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Pakistan: Abbottabad Commission Indicts Pakistan Army & ISI

Paper No. 5529                                      Dated 18-Jul-2013

By Dr. Subhash Kapila

Introductory Observations

The Abbottabad Commission Report appointed by the previous Government of Pakistan to investigate into Pakistan’s inadequacies which enabled the United States to launch its Special Forces Operations to liquidate Osama bin Laden deep within Pakistani territory and that too in Pakistan Army’s major Garrison town of Abbottabad stands leaked and openly reproduced recently by Al Jazeera TV network.

The Report was handed over to the then PPP Prime Minister of Pakistan in January 2013 but had been kept under wraps presumably because the PPP regime did not wish to handle a ‘hot potato’ in the few months left of its tenure.

 Pakistan’s present Government of PM Nawaz Sharif has chosen so far not to offer any official comments after the Abbottabad Commission Report stood leaked to the public domain.

It is not intended to dissect the 326 page Report here but to highlight some salient aspects of the indictments contained or implied therein.

The Commission referred to the collective failure of all organs(?) of the Pakistani State in being oblivious and unaware of the US intentions to mount Special Operations to liquidate Osama bin Laden ensconced deep within the protective perimeter of Pakistan Army’s major garrison town of Abbottabad. In fact the Commission coined the term “Governance Implosion Syndrome” to describe the failure of Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, notably the ISI under direct control of the Pakistan Army Chief.

The defence of Pakistan’s sovereignty and any attacks thereon is the direct responsibility of the Pakistan Army Chief and especially in the case of Pakistan where the Army Chief is the “Supreme Commander” in virtually every connotation of this term.

 Culpability therefore rests squarely on the shoulders of Pakistan Army Chief General Kayani in that the United States Special Operations could intrude deep into Pakistan’s territory and into well-guarded Pakistan Army cantonment housing premier Army installations and that too without any Pakistan Army interference or counterattack against a small body of US Special Forces as the operation was underway with a lot of gunfire and explosions taking place. It was only a stone’s throw away from the prestigious Pakistan Military Academy, which is heavily guarded by layers of Pakistan Army troops and Quick Reaction Teams.

On whose orders was the entire Pakistan Armed Forces set-up stood so paralysed and inactive for nearly three hours as the US Special Forces continued their mission to liquidate Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad and exited Pakistan?

This can be gauged from the chronology of events of the raid and the timings incorporated in the Abbottabad Commission Inquiry Report appended below as an Appendix.

The Commission in its Report gave indicators but did not pursue to its logical conclusion the question of connivance, collaboration and cooperation by Pakistani elements in furtherance of United States Special Forces Operations in Abbottabad.

In its Conclusions the Commission reflects that “Culpable negligence and incompetence at all levels of Government can be more or less conclusively established by testimonies of interviewees. But connivance, collaboration and cooperation at some levels cannot be discounted. If some level of connivance existed it could not have been established in the circumstances in which the Commission operated. Some degree of connivance on a plausible deniability basis outside governmental structures was possible, some would say even likely.”

Which organs of Pakistan Government operated outside the pale of Government authority and structures?  Obviously, the Pakistan Army, the Pakistan Army Chief and the ISI under his direct control, all of which are beyond governmental control in Pakistan.

Pakistani Defence Minister in his testimony testified “that he was not kept in the loop at all times by the bureaucracy and the military regarding not just this incident but the entire functioning of the Department”. What more can be said as to who controls Pakistan?

The Pakistan Army Chief chose not to be interviewed by the Commission and the Pakistan Army Director General of Military Operations in his appearance before the Commission refused to answer any questions about Osama bin Laden and the US Special Forces Operations.

The Pakistan Army Chief and his Generals, a law unto themselves, even though a civilian government existed in Pakistan, by all logical deductive analysis therefore stand indicted for what appears as collusion and connivance at the highest echelons of the Pakistan Army, in furtherance of the US Special Forces Operations in Abbottabad to liquidate Osama bin Laden. This stood reflected earlier in my Papers of that time. .

