The liquidation of Osama bin Laden is a cause for full-throated national celebration. It must also be the occasion for a redirection of our efforts to wage and win what has been misnamed “the War on Terrorism.” At last, we must recognize the struggle we are in for what it is – the War for the Free World – and begin taking all the steps necessary to win it, not just some of them.
For starters, let’s consider some of the areas in which lessons can already be learned in light of what is now known about the takedown of al Qaeda’s leader:
Ferreting out bin Laden’s safe haven in Abbattabad, Pakistan is the latest affirmation of the importance of human intelligence. While various technical means of monitoring his couriers’ communications and movements played a role, in the end it appears there really is no substitute for old-fashioned spying and tradecraft. The need to correct continuing – and in some cases acute – shortfalls in this area should feature prominently in the upcoming confirmation hearings for the outgoing and incoming CIA Directors, Secretary of Defense-designate Leon Panetta and General David Petraeus, respectively.
That imperative is especially pressing when foreign “liaison” services are as manifestly unreliable as is now indisputably true of Pakistan’s double-dealing intelligence agency, the ISI. Ever since Jimmy Carter’s Director of Central Intelligence, Stansfield Turner, set about dismantling U.S. “humint” capabilities – and especially since 9/11 – America has relied to a great and unwise degree on information and agents supplied by others.
The fact that the Pakistanis could not be apprised of the operation that took out bin Laden until after it was over – to say nothing of the manner in which he was “hiding” in a million-dollar compound behind 12-foot walls in close proximity to some of Pakistan’s key military installations – tells us everything we need to know about the untrustworthiness of our so-called ally, and the extent to which it is working with our foes.
These insights come, moreover, on the heels of published reports last week that Pakistan’s prime minister and the director of the ISI paid a visit to Afghan president Hamid Kharzi. In its course, they are said to have pressed him to cut ties with the United States and partner instead with their country and its ally, Communist China.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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