The Spectacle Blog

Zawahiri Alive?

By on 1.14.06 | 4:09PM

There are several interesting aspects of the apparent failure of the CIA to kill al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. First, for us to be mounting such an attack on Pakistani soil requires first intelligence sufficient to justify the mission and second, permission from the Pakistani government to do it. The latter, since 2001, has been regularly supplied though best concealed. For example, when mounting the attack on the Taliban, the Pakistanis allowed American landings on their soil, but only between dark and dawn. The lengths to which we went to help Pakistan conceal its assistance to us were considerable. That such a mission would be mounted openly now indicates that Musharraf believes his grip on power is greater than it was four years ago.

Second, though we did mount this operation on Pakistani soil, the failure of the mission gives rise to the question of whether the rules of engagement Pakistan has agreed to may have compromised it. Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, was one of the creators of the Taliban. How much were we required to tell the ISI, and did they warn Zawahiri?

Third, and perhaps most important, is whether the intelligence we acted on was Pakistani, our own, from a third source, or a combination of one or more. Our apparently increasing confidence level in the intel -- if justified -- could be the basis for more action in Pakistan. And in Iran.

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