The New Yorker On The Raid In Abbottabad
Inside a New Yorker piece which tells the official “inside” story of the Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad the U.S. government wants you to know.
There is at least one quite unbelievable detail in it. The SEALs that went in had a translator with them who’s role was to keep locals off during the raid.
A Pakistani-American translator, whom I will call Ahmed, and a dog named Cairo—a Belgian Malinois—were also aboard.
Not everyone on the team was accustomed to helicopter assaults. Ahmed had been pulled from a desk job for the mission and had never descended a fast rope. He quickly learned the technique.
As long as everything was cordial, Ahmed would hold curious neighbors at bay.
Outside the compound’s walls, Ahmed, the translator, patrolled the dirt road in front of bin Laden’s house, as if he were a plainclothes Pakistani police officer. He looked the part, wearing a shalwar kameez atop a flak jacket.
Eventually, a few curious Pakistanis approached to inquire about the commotion on the other side of the wall. “Go back to your houses,” Ahmed said, in Pashto, as Cairo stood watch. “There is a security operation under way.” The locals went home, none of them suspecting that they had talked to an American. When journalists descended on Bilal Town in the coming days, one resident told a reporter, “I saw soldiers emerging from the helicopters and advancing toward the house. Some of them instructed us in chaste Pashto to turn off the lights and stay inside.”
After 10 years of continuous fighting in Afghanistan the Special Forces do not have an operational Pashto speaker but have to draft a desk jokey? And why was the translator a “chaste Pashto” speaker? The common languages in Pakistan, the lingua franca, are Urdu and English and then there is this fact:
According to the 1998 Census of the 881,000 who resided in the Abbottabad District, Hindko was spoken by 94.26% of the population, followed by Potohari at 2.30%, Pashto at 2.22% and Urdu at 1.05%. Although the first language of most people in the district is Hindko, Urdu is understood and spoken fluently by majority of the residents and commonly used in markets, offices and formal functions. English is widely used in business and education.
If that account in the New Yorker is true it was a major planning mistake and screw up to send a Pashto speaker with the special forces instead of an Urdu speaker. For an important operation planned over months this sounds unbelievable.
There is also this curious wording in New Yorker piece:
Back in Abbottabad, residents of Bilal Town and dozens of journalists converged on bin Laden’s compound, and the morning light clarified some of the confusion from the previous night. Black soot from the detonated Black Hawk charred the wall of the animal pen. Part of the tail hung over the wall. It was clear that a military raid had taken place there. “I’m glad no one was hurt in the crash, but, on the other hand, I’m sort of glad we left the helicopter there,” the special-operations officer said. “It quiets the conspiracy mongers out there and instantly lends credibility. You believe everything else instantly, because there’s a helicopter sitting there.”
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