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July 28, 2019

How ISI’s intelligence sharing helped CIA track Osama

National

July 28, 2019

ISLAMABAD: A top retired security official said that ISI had no information of Osama bin Laden’s (OBL) presence in Abbottabad, and what Prime Minister Imran Khan recently said in a television interview in Washington was apparently concerning Pakistani agency’s intelligence input which had helped CIA reach a close associate of OBL.

Talking to The News, on condition of not being named, the retired officer said that Pakistan’s position remains unchanged i.e. ISI had no knowledge of OBL’s presence in Pakistan.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that the “ISI provided a lead” to the CIA that helped the US track down and kill the terror group al-Qaeda’s chief in 2011. Khan’s statement caused a controversy and many politicians here criticised Imran Khan for making this claim.

It is said that the prime minister’s statement that the “ISI provided a lead” is possibly a reference to the already known fact that Pakistan had shared details of a mobile number that was used by a close associate of OBL — Abu Ahmed Ali Kuwaiti.

Even leaked parts of Abbottabad Commission report had revealed that the arrest of Khalid Bin Attash (an al-Qaeda member who was involved in the pre-9/11 attacks such as on USS Cole and the embassies in Africa) in ‘2002’ from Karachi led to the first major breakthrough – he was the one who identified Abu Ahmed Ali Kuwaiti (the Kuwaiti born Pakistani who was OBL’s right hand man and courier and the man who led the Americans to Bin Laden).

The report, according to a story published in Dawn, had disclosed that during the search for this man (Kuwaiti), CIA had provided four phone numbers between “2009 to Nov 2010” to Pakistan but without any details as to who they were searching for. A story added that these numbers “most of the time remained off” but while the ISI kept the CIA in the loop it did so “without knowing the context and to whom these numbers belonged”.

“Now in retrospect, the commission report confirms Attash’s disclosure – Kuwaiti was OBL’s right hand man,” the story read.

For the same reason, former CIA Director General David Petraeus said a few days back that he is "convinced" that the Pakistani intelligence agencies did not know Osama bin Laden (OBL) was in Pakistan.

"We are quite convinced that the ISI, Pakistani intelligence, no one else knew that OBL was there in Pakistan. They were not harbouring him or hiding him or anything like that. We have very good insights on that. We probably differ with those who said that the Pakistanis were allowing him to live in that particular compound in Abbottabad," he said.

A few years after the US Abbottabad episode, The News while quoting an unnamed leading security official had disclosed, “The US intelligence had recorded the telephonic conversation between the then Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and ISI Chief Lt General Ahmad ShujaPasha soon after the May 2, 2011 Abbottabad assault, which actually had made Washington to trust Pakistani establishment’s view that it was not in knowledge of Osama bin Laden’s presence there.”

The leading security official of the country in an informal talk with The News had claimed that Washington would never had trusted Islamabad and its military establishment here if they themselves had not heard what was discussed between the Army Chief and the ISI Chief soon after they were informed of the Abbottabad attack.

It was reported by this newspaper that both Kayani and Pasha had expressed their shock over the presence of Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad.