WASHINGTON - Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton breaks no new ground in her latest book as far as the US commandos raid that killed Osama in Laden is concerned, and instead harps on the same old tune that Pakistan was not informed because Washington knew that elements in ISI maintained close ties with al-Qaeda and Taliban.
In her memoir ‘Hard Choices’, which hit the book stores on Tuesday, Clinton writes at length about the search and the tensions that compounded after US Navy SEALS entered Abbottabad unilaterally to get the al-Qaeda leader. “I knew how offended they (Pakistanis) would be if we did not share this information with them,” Clinton writes. “But I also knew that elements in the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, maintained ties to the Taliban, al Qaeda, and other extremists. The risks of blowing the whole operation were just too great.” Clinton has often heralded the raid that killed bid Laden as one of her proudest moments at State. She writes that she was an early and vocal supporter of the raid and watched with bated breath as the Navy SEALS entered his compound. She says that top US officials, including President Barack Obama and the then Defence Secretary Robert Gates had detailed discussions on the issue including the possibility of Pakistan using the occasion to launch an attack on India. But finally it was decided not to inform Pakistan. “Our relationship with Pakistan, America’s nominal ally in the fight against terrorism, was already very troubled. If the Pakistani military discovered a secret incursion into their airspace, it was possible they’d respond with force,” Clinton writes.
“We had debated whether to inform Pakistan about the raid ahead of time in order to avoid this scenario and the complete breakdown in relations that could follow. After all, as Bob Gates often reminded us, Pakistani cooperation would continue to be needed to resupply our troops in Afghanistan and pursue other terrorists in the border region,” she says in the book. “We had been burned by leaks before. The risks of blowing the whole operation were just too great,” said the former Secretary of State, who is considered as a strong potential presidential candidate for the 2016 elections.
“At one point another senior administration official asked if we needed to worry about irreparably wounding Pakistani national honour,” Clinton writes.
“Maybe it was the pent-up frustration from dealing with too much double-talk and deception from certain quarters in Pakistan, or the still-searing memories of the smoking pile in Lower Manhattan, but there was no way I was going to let the United States miss our best chance at bin Laden since we lost him at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in 2001.
“‘What about our national honour?’ I said in exasperation. “What about our losses? What about going after a man who killed three thousand innocent people?” Clinton recalls.
“The road to Abbottabad ran from the mountain passes of Afghanistan through the smoking ruins of our embassies in East Africa and the shattered hull of the USS Cole, through the devastation of 9/11 and the dogged determination of a handful of US intelligence officers who never gave up the hunt,” she says.
“The bin Laden operation did not end the threat of terrorism or defeat the hateful ideology that fuels it. That struggle goes on. But it was a signal moment in America’s long battle against al-Qaeda,” Clinton says.
And on drones, Clinton writes that every drone strike was subjected to “rigorous and legal policy review.”
She writes that she supported some proposed strikes but did oppose others, writing one time “my good friend Leon Panetta, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and I had a shouting match over one proposed strike.”
She did not provide details about the tiff. She says because the program was classified she could not talk publicly about it “nor was I free to express America’s sympathies for the loss of any innocent life or our course of action was the one least likely to harm civilians.”