The 630-page book The Exile: The Stunning Inside Story of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda in Flight dwells on the life of the world’s most wanted terrorist, from the days he fled Afghanistan in 2001 and was kept hidden for nearly a decade in a huge mansion in Abbottabad, by the Pakistan army.
The authors of the book Cathy Scott Clark and Adrian Levy had earlier published a monumental study entitled: Nuclear Deception: The Dangerous Relationship between the United States and Pakistan.
The book thoroughly exposed the United States for turning a blind eye to Pakistan and thereby encouraging the country’s nuclear weapons programme.
It also alludes to China’s assistance to that clandestine programme.
India chose to proceed with “business as usual” with China, never really exposing the dangerous implications of the Pakistan-China nuclear nexus.
There are three main facets to the book. The first is the incredible manner in which the network of radical Islamic groups, which the Taliban and the Al Qaeda established, aided by the ISI, worked together to promote Jihad worldwide.
It was this network that enabled bin Laden to cross from the mountains of Tora Bora in Southern Afghanistan into the Pashtun tribal areas of Pakistan. They were then moved, with ISI support, to Abbottabad.
The second fascinating part of the book dwells on details of bin Laden’s family, focusing on the travails of the eldest of his four wives Khairiah, who joined him shortly before the Americans killed him in 2011. The huge mansion in Abbottabad was then home to bin Laden, his four wives, four of his seven sons, two of his daughters and several grandchildren.
There are also revelations about the lives of other members of the bin Laden family living in Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria and under virtual detention, in Iran.
The authors also deal with the role of the Head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard General Qaseem Suleimani of not only detaining, but also courting members of the Al Qaeda.
Suleimani also reportedly persuaded and lured “Russia into the war in Syria on (President) Assad’s side” during a “one on one” meeting with President Putin.
One wonders what led the Americans to place so much hope and expectation in their “War on Terror” on the ISI, when Pakistan’s role of running with the Taliban hare, while pretending to hunt with the American hound, was obvious. What also emerges is the astonishing naiveté evident in New Delhi when Musharraf, who had tried to abide by his assurance to Mr Vajpayee that “territory under Pakistan’s control would not be used for terrorism against India,” was replaced by his protégé Kayani, as Army chief.
Kayani promptly sacked Musharraf’s relative and handpicked ISI chief and appointed the viciously anti-Indian Lt General Shuja Pasha as the new ISI chief. Pasha frankly admitted to Pakistan’s envoy in Washington that Pakistanis had been involved in the 26/11 terrorist attack.
The authors spell out the role of successive ISI chiefs ranging from Hamid Gul, who promoted himself as “The Father of the Taliban,” to Shuja Pasha who was named in US Court Documents as “being culpable in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks and accused of protecting Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad”.
Pakistani terrorist leaders linked to Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda are named in the book.
These include Hafiz Mohammed Saeed of the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Fazlur Rahman Khalil of the Harkat-ul -Mujahideen.
This book is a must read for India’s entire security establishment. It should also be absorbed by Indian diplomats. It is useful reading for “peace activists” and some of our eminent “commentators”, who are prone to buying ISI propaganda that Pakistan is also a “victim of terrorism.”