It's enough to make neocon blogger Captain Ed wonder (again) whether Osama bin Laden is dead.
It has been more than a year since the last tape from bin Laden, one of his longest silences since 9/11. One might have expected an Osama tape crowing about Bush's midterm setback, or about the surge strategy in Baghdad, or perhaps the failure of the previous Baghdad security strategy.It's a frequent dream and hope of the uber-right - that Osama will cease to embarass Bush's refusal to go after him by simply and conveniently dropping dead. Osama may not be dead, but he has been forgotten by the American president who promised to bring him to justice and US forces admit his trail is cold.
Zawahiri has been more active, sending out a message every few weeks, trying to rally what's left of his organization. Usually they include statements of loyalty to Osama and urging the faithful to rally to bin Laden, not Mullah Omar. His focus on driving followers to Omar's banner in this latest message might indicate that bin Laden has reached room temperature, or less likely, been captured.
Which makes me wonder if Osama isn't being quietly held incommunicado somewhere by Pakistan's intellignce agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.
Because al-Zawahiri's call is tantamount to saying Moslems should unite under the banner of the ISI, for the Taliban. Mullah Omar and Al Qaeda are entirely the ISI's creatures and operate from ISI-provided safety in Pakistan. That has long been the claim of the governments of both Afghanistan and India and it was recently given even more weight when the Afghani government revealed that it had captured an ISI agent:
Mr Karimi [Afghan presidential spokesman - C] named the man arrested as Sayed Akbar, who he said worked for Pakistan's controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. "Some evidence and documents have been seized with him proving his destructive activities in Afghanistan," Mr Karimi told a news conference in the capital, Kabul.Many intelligence analysts outside the Bush administration accept the ties too. Last November, the prestigeous Jane's Intelligence Digest had this to say:
Sayed Akbar comes from the Chitral region of northern Pakistan bordering the Afghan province of Nuristan, the spokesman said. The BBC's Payenda Sargand in Kabul says, according to the Afghan authorities, Mr Akbar was in charge of relations between the ISI and al-Qaeda leaders.
Officials say he has confessed to his "illegal activities" in Afghanistan. These are said to include escorting Osama Bin Laden last year from Nuristan to Chitral.
Shifting its policy of half-heartedly cracking down on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, implemented in the wake of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US, Islamabad appears to have made a sombre decision to create the necessary conditions for regaining its strategic depth in Afghanistan by resuming its political and military support for the Taliban.Could the ISI be acting as a rogue agency within the Pakistani government? Logic says it could - at least as much as the Quods arm of the Iranian revolutionary guards could be acting outwith Iranian government sanction in Iran, anyway.
Ever since the Taliban regime was overthrown in 2001, Afghan officials and coalition commanders have criticised Islamabad for not doing enough to crack down on the Taliban operating from Pakistani territory and have often accused the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), for actively supporting them.
The evidence from NATO's two-week long Operation Medusa in Kandahar province in mid-September, in which hundreds of Taliban were killed, further confirm Pakistan's involvement in the Taliban resurgence. Several independent intelligence estimates from the region also indicate that in recent months the ISI-sponsored training camps and jihadist madrassahs have swelled along the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Yet the Bush administrations response to Pakistan's meddling in Afghanistan is to offer President Musharaff of Pakistan more support and more advanced weaponry, even while it is becoming obvious that NATO forces are playing whack-a-mole with Taliban forces who are becoming increasingly adept at tactics of the kind used by Al Qaeda in Iraq and increasingly able to use Pakistani soil with relative impunity.