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July 21, 2006


Well, if they are going to do anything about it, it won't be done until Monday. No propaganda value accrues to any action over the weekend.

I found a reprint of a 1999 article (date from context of Musharraf coup) titled 'Trekking Pakistan' that has more detail on this region. From the RENO GAZETTE-JOURNAL:

"We returned in mid-August to Islamabad after checking the travel advisories, as the war over Kashmir had escalated greatly. The terrorist Osama bin Laden had gone into hiding, and the United States had escalated its search for him. Fazal, looking and feeling much stronger, met us at the airport eager to be off trekking the Wakhan Corridor of the Northwest Frontier Province, along the western border of Pakistan.

The Pakistan government allowed us access to an area that had only recently opened to foreign travelers. We would trek the mountains separating Afghanistan and Pakistan, then continue north along the Russian and Chinese borders. The foot journey would take us through the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges, into the Karakoram, over the 16,800-foot Chillinji Pass and end in Hunza, the ancient Shangri-La.

We caravaned out of Islamabad in two jeeps crammed with six people and all our equipment. Six bumpy, dust-choking days later, after far too many close encounters with 2,000-foot roadside overlooks, we reached the starting point of the trek. Walking was a relief, and this we did for weeks, some days for as long as 15 1/2 hours. Unlike last year, we did not have the same porters the entire trip. Each time we crossed a regional boundary, Fazal interviewed and hired a new group of locals. Many of these porters were wealthy men, with large herds of yak and sheep. They hired on for the adventure and local notoriety. They pressed their animals into service, usually some assortment of donkeys, horses and yaks.
. . .
The high valleys of the Hindu Kush, beginning at 10,000 feet, are populated by small villages with no more than 20 or so people. Afghan refugees, nomads and shepherds share the land, moving their flocks of sheep and goats as they have for centuries through alpine meadows. Now pastoral scenes, those same peaceful valleys once were used for training maneuvers by the Soviets during the war with Afghanistan. At times we were only a one-hour walk from Afghanistan. Remnants of Russian supplies still dotted the landscape — a steel bed frame outside a sun-dried mud brick dwelling, ammo cans and shells, crashed helicopter parts.

The garden trek ended abruptly one morning when "Go with the flow" kicked in. Fazal casually said, "Today we will be crossing a small glacier." The small glacier proved to be one of many to come and worse than any single spot on the Baltoro. Glare ice glinted harshly in the morning sun, and when the yaks instinctively refused to cross narrow ice bridges spanning gaping crevasses, porters whipped and forced them into action.

While the valley trek was indeed garden-like, especially during the fall harvest, there was no denying the hazards we constantly faced. We crossed deep gorges and raging rivers on twig bridges and in one-person boxes suspended from frayed cables. These amounted to only a few of the daily dares along the way.
. . .
A highlight came in one of the last villages we visited, where a family invited us into their home. The house was made of saplings covered with juniper branches and canvas. Inside, hand-woven carpets covered the ground, a fire pit was in the center, with a hole in the roof for the smoke to escape. Hanging from the saplings were guns, water bottles, clothing and a goat carcass, which had been dried and inflated for carrying water. It was so dark, we didn’t see many of these things until we saw our flash photos developed much later."


Sounds like a good hiding spot to me.

So. Does that mean ObL is using a satellite uplink to get the world news, direct his minions, and post his video podcasts . . . or does some Qaeda intern make the trek to civilization and back once a week?

But if GWB wants him he must hurry -- the area is closed in by snow and ice from Mid September till next June. 

Now, this is where the genius of Bush's strategery is revealed.

Years ago, he dropped the Kyoto Treaty just to increase the pace of global warming, just for this very moment. The snow and ice won't show up until late September (and those glaciers will become mere skating rinks for the fleet bin Laden pursurers). Bush will have the head of bin Laden in late September in time for October campaigning for the 2006 November elections. And Bush will triumph once again!

Butter up a roll, baby!

On second thought, is this why Bush is selling F-16s to Pakistan over some (weak) Congressional objections? The bin Laden fix is in for late summer?

For a year or so, my opinion has been that UBL is under US control - his "diplomat" video, where he pushed democracy, wasn't natural and he looked like one very unhappy person there (Uncle Walter C. apparently felt the same way as me).

I've heard that UBL hiding out in the Afghan panhandle (some Congressman is convinced of this), in Iran (a talking head is convinced of this), and in the tribal areas of Paki-land (where one goes for the status quo opinion). If this is true, I'd suggest is that he's under full-time surveillance, and people who visit him are logged, compromised, and perhaps killed.

