One usually looks to GQ for hot babes and fashion finds for gay and metrosexual men, not investigative reporting, so Matthieu Aikins’ article, “The Doctor, the CIA, and the Blood of Bin Laden” stood out like a tailored suit in a sea of casual Fridays khakis. We all know that Pakistani physician Dr. Shakhil Afridi helped the CIA confirm Osama bin Laden’s presence in the large, mysterious compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan by running a fake vaccine program to obtain DNA samples from the Bin Laden family. We also know Afridi has a controversial reputation — with some regarding him as a hero and others viewing him as a charming charlatan who was just in it for the money — and that he now languishes in a Pakistani prison. Yet, the facts surrounding the mission that killed Bin Laden remain murky. US officials have praised Afridi for the help he provided, but haven’t specified what Afridi actually did to help.
Aikins sheds more light on the subject by travelling to Afridi’s childhood home in Afridiabad, Bin Laden’s former compound in Abbotabad, and Peshawar, where Afridi had attended medical school, practiced, and had reportedly been recruited by the CIA.
Through Aikins’ article, we also learn about the unfortunate unintended consequences of the assassination of Bin Laden:
- Criticism of the CIA’s fake vaccination program: According to an article in the UK Guardian, Doctors Without Borders and others have “lashed out at the CIA” because the mission jeopardizes their mission to provide medical care to vulnerable communities. “The risk is that vulnerable communities – anywhere – needing access to essential health services will understandably question the true motivation of medical workers and humanitarian aid,” said Médecins Sans Frontières President Unni Karunakara. An unspecified US official responded, “The vaccination campaign was part of the hunt for the world’s top terrorist, and nothing else. If the United States hadn’t shown this kind of creativity, people would be scratching their heads asking why it hadn’t used all tools at its disposal to find Bin Laden.”
- Further strain on our relations with Pakistan: The April 2011 elimination of Bin Laden has caused endless embarrassment to Pakistan, in part because the World’s Top Terrorist was found within their porous borders, and in part because the US acted unilaterally in conducting a military operation without permission and with only a last-minute courtesy call to Pakistani officials. This comes on top of Pakistan’s long-standing objection to US drones, which most recently killed a rogue militant Taliban leader who had been leading forces against US-led coalition troops in Afghanistan, but whom Islamabad had viewed as a potential ally.
- Afridi’s imprisonment: Afridi was arrested by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) three weeks after Bin Laden’s death in late May, 2011. Afridi’s lawyer Qamar Nadeem told Aikins that instead of charging Afridi with treason for his work with the CIA — which would have been legally defensible because Pakistan is not officially at odds with the US — the Pakistani authorities charged him under a “draconian colonial-era tribal code” for providing money and medical treatment to Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant group. Even though an indignant and anonymous Lashkar-e-Islam commander angrily denied any ties to Afridi, snarling, “We have no links to such a shameless man. If we see him, we’ll chew him alive.” The charge may have been technically true, but only because the group had kidnapped and held him until Afridi’s wife raised and paid the demanded ransom. The nature of these charges also enables Pakistan to avoid the embarrassing publicity generated by a public trial. Meanwhile, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY and son of Ron), Faux News, and other conservatives are demanding that we withhold US Aid to Pakistan until Afridi is released. Although I agree in principle, the GOP’s sudden objections to secretive imprisonment and torture smack of Obama-bashing. Foreign policy isn’t as simple as all that. In addition several accounts — including Aikins’ article — mentioned that the CIA urged Afridi to leave Pakistan and offered to help, but Afridi feared crossing the turbulent border and chose to stay.
Until decades from now when the secret files are unsealed, the details surrounding the elimination of the menacing threat of Osama Bin Laden and the doctor who helped take him down will be the proverbial “riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”
|Elisabeth Parker is a writer, Web designer, mom, political junkie, and dilettante. Come visit her at ElisabethParker.Com, “like” her on facebook, or follow her on Twitter. For more articles by Elisabeth, click here.|