To argue otherwise would then lead to an even more damaging conclusion that the Pakistan Army Chief and the entire higher command structure were professionally incompetent and stood paralysed as Pakistan’s sovereignty was being trampled upon unopposed by US Special Forces Operations in Abbottabad after intrusion into Pakistan airspace  unchallenged.

Either way on both counts the Pakistan Army Chief stands indicted even though the Commission may not have said it in so many words.

The Commission was constrained to ask many senior military officers including the Director General ISI “Is it the official or unofficial defence policy of Pakistan not to attempt to defend the country if attacked by a military superpower like the United States?”

Pakistan Army’s notorious intelligence agency operating under the direct control of the Pakistan Army Chief, and distinct from the Military Intelligence of the General Headquarters, logically stands indicted for its failure on all fronts. Military intelligence and civil intelligence agencies all testified that the ISI never chose to share any intelligence with them and hence a “dense fog” predominated their functioning.

From the testimonies of all military officials of the Abbottabad Garrison what appears was that ‘orders from higher up’ were that they should only provide outer cordons of the Osama bin Laden residence after the raid and let the ISI handle all matters pertaining to the aftermath of the US raid. What becomes also obvious was that even the Garrison Quick Reaction Teams which were on the scene in reasonable time seemed to have been held back from normal military reactions to such an occurrence.

Regrettably what appears from evidence is that not only Pakistan’s civil authorities and police set-up but also Pakistan Army outfits too stand paralysed by the ISI domination of all governance, law and order and crisis management activities.

Rather curiously the DG ISI Lt Gen Shuja Pasha made some statements before the Commission like  “We are a failing state even if we are not yet a failed state” and further acknowledging that “The ISI was part of the systemic problem confronting Pakistan and that the real problem was the inability of the state to establish its writ”. Were these afterthoughts after retirement?

The Pakistan Army Chief and his handpicked DG ISI, as a duo, were the poster boys of the United States in Pakistan and on their continuance in office they were given extensions in office, under pressure from the United States. If ever there was collusion and connivance with the United States for the Abbottabad Operations by the US Special Forces, it could have logically been at this level only.

Concluding, it can be observed that Pakistan may not have officially commented on the leakage of the Abbottabad Commission Report, but whosoever may have leaked it, strikes one more nail solidly into the reputation of the professionalism of the Pakistan Army.

With a new Government coming into power virtually coinciding with the leakage of the Report denting Pakistan Army’s image, this could provide strong reasons for a welcome re-casting of civil-military relations in Pakistan.



United States Abbottabad Special Operations to Liquidate Osama bin Laden: Sequence of Events & Timings-Night 2/3 May 2011

1.      US Forces Take Off from Jalalabad---------2300-2310 hrs.

2.      Enter Pakistan Air Space                 --------2320 hrs.

3.       US Forces reach Abbottabad----0030 hrs.

4.      Conduct of Operations at OBL Residence—0030-0106 hrs.

5.      Pak Police & Army QRTs arrive at scene—0015-0130 hrs.                  

6.      Pak Army Chief speaks to Pak Air Force Chief of US Raid                                                            -----0207 hrs.

7.      Pak Air Force F-6s Fighters Get Airborne   -----0250 hrs.

8.      Pak Army Chief Speaks to Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary about US Raid on Abbottabad    --------0300-0310 hrs.

9.      Pak Army Chief informs President             ----------0615 hrs.


1.      Pakistan Air Force heard about the raid not from its Air Defence or Radar Set-ups but on a call from Pak Army Chief at about 0207 hrs. That is nearly 2 hrs.-47 minutes after US intrusion into Pakistan airspace had taken place.

2.      Pakistan Army Chief seemingly springs into action only after US Special Forces team exit Pakistan in their helicopters carrying the dead body of Osama bin Laden with them.

(Dr Subhash Kapila is the Consultant, International Relations & Strategic Affairs, South Asia Analysis Group. He can be reached at <