Quick thoughts on Abbottabad Commission report

Much of the Abbottabad Commission report makes for rather humdrum reading. So Pakistan through incompetence – rather than conspiracy – failed to find the world’s most wanted man? Really? And the air defence systems are set up to watch India rather than the Afghan border? Didn’t I read that somewhere before?

There are nice details about bin Laden’s life on the run, of course, and some fresh accounts of the US raid to kill him.

But perhaps the most important thing for analysts and observers is the chance to hear from senior military figures, the then head of the ISI, for example, people who rarely speak publicly. So this tells us quite a bit more about Pakistan’s drone deal than we knew before…

Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who headed Pakistan’s premier Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency at the time of bin Laden’s killing in 2011, told investigators that drone strikes had their uses.

“The DG (director general) said there were no written agreements. There was a political understanding,” the report said.

The Americans had been asked to stop drone strikes because they caused civilian casualties, but “it was easier to say no to them in the beginning, but ‘now it was more difficult’ to do so,” it quoted the former spymaster as saying.

“Admittedly the drone attacks had their utility, but they represented a breach of national sovereignty. They were legal according to American law but illegal according to international law,” the report quoted the ISI chief as saying.

He also confirmed that Shamsi air base, in southwestern Pakistan, had been used for US drone strikes against people in the country.

I suspect his actual thinking may not be quite as muddled as the report suggests but once again it shows Pakistan’s deception over the use of drones.

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