When asked by reporters why he chose to switch Statham for Faulkner, Stallone answers (in monotone), “Faulkner. He’s so hot right now.”

Potential scenario #3: CNBC releases this headline on its news ticker, “Gary Faulkner merchandise sales single handedly push consumer confidence up, markets rally as a result.” This merchandise includes (but is not limited to) Gary Faulkner night vision goggles, Gary Faulkner autographed swords and daggers, and t-shirts that say, “I went to Pakistan to hunt Bin Laden and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”

Potential scenario #4: The Norwegian Nobel Committee awards the Peace Prize to Gary Faulkner “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen the one-man hunt for bin Laden.” The pundit-sphere debates over how yet another American wins the award without actually achieving anything.

Potential scenario #5: Chuck Norris jokes that became Jack Bauer jokes are now replaced with Gary Faulkner jokes. For example: Gary Faulkner destroyed the periodic table, because Gary Faulkner only recognizes the element of surprise.

Note: Potential scenario No. 5 is fast becoming a reality.

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Cutting edge technology? Na, try Google.

Last week, the FBI published fresh photographs of Osama bin Laden in an effort to track down the Al Qaeda leader and ideologue. In the first “age progressed” mug shot, the Guardian reported, “Forensic artists used digital enhancement to modify Bin Laden’s features in an attempt to show what he might now look like.”

At first glance, it looked like OBL was either badly in need of sunlight or prescribed to the same skin regimen as the late Michael Jackson [RIP, MJ]. Turns out that “digital enhancement” was just the product of really, really ridiculously good Googling.

Gasper Llamazares

According to news agencies yesterday, the mocked up image of OBL was withdrawn by the State Department after the FBI “admitted it was partly based on a photograph of a Spanish MP taken from the internet.” The intelligence agency reportedly updated the bin Laden photo using the grey hair, jaw line and forehead of politician Gaspar Llamazares, a member of Spain’s Communist party. Ken Hoffman, an FBI spokesman told the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, “The forensic artist was unable to find suitable features among the reference photographs and obtained those features, in part, from a photograph he found on the internet.”


According to Times Online, “Llamazares intends to ask the U.S. government for an explanation and is considering legal action.” He clarified at a news conference that he has “no similarity, physically or ideologically, to Bin Laden.” On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that the lawmaker rejected the U.S.-issued apology for the mix-up, telling reporters, “I want a thorough investigation into this disgraceful case, which not only causes concern but also worry and indignation over the behavior of the FBI.”

Turns out not all intelligence is intelligent. Go figure.

With reports that Tehreek-e-Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud was injured in a drone strike last week in South Waziristan, I hope the aforementioned “cutting edge” technology won’t be used to prove this development. Because it may look a little like this:

Fake Hakimullah.

Real Hakimullah.

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You can't outsmart ME, Wolfie.

I don’t know if you were able to catch Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on CNN’s Wolf Blitzer yesterday, but the official sat down and discussed U.S.-Pakistan relations with the news anchor, as well as America’s presence in Afghanistan. The interview went as expected, given the party lines/rhetoric that had to be toed, but one part of the segment particularly interested me. See below [courtesy CNN.com Transcripts]:

QURESHI: I think our [U.S.-Pakistan] relationship has qualitatively improved in the last year.

BLITZER: To the point of what?

QURESHI: To the point of greater engagement, to the point of building a new partnership.

BLITZER: Where is Bin Laden?

QURESHI: Who knows?

BLITZER: Where do you think?

QURESHI: I don’t know.

BLITZER: Why is it so hard to find him?

QURESHI: You tell me.

Zing! Qureshi-1, Blitzer-0. That back-and-forth tennis match literally had me laughing out loud. It always amazes me how anchors try to sneak in the “Where in the world is Bin Laden” question randomly into conversation, as if they’re trying to take the Pakistani official in question off guard. The moment was reminiscent of former President Pervez Musharraf‘s stint on Jon Stewart‘s Daily Show, when Stewart offered him a cup of tea, made jokes about twinkies, and then asked, “Where is Osama bin Laden?” Musharraf, without batting an eyelash, answered, “I don’t know. Do you know?