I don't think UBL sees the light of day without worrying about who might knock him off today.

I think if I was ObL and needed somewhere comfortable to hide in safety from US forces, I'd probably pick Saudi Arabia.

There's apparently an old Soviet mega-bunker built into the mountains there (from back when the USSR "controlled" Afghanistan and felt a bit more hostile toward China)... the story was that UBL used this place like Tora Bora (that edgey Congressman mentioned a lake nearby - there is one on the north fork of the valleys leading to China, US special forces were supposed to be based nearby up the valley in Tazhikistan FWIW... disgorging hunks of previous research here for NextHurrah entertainment).

I looked at old Soviet maps of this part of Afghanistan when I heard the Congressman's story a few years ago, online at UC Berkeley, but they've since been taken off line... maybe there's a reason for this? :)

Two curious notes. At the start of the Afghanistan invasion it was reported that the US "bought up" all the satellites covering Afghanistan which was fairly tricky because the BinLaden family controlled some of them. Also, just after 9/11 I read a book, one of the few available in immediate aftermath, called War At The Top of the World by Eric Margolis. He trekked the area extensively in the '90's and predicted eerily enough that it would be the nexus of the next world conflict. Margolis still shows up from time to time on CNN & Fox and is an outspoken AND well-informed critic. Lastly, don't laugh at me, I remember that UBL was supposed to be a superb horseman and had an extraordinary horse he rode through the camps. Don't hear much these days about the horse or his wives ...

On second thought, is this why Bush is selling F-16s to Pakistan over some (weak) Congressional objections? The bin Laden fix is in for late summer?

Works for me... Pakistani govt hasn't given him up already only because it will cause a big shitstorm, not because they love him deeply. I doubt the US has access to him now as in kim's scenario, but at this point Bin Laden is purely symbolic with no operational or managerial value to anyone, and the entire strategic landscape is about to shift really dramatically anyway.

Hizbollah has already embarassed AQ as far as who can get in the face of the Great Satans, which means that AQ needs a turnaround CEO to pull it out of its slump and make it a valuable brand again (I don't think Pakistan really cares about that part, but the Saudis sure as hell do, and the Pakistanis are probably pretty unhappy about how fast Iran's stock has risen over the past few years). Or maybe that brand is too diluted to be useful any more anyway. Plus it's coming up to an election, and Americans Republicans are always happy to pay premium for an October Surprise. This is an absolutely ideal time to get the most bang and least fallout for giving him up.

So yeah, get a bunch of fancy military equipment in trade for a guy who sat on his ass for five years while a bunch of Iraqi commies fought the US to standstill, until finally a bunch of stinky Shi'ites in black tshirts stole the last of his thunder? They'd be laughing all the way to the bank airstrip.


Watch Porter Goss's expression when Bush mentioned OBL on March 3, 2005. It's on this Jon Stewart clip (from YouTube), just after the :50 mark.

I want to know what is so amusing to Goss. I disagree with Stewart's naive take. The possibilities you raise are intriguing, but I also believe there's a chance OBL died a while back, and this may have been old news to both Bush and Goss back in 2005. But keeping OBL alive in the public imagination (and ready to die again at the right moment) is quite useful to the Bush Administration.

And the OBL tapes? The recent ones may be reconstructions. Yes, it's his voice, but it's a photoshop version of it (to borrow a metaphor). The tapes lack OBL's deep Koranic sensibility and other unique aspects of his style, or so I'm told by a native Arabic speaker who lived in Saudi Arabia for years. I can't judge for myself, knowing no Arabic.

I finally remembered what's been nagging at me about this Pakistan-leak thing . . . does anybody remember the story that sort of half-broke in 2004 about the administration leaning on Pakistan to deliver some "high-value" terrorists around the time of the Dem Convention?

There's something deeply creepy about this whole thing.


And if OBL died at least a year ago, it would make the disbanding of the unit dedicated to looking for him, also about a year ago, more explicable.

I've been waiting for it, and it surely came yesterday with spinmouth Michelle Malkin on Fox stating that everyone knows that UBL/AQ have historic ties and Israel's retaliation against Hezbollah should be seen by US as an AQ extension.

