It may be recalled that after the attacks on the World Trade Center of September 11, 2001, President Bush was demanding the extradiction of Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, insisting that he be brought to the United States to face prosecution for organizing the attacks. Osama bin Laden is an international terrorist who is recognized as the spiritual leader and primary sponsor of Al Qaeda, a loosely organized international alliance of militant Sunni jihadist organizations.
The FBI has stated that evidence linking Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden to the attacks of September 11 is clear and irrefutable. So far, however, the U.S. Justice Department has not sought formal criminal charges against bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks. Two separate indictments were made against bin Laden by two separate grand juries in 1998 for two separate terrorist acts, although no indictments have been filed against him for the events of 9/11. Perhaps this is because President Clinton signed an executive order in 1998 authorizing bin Laden’s arrest or assassination, making a trial and conviction for the 9/11 crimes unnecessary.
Mullah Muhammad Omar
When the Taliban government of Afghanistan refused to hand bin Laden over on the grounds of insufficient evidence, the United States government under the leadership of George Bush was so incensed that it launched attacks in October of 2001 against Taliban and Al Qaeda positions in Afghanistan. The United States also began providing financial aid and other assistance to the “Northern Alliance” and other opposition groups. Assisted by U.S. air strikes, opposition forces ousted the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces from Afghanistan’s major urban centres in November and December. Several thousand U.S. troops began entering the country in November, mainly to concentrate on the search for bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and to deal with the remaining pockets of their forces. Both Osama bin Laden and Muhammad Omar escaped capture during the American invasion of Afghanistan and are presumed to be still at large. There is speculation that both men could be in Pakistan, but there is no conclusive proof.
President Bush was asked during a 2002 White house press conference if he was concerned that Osama bin Laden may be still pose a threat to the United States. The President replied “He has no place to train his al Qaeda killers anymore. And if we — excuse me for a minute — and if we find a training camp, we’ll take care of it. Either we will or our friends will. That’s one of the things — part of the new phase that’s becoming apparent to the American people is that we’re working closely with other governments to deny sanctuary, or training, or a place to hide, or a place to raise money.”
President Pervez Musharraf
As recently as July 2007, however, NATO leaders and our current Afghan allies have joined together in criticizing Pakistan for failing to end the Taliban’s use of territories bordering Afghanistan as a safe haven – regions where pro-Taliban and Al Qaida Pakistanis have control. It is believed that Pakistan is being used as a base of operations for anti-American activity worldwide. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf discounts this accusation and Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao has stated that “Osama bin Laden is not in Pakistan. If anyone has the information he should give it to us, so that we can apprehend him.” Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad also ruled out the possibility of conducting joint operations with U.S. forces on Pakistani soil to target extremists.
Major General Waheed Arshad
During the war, millions of Afghans flooded over the borders shared with Pakistan and Iran. Although the majority of the Afghan refugees abroad have returned since the overthrow of the Taliban, at the beginning of 2005 it was estimated that some 2.1 million Afghanis were still refugees, with most of those in Pakistan and Iran. The people of the region share common religious beliefs and ethnic backgrounds with the Afghan refugees, and are often in opposition to policies espoused by their national governments. In Pakistan, provincial governors, rich landlords and local military commanders still dominate politics throughout large areas of the country. The central government has limited and divided authority.
Even though it appears that the United States’ most dangerous enemies are taking refuge within the borders of its ersatz ally Pakistan, there is nothing America can do to bring them to justice. Ironically, the countries proven to be notorious incubators for anti-American sentiments and the source of major funding for terror cells globally are among those most publicly touted as being American allies – Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
American forces dare not take unilateral action in the northwest provinces of Pakistan because Pakistan is a nuclear power capable of fighting back if the U.S. military initiates an unauthorized incursion onto their soil. In Saudi Arabia’s case, it is the primary source of foreign oil for both Europe and the United States. The world economy would be radically destabilized if Saudi Arabia’s oil production were interrupted by terrorist attacks in retaliation for an American occupation of Islam’s most holy land.
Instead, the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, claiming that Saddam Hussein was “the world’s most dangerous threat to American national security”. President George W. Bush claimed that the objective of the invasion was “to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, to end Saddam Hussein’s support for terrorism, and to free the Iraqi people”. As of July 2007, no weapons of mass destruction have been found, no evidence has been provided to demonstrate that the Iraqi invasion has reduced global terrorist activity, and the Iraqi people are still not free; the American military has replaced Saddam Hussein’s forces as the occupation army in Iraq.
President Bush and Saudi Prince Abdullah
Perhaps the elimination of terrorists is not the United States’ greatest priority in the Middle East after all. Perhaps maintaining their own military presence in the region and thereby securing the region’s oil supplies is more important. Perhaps this is why President Bush, when asked about Osama bin Laden and his whereabouts, stated: “I don’t know where he is. I — I’ll repeat what I said. I truly am not that concerned about him.”