Gosh, if we'd only known about Mullah Omar, we could've at least sent a card or something
We could have had, like, a little memorial service? Or maybe sent a nice floral arrangement? (A local florist would have known what's in season over there.)
Milt Bearden, a former CIA operative in Pakistan and Afghanistan, said that “it is beyond puzzling” that Omar’s death could go unconfirmed for so long, especially given the intelligence and surveillance capabilities of the United States.
But “it’s another case of why intelligence collection in that part of the world is so difficult,” Bearden said. “The truth is layered, and there are multiple agendas, none of which we ever really understand.”
-- from "Taliban leader Omar's tale reflects clashing
agendas," by the Washington Post's Greg Miller
It's a relief to find that a certified secret-intelligence pro is "beyond puzzled" by that two-year gap in getting out news of the death of Mullah Omar. At the same time, you wouldn't think that "alive" or "dead" would be a truth subject to such extensive layering.
Meanwhile, I'll bet there are Taliban fighers all over Greater Talibania frantically searching their memories now trying to figure out just how long ago it was they got that inspiring yet terrifying order: "Please to dispatch 20 infidels by sundown also clean out your cave it's disgusting. Kind regards Mullah O." Because as we know now, if the message came less than two years ago, it appears most unlikely that it was from the One-Eyed One after all, and it's now a much less interesting story to tell strangers passing through, not to mention the grandkids. ("You know, Mullah Omar and I were so close that . . . .")
After all, it was just a couple of weeks ago that there was buzz about the sudden appearance of a message from Mullah Omar. Daily Outlook Afghanistan reported "Mullah Omar's Dramatic Emergence; An Impetus to Talks."
As breaking-newsbreaks go, it has to be that some luster is taken off the news of Mullah Omar's death by the fact that the event apparently happened two years ago. I wonder what would happen if I tried telling my landlord or mobile-phone service provider that that payment they're so hot to have is on its way when I what I really mean is "at some point in the next two years . . ."
It may also take some of the top off memorial services for Mullah O, the fact that the man hasn't been with us for, you know, two years now. You know that sparkling grape juice you were planning to serve? (It surely wouldn't do to celebrate the passing of a fundamentalist Muslim fighter with sparkling wine. I guess in view of the nature of this particular celebration, you'd want to open the bottles so the fizz goes flat.
One thing I don't think we have to worry about is the late Mullah O feeling slighted by the delay in recognition of his passing. I'm guessing he'd be pleased as punch to have put another one over on the Western infidels. At the same time, if he felt slighted in life by all the attention focused on that upstart interloper in his country Osama bin-Laden, he might smart at public disclosure that his whereabouts and elimination were subjects of vastly less interest to the Western infidel security apparatus -- that basically we infidels didn't give all that big a whoop whether Omar was alive or dead.
As to reasons why the news may be so late in coming, near the end of Greg Miller's Washington Post report we learn: "A former Pakistani official said parts of the government may have sought to keep Omar's death secret out of fear that Taliban factions would splinter without him and damage Islamabad’s ability to influence peace talks with Afghanistan."
The Western infidel security people certainly had inklings. Here's the start of Greg Miller's report:
In early 2011, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta confronted the president of Pakistan with a disturbing piece of intelligence. The spy agency had learned that Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader who had become one of the world’s most wanted fugitives after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was being treated at a hospital in southern Pakistan.Which suggests that if perhaps you were undergoing a medical procedure that you hoped might be kept under wraps -- a little cosmetic work, say -- that Karachi is a destination worth considering. As scary a place as we're often told it is, especially for Westerners, it does appear that the hospitals there know a thing or two about patient confidentiality.
The American spy chief even identified the facility — the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi — and said the CIA had “some raw intelligence on this” that would soon be shared with its Pakistani counterpart, according to diplomatic files that summarize the exchange.
U.S. intelligence officials now think that Omar probably died two years later, in 2013, and Afghan officials said this week that he succumbed while being treated for a serious illness in a Karachi hospital, just as those earlier intelligence reports had indicated.
But I digress.
The belated disclosure this week of Omar’s death has added to the legend of the ghostlike Taliban chief, a figure so elusive that it appears to have taken U.S. spy agencies two years to determine that one of their top targets after 9/11 was no longer alive.The Pakistanis, of course, don't want to hear this.
But the emerging details of Omar’s death may also help explain the extent to which his ability to remain both influential and invisible was a reflection of the competing and often hidden agendas in the counterterrorism partnership between the United States and Pakistan.
Current and former U.S. officials said that despite intermittent intelligence on Omar’s whereabouts, there was never a concerted push to find him that remotely approached the scale of the manhunt for al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
At the same time, the one-eyed Taliban leader’s apparent ability to get medical treatment in the port city of Karachi has bolstered long-standing suspicions that Omar was being sheltered by Pakistan.
A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”Then again, for any number of reasons, including all those drones we keep sending their way, Pakistani intelligence officials haven't been exactly Chatty Cathies with us in recent years. Robert Grenier, a former CIA station chief in Pakistan and former CIA counterterrorism chief tells Greg Miller of the relationship with Pakistan's much-feared intelligence directorate, the ISI:
A Pakistani official described claims that Omar died in Pakistan or that the government was even aware of his presence in the country as “unfounded speculation.”
Pretty quickly you could see a pattern. Where the ISI was very effective working with us in tracking down al-Qaeda, anytime we had a lead on a senior member of the Taliban, the Pakistanis weren’t successful in following up.But then, Grenier also notes, "We were overwhelmingly focused on al-Qaeda." When U.S. forces stumbled across Taliban leaders, it seems to have been a surprise both to us and to the Pakistanis.
And Pakistani officials aren't necessarily all that high on the ISI's "need to know" list. A source described as "a former Pakistani official" -- the same former Pakistani official we heard earlier speculating that the Pakistani government may have deliberately tried to keep Mullah Omar's death secret for fear of post-Omar factionalizing of the Tabliban -- says "the ISI told Pakistani leaders in March this year 'that Mullah Omar is seriously ill and his condition is deteriorating.' "
It seems he could only have wished to be "seriously ill" and "deteriorating" this past March. So it goes.