The death of Osama Bin Laden brings to a close possibly the biggest manhunt in history, a fifteen year search requiring the cooperation of half the world’s security forces, unknowable sums of money and countless lives in collateral damage.
The relief and, in many cases, joy shared by most of the world may well be tempered though in the country which played host to him for years.
Although the Pakistani government denies it, western security forces long suspected Osama Bin Laden was hiding around villages in the mountainous tribal areas of Waziristan in the depths of North-East Pakistan.
The revelation that he was not only in an urban area but was only 45 miles from the capital Islamabad, has caused serious aspersions to have been cast upon the Pakistani Government, its intelligence services (ISI) and its relationship with the West.
The White House has thus far failed to comment on how this will affect relations with one of the United States’ strongest allies in the region, though media speculation that the ISI must have known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts has been rife.
The recent history of America’s relationship with Pakistan is a complex one, with the CIA suspecting the ISI of playing a double game and allowing extremist groups to survive around their borders as insurance against alienating parts of the population.
This is further complicated by Pakistan’s nuclear capabilities; America is likely apprehensive that strained relations may create a backlash causing weapons of mass destruction to fall into extremist hands.
Under the Obama administration, relations have been further damaged by the U.S. military’s use of Predator Drones which some reports claim have cost the lives of thousands of Pakistani civilians. It says a great deal about the trust between these allies that Pakistan’s foreign minister has openly admitted that they were not consulted about the raid on the Abbottabad compound.
The future of Pakistan-West relations remains unclear, as intelligence services attempt to unearth what support system Bin Laden had operating in the heart of the country. The Pakistani government is likely to come under fresh pressure to take a new, tougher stance against extremist groups in the country. The Obama administration’s position has no doubt been fortified.
Whether or not the United States’ use of Predator Drones continues, it is unlikely to encounter many questions regarding its past use of this sinister example of modern weaponry. Pakistan’s government is likely to tread carefully as America and other countries provide Pakistan billions in international aid.
While America’s gung-ho attitude to Pakistan’s national sovereignty is an issue that will cause many people unease, the larger concern of the day seems to be whether or not the Pakistani government was aware that Osama bin Laden was living comfortably in Abbottabad.
Pakistan and the United States will likely come to some arrangement in order to maintain the delicate balance between the two countries as both have interests that cannot be met as individual forces.