After all these years, I wonder if a news anchor will finally succeed in cracking a Pakistani politician/military/ISI official, who will confess, tears streaming down their face, “Bin Laden is my homeboy! We borrow Mullah Omar’s motorbike and go cruising for chicks at night!”

[Disclaimer: This post was meant to make you laugh, not make you angry. I understand the need to find Bin Laden, though I think his actual importance and influence today is a point worthy of discussion].

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Image Credit: NY Times

Image Credit: NY Times

On Wednesday, Al Jazeera aired segments of what they said was a new audiotape by Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. In the recording, Bin Laden asserted that U.S. policy in Pakistan has planted “new seeds of hatred and revenge against America,” adding that President Obama has proved he is “walking the same road of his predecessors to build enmity against Muslims and increasing the number of fighters, and establishing more lasting wars.” According to CNN, the speaker on the tape cited U.S. strikes, destruction and Obama’s “order” to President Zardari “to prevent the people of Swat from implementing Sharia law.” The message went on to say:

All this led to the displacement of about a million Muslim elders, women and children from their villages and homes. They became refugees in tents after they were honored in their own homes…This basically means that Obama and his administration put new seeds of hatred and revenge against America. The number of these seeds is the same as the number of those victims and refugees in Swat and the tribal area in northern and southern Waziristan. The American people need to prepare to only gain what those seeds bring up.

A CNN analysis of the audiotape as it aired indicated the voice on the tape sounds like bin Laden’s. CBS News cited U.S. intelligence officials who further confirmed the authenticity of the tape, but assured, “There’s no reason at this point to believe that any specific or credible threat is contained” in the message. A counterterrorism official told CBS, “There has never been a fake bin Laden tape. In the past, he has timed the release of the messages to major events. So it’s unsurprising that he chose this particular week…While the words are different, this latest message recycles many of the broad themes of messages past.” The NY Times, in its coverage, noted that the recording, if verified, is a signal that bin Laden “remains alive and in touch with current events, and that he retains effective channels of communication with the outside world.”

U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke addressed the audiotape during a press conference with Zardari today, and stated it was “ludicrous” to suggest that anyone but Al Qaeda and the Taliban are responsible for the refugee crisis in Pakistan. The U.S. official arrived in Pakistan Wednesday to assess the plight of the 2.4 million people displaced by the conflict in Pakistan’s northwest, reported Dawn. GEO Television quoted him during the news conference saying, “Today, the [U.S.] President has asked me to inform you and your government that he has requested the Congress of the United States to allocate an additional 200 million dollars…He [Obama] sent our team to Pakistan to do several things, first to show our concern to the people of Pakistan and to the world our concern for the internal refugees.”

Obama, meanwhile, is in Saudi Arabia on the first leg of his Middle East & Europe tour. The Osama bin Laden message was therefore strategically timed to be released as the U.S. President arrived in the Middle East, a trip intended to address a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict and improve the image of the United States in the Muslim world. On Thursday, the U.S. President will address the relationship between the United States and the Islamic World in a speech at the University of Cairo, [it will air at 610 EST]. According to BBC News, Obama “will hope to break with the hostility of recent years and set a new tone designed not only to isolate the extremists of Al Qaeda and the Taliban, but to re-establish the understanding America gained on 9/11 and lost in Iraq.

Although some have criticized the way Obama speaks about Islam as an entity, suggesting it “gives ammunition to those who define Islam as a political movement as well as a religion,” the administration’s press secretary Robert Gibbs said tomorrow’s speech “will outline his personal commitment to engagement, based upon mutual interests and mutual respect. He will discuss how the United States and Muslim communities around the world can bridge some of the differences that have divided them.”

Today, the NY Times featured a series of opinions from the region on what Obama should say in Thursday’s address. Shahan Mufti, a journalist from Pakistan, wrote,

When President Obama addresses the Muslim world his words will be best understood by the people of Pakistan — literally, that is, because this is one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. And today, with Pakistan being torn apart in a battle between the ideas of Western democracy and Islamic law, its people could use a few encouraging words from the American president, in the language the two nations share.

Below, is an Associated Press report featuring further opinions from Muslims around the world. I’d like CHUP readers to weigh in on this question as well – As Obama prepares to deliver his speech to the Muslim World tomorrow, what would you like to hear him say?

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