Facing an unprecedented security situation in the aftermath of US Operation Geronimo that eliminated Osama bin Laden, Pakistan is reaching out to other regional and global powers. China and Russia are particularly alarmed by the renewed American unilateralism. This analysis also examines the timing of Osama’s elimination.
The uncertain environment that has resulted from the US raid on May 2nd has forced Pakistan to launch an aggressive outreach plan. Prime Minister Gilani has just retuned from a three-day trip to France, as President Zardari was reportedly heading to Kuwait. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rahman Malik was in Saudi Arabia yesterday and delivered a special message from President Zardari to King Abdullah.
On the other hand Gen. Pasha was heading to US to meet with his counterparts there. However, the most significant development is President Zardari’s visit to Russia next week on the invitation of President Medvedev.
In the post Osama environment and unexpected NATO escalation in Libya, Russia and China are increasingly sympathetic towards Pakistan’s predicament and concerned about fresh US lineation towards unilateralism. The daring US operation that eliminated the most wanted man in history also appears to have fatally injured its relations with Pakistan. With the July deadline for start of US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaching fast, the days of strategic dialogue and mere posturing are over.
The Americans had known about Osama’s Abbottabad hideout for a while, other than planning of the operation, the question arises why did it chose this particular time to eliminate him? There are three probable reasons for that:
In the aftermath of Raymond affair and continued drone attacks, Pakistan was showing signs of moving away from the war on terror all together. The presence of Osama in Pakistan has raised the possibility that other Taliban and Al Qeada leaders are also hiding there, and this puts the onus on the country to act against them.
Pakistan wanted to escalate the route of political solution to the Afghan conflict at this juncture, while US wanted to further weaken Taliban before approaching the political solution. Using the discovery of Osama, US would want to speed up Pakistani operations against Taliban and other extremists and prevent them from getting involved in Middle East.
To counter any advantage Al Qaeda was planning to take from the chaos in the Middle East. Particularly in places like Yemen, Egypt and Libya. Al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Aiman al-Zawahri had urged Muslims to fight NATO and the US if their forces invade an Islamic country in a video message issued in April. The footage was recorded before western air assaults started in Libya. Aiman al-Zawahri also urged Muslims to fight the pro-Qaddafi forces. Al-Qaeda and its North African division had called for Qaddafi’s removal from power and the establishment of Sharia (Islamic law) in the country. In the video posted on online militant forums in April, Zawahri said that neighboring Tunisia, Algeria and Egypt, in particular, must rise up and confront the NATO forces.