Reports that Busholini issued a memo to the head of the FBI, within minutes of mouthing his Oath of Office, directing the FBI to lighten up on Bin Laden, means to me that they never wanted to find him, as in capture him. In fact, Imperial Hubris makes the case that OBl is one of our assets. He was in a US Military medical facility in Bahrain in July of 2001, so what does that mean?

I know OBL is the alleged wayward son, but since the 9/11 highjackers all entered our country through our Embassy in Riyahd, Saudi Arabia, and some went directly to Pensacola to learn to fly, and OBL's family still does business with the Bush family, isn't it a bit naive to think of OBl as anything but our paid Boogey Man?

I think it's amusing that this report of an OBL sighting is from the same sort of source as the Niger forgeries, namely Italian press.

I seriously doubt that bin Laden is up there.

In fact he is likely in the opposite direction from such a place in either the Shia part of the extremely rugged west Kashmir highlands [in spite of being a Sunni fundamentalist] and thus technically not in Pakistan, or he is in another area of Afghanistan away from there. The claims about his location sound like a Chimpy Snipe Hunt, and mad scramble into nowhere.

I doubt if any sect of Muslims would give him up anymore than any pack of Christians would have given up the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Mongol horde.

What will end bin Laden is the local Muslim community itself, and this is not a derogatory statement against Muslims! A local will finally say "enough!" That will be the end.

We won't do it, not in a month, not in a year of Sundays.

Kathleen, I am not willing to indict the entire Press Industry in Italy for all time just because of the Niger forgery matter -- it does suggest it is vulnerable to being used to pass along disinformation, but in this instance what the reporters seem to have done is independently check an item from an Arab paper -- was Pakistan closing to tourists certain Trekking areas. Western European Embassies in Islamabad seem to confirm this -- but the origin of the story is al-Hayat. What's needed here is obviously another confirmation independent of the first two sources.

Second -- the 911 Hijackers did not all get visas from US Embassies in Saudi Arabia. Three of the four pilots were resident students in Germany, and got their visas in Germany. The fourth was a fairly long term resident of the US. This is all documented dates and detail in the 911 Commission report. What is interesting here was the use of multiple and quite independent ways of legally traveling into the US. And, of those involved, it seems only two were caught in screens, and rejected for quite different reasons. (One in Germany, one at the point of entry in Florida.)

I would agree there is much evidence that at the beginning of the Bush Administration the attitude of FBI changed. I don't think we yet have a full picture of this, largely because the right questions have not been asked. For instance, I would like to know why Condi Rice moved in the spring of 2001 to remove Louis Freeh as Director of FBI. I believe there are more than two sides on this one -- Freeh wanted to focus on terrorism, but his own "take" on it, particularly his Khobar Towers investigation that laid responsibility with Hezbollah -- Ashcroft was focused on "morality" matters domestically -- drugs, pimps and prostitutes and the like, and DOJ's budget reflected this turn away from terrorism, domestic as well as international. Reportedly Freeh and Rice had a shouting match just before he resigned having to do with the FBI having too much emphasis on Foreign based agents -- Rice telling Freeh that he did not make Foreign Policy. I don't think that has yet been sorted out. (by the way, I in no way defend Freeh -- I think he was a terrible director.)

What does seem to be clear in many respects is that Ashcroft had his own right wing agenda, and on most other things he was just dumb. Best witness on this is probably Richard Clarke to whom fell the responsibility to read Ashcroft into what was known given all the trials that had been held during the 90's -- the Kahane murder, the first WTC bombing, the plot to blow up the NYC tunnels, et. al., the Embassy cases, and the Millennium Plot. Clarke concluded Ashcroft just was not capable of understanding the "knowns" and that he willfully ignored it. (That's what happens when you turn DOJ over as a campaign prize to the Religious Right.)

I find the OBL sighting report of interest for several reasons. If there is any truth to it -- then Bush and all ought to be pressing Musharraf to deal with it on the Pakistani side, and the US Military and Afghanistan ought to be active on the north side of the Durrand line. But I also find it interesting on essentially romantic grounds -- there are few places on earth more inaccessable than this particular part of the Hindu Kush. It has tested many of the great Historical invaders -- beginning with Alexander. In romantic terms, what I am saying to GWB is -- here is your quest -- your chance to search for the Holy Grail. Get out your Mountain Bike and go command your troops!

Saying that OBL has been "found" strikes me as fairly meaningless. Even if he is somewhere in this pretty vast and incredibly remote area, that is like saying you've found a needle because you know what haystack it is in.

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