An official government report published by the Arab TV channel Al-Jazeera Monday reveals details surrounding the U.S. raid that killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, including how the man charged with organizing the 9/11 attacks could have been caught eight years earlier.
The 336-page report was written by the Abbottabad Commission, which was tasked by the Pakistani government with investigating the circumstances of the covert mission that killed bin Laden, was published by Al-Jazeera after being leaked to the station by unknown sources.
The report delves into how bin Laden was able to live in Pakistan undetected for nine years because of a breathtaking scale of negligence and incompetence at practically all levels of the Pakistani government.
The fact that the compound where bin Laden was hiding was located only about a half a mile from Pakistan’s equivalent of West Point led many in the U.S. to suspect Pakistani officials of aiding the al Qaeda chief, although officials never found evidence to back that up.
The report said it also found no evidence that current or former Pakistani officials helped bin Laden hide, although it couldn’t rule it out completely either. It said very little is known about the network of support that bin Laden had in Pakistan, other than the group of family and backers that lived with him in Abbottabad.
“To summarize, negligence and incompetence to a greater or lesser degree at almost all levels of government are clear,” said the report, which was based on testimony from more than 200 witnesses, official documents and site visits.
The report said it was shocking that nobody in the Pakistani government discovered bin Laden while he was living in Abbottabad for six years in a compound described as “hardly normal,” because it was somewhat isolated from homes around it, had very high walls and was protected by barbed wire. Bin Laden was also revealed to have worn a cowboy hat when he moved around the compound to avoid detection from above.
What’s more, Maryam, the wife of one of bin Laden’s bodyguards, is reported as saying a police officer pulled them over with bin Laden in the car in 2002 or 2003 while they were living in the northwest Swat Valley and were headed to a bazaar. She said her husband, Ibrahim al-Kuwaiti, settled the issue with the officer before bin Laden could be recognized.
“The extent of incompetence, to put it mildly, was astounding, if not unbelievable,” the report said.
Talking Points Memo pointed out other interesting details in the report, including that: the U.S. Navy SEALs conducting the mission took bin Laden’s will; bin Laden’s communications with other terrorist operatives is what ultimately allowed the U.S. to track him down; and bin Laden’s family were separated by a wall and didn’t socialize with other families in the compound.
“The whole episode of the U.S. assassination mission of May 2, 2011, and the Pakistani government’s response before, during and after appears in large part to be a story of complacency, ignorance, negligence, incompetence, irresponsibility and possibly worse at various levels inside and outside the government,” the report concluded.
Pakistani officials did not respond to requests for comment on the report’s authenticity.
The report was published on the same day that The Associated Press reported that the top U.S. special operations commander ordered military files about the raid on bin Laden’s hideout to be purged from Defense Department computers and sent to the CIA, where they could be more easily shielded from ever being made public.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.