Now I finally understand how Osama bin Laden eluded our grasp for all of these years he was hiding in the open, in the backyard of one of our supposed allies. Let’s put this in context: Pakistan is a police state where foreigners do not go unnoticed, even when they’re living behind the high walls of a compound. On top of that, the compound where bin Laden was killed early Monday in a U.S. raid all but abutted the base of the Pakistani Army’s 2nd Brigade. I can’t help but suspect then that some Pakistani officials, at some level, were harboring bin Laden. And what about Pakistan itself? I don’t have a clue, but I suspect the worst on that one too.
When bin Laden first disappeared off the U.S. radar in late 2001 at Tora Bora, a lot of people entertained every foolish conspiracy theory they could imagine, ranging from the suggestion that the al-Qaeda leader was in Riyadh as a guest of the Saudi royal family to the idea that he was at Area 51, protected by the CIA. During a prolonged visit to Islamabad three years ago I asked a local American correspondent who’d been in country for five years where she thought bin Laden was. She looked out the window at the house across the street: “Maybe there,” she said. “Who knows about this country?”