Michael Waldron: Go NavyPublished 12:20am Thursday, May 12, 2011
Nothing ever happens late Sunday evening. That’s what I thought when my daughter called about 10:15 p.m. May 1 to tell me to turn on the TV because President Obama was going to make an announcement. I was not prepared to hear that Osama bin Laden had died in Pakistan.
One month ago, I wrote a column, “Pakistan kahan he (Where is Pakistan)?” The theme of the column was that Americans will hear a lot about that country, and American leaders must be knowledgeable of Pakistan’s geopolitical importance. Little did I know that Americans would this soon hear of Abbottabad, a little Pakistani town in the foothills of the Himalayas. By the way, Abbottabad is not a suburb of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, as has been reported, and it’s pronounced with the accent on the first syllable. My family and I drove through Abbottabad in the mid-1980s on our way up the Kagan Valley. Other than for its beauty and the location of Pakistan’s Military Academy and several Pakistani army units, it’s unremarkable. Now Americans know about Abbottabad because it was in Abbottabad where Osama bin Laden met his fate on May 1.
I would have guessed that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Afghanistan or in Pakistan’s border area in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of the Northwest Frontier Province. That’s where the central government’s control is tenuous. Abbottabad is definitely under the control of Pakistan. It’s crawling with Pakistani military units. If I had another chance to question General Pervez Musharraf, the ex-president of Pakistan, I would be less diplomatic than I was in September 2009 when he spoke to the Economic Club of Southwest Michigan. He didn’t like my question about the dubious loyalties of the Interservices Intelligence Directorate. He would like my questions today even less. It was no accident that we informed the Pakistani government after the raid that we had killed Osama bin Laden on its soil.
I think we need to reevaluate our relationship with Pakistan and our aid to that country. My patience with the complexity of Pakistan’s security situation is now exhausted. Pakistan’s military is obsessed with the threat from India. Its internal political instability and its poverty are, indeed, serious. We have given Pakistan billions in aid, which we couldn’t afford, for assistance in fighting terrorism, which has had mixed results. Pakistan has provided assistance in the past but little assistance lately, and now this.
There was one aspect of the operation on which all Americans will concur: the power and efficiency of the U.S. military. Forty SEALs from Afghanistan traveled by helicopter from Bagram, Afghanistan, into another country in the dead of night and landed inside a small compound in the mountains. That by itself was an incredibly dangerous operation. Then the team identified and killed the most wanted terrorist on the earth. I take great satisfaction that the last person Osama bin Laden saw on this earth was an American. The SEALs gathered information and left with Osama bin Laden’s body and untold treasures of terrorist information. After their return to Afghanistan, there was very good news—not one American casualty. I suppose we’ll never learn the identities of those men — I wish we could throw them a big parade. As an Army veteran, I’m proud of the fact that the Army got them there and back again safely. Thank you, guys.