Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Where in the World is... Osama bin Laden?

General McChrystal believes that capturing or killing ObL is a key in the war in Afghanistan. I agree. But, I gotta tell you, I don't think we're going to find him. That's because, in my opinion, he's not in Afghanistan and he's not in Pakistan. Let's go to the map:

Bin Laden escapes from NATO forces in Tora Bora in 2001 and hasn't been seen since. That was 8 years ago. If he is interested in any degree of self-preservation, he would get the hell out of Dodge, because either the US will find him or there is always the possibility that the Pakistanis find him and offer him as a prize to the US. Consequently, aid shoots through the roof, Pakistan is praised as a stalwart ally in the region-- Pakistan sticks its tongue out at India and grabs a hold of America's hand as the two walk into the sunset together.

Some possible scenarios:

Option 1. Bin Laden escapes the region. He has to go through either Iran or the Central Asian dictatorships-- I mean, republics. Right. Would the Iranians give him safe passage, assuming he was identified or outright asked their permission? Well, yeah I think. Our boy Ahmadinejad might pull a little historical lesson out of his pocket: The US helped the Mujahideen in Afghanistan to make the occupation more costly for the Soviets. A-mad, by granting bin Laden safe passage out of the region, could effectively accomplish the same thing against the Americans. From there, bin Laden either goes to Africa (Ethiopia perhaps), which isn't too likely. I'd say he goes back to Saudi Arabia.

WHA! But the Saudis are our allies! Well yeah, but no, kind of. It's no secret that the Saudis fund Pakistani madrassas that teach Wahhabi Islam (the brand of radical, ultra-fundamentalist Islam that al Qaeda and the Taliban subscribe to [and notably, much of the Islamic world scorns]) in Afghanistan. Effectively, they play a double game: Let Americans overthrow Saddam (a secularist dictator not interested in forming an Iraqi Islamic Republic), let the Americans save Kuwait (a fellow OPEC member and regional neighbor)-- but undercut the Americans in Afghanistan. It sort of makes sense, from a Saudi perspective. With bin Laden safe in Saudi Arabia, he can continue to fund Al Qaeda, receive medical attention, and generally be an unreachable pain in the ass for the US. Plus, with the Saudi brand of near complete control of all aspects of society, we will not find him if he is there.

Option 2. He's dead. Yeah. He died a few years ago. Just sitting on a rock, picking his fingernails, then-- poof. Dead. Natural or napalm, it makes no difference. But if we never confirm his death or find a body or grave, much like the 12th Imam for Shi'i, he will continue to influence the movement, attain a saintly status, and never go away.

Option 3. He's still in Af/Pak. That's pretty dumb.

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