Author: Saadut
•6:32 PM

“Usāmah bin Muhammad bin Awad bin Lādin” known to the world as Osama Bin Laden was reportedly killed by US forces in Abbotabad, Pakistan on 1st May 2011: funeral at sea on USS Carl Vinson at 1-10am EST and eased into North Arabian Sea at 2am EST.

Osama Bin Laden Timeline

Born March 10, 1957 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in wealthy Bin Laden family, studied economics, business administration at King Abdulaziz University, Saudi Arabia and had a degree in civil engineering (1979).

After the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, Osama Bin Laden went to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets alongside Afghan resistance fighters known as the “mujahedeen” and joined Abdullah Azzam. During and after the 1984 he would also be seen in Peshawar, wearing military style camouflage jackets and carrying a captured Soviet AK47 assault rifle. Legend there has it that Osama took this rifle after killing a Russian Special Forces solider with his bare hands. During the Afghan Soviet war, Osama Bin Laden along with other members founded “Maktab al-Khadamat” in 1984, an organization which funneled money, arms and support for Afghan mujahedeen who were fighting against the Soviet invasion. Some reports indicate that in 1988, Al-Qaeda was a formal group and by that time Osama Bin Laden wanting to create separate fighting force of Arab fighters in Afghanistan instead of integrated them among the Afghan fighting groups (ref notes of meeting of Osama Bin Laden and others on 20th August 1988). 

As a part of its Afghan Soviet policy from 1979 - 1989, the United States (CIA) under U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan provided huge overt and covert support and aid, financially, logistically, military and arms training to Osama's Afghan Mujahedeen through the US “Operation Cyclone”. The US under President Reagan (the Reagan Doctrine) often praised the Mujahedeen as Afghanistan's "Freedom Fighters". US President Jimmy Carter on July 3, 1979 signed the executive order for authorizing CIA to conduct covert operations in Afghanistan “unilaterally or through third countries as appropriate support to the Afghan insurgents” (ref classified documents signed by Carter) major military supplies to “mujahedeen” had already started from US in 1980.

In his memoirs “From the Shadows”  Robert Gates  (former CIA director who later became Defense Secretary) claims that the U.S intelligence services had begun to provide financial aid to the rebel “mujahedeen” in Afghanistan 6 months before the actual Soviet army deployment there.

Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan in February 1989 and following that Osama bin Laden returned to Saudi Arabia in 1990 where he was seen as a hero who along with his fighters in Afghanistan had “defeated the mighty world power Soviet Union”.

During the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the first US Iraq war (Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait on 2nd August 1990) the Saudi kingdom allowed its land for deployment of US troops also allowing US to launch attacks on Iraq army from its territory. Before Saudi was mulling involving US troops on their land, Osama bin Laden had met the Saudi King Fahd and his defense minister Prince Sultan, offering them the help of his ex mujahedeen’s to defend Saudi Arabia rather than Saudi taking non Muslim military help. His offer rebuffed, and after being shown a cold response by the Saudi royal family, Saudi Arabia allowed deployment of U.S. troops. Seeing this deployment and permission to use Saudi land for war attacks as US military interference in the sacred land (custodian of holy mosques) Osama publicly criticized this decision of the Saudi Monarchy. Under verbal attack from Osama Bin Laden, Saudi Monarchy used all it could to silence him.

Very soon Saudi Arabia banished Osama Bin Laden and forced him into exile in Sudan in 1992. In follow-up actions by Saudi Arabia in 1994, Osama bin Laden lost his Saudi citizenship and was disowned by his family.

While Osama Bin Laden was in Sudan, CIA paramilitary officer Billy Waugh in late 1995 tracked down Bin Ladin in the Sudan and prepared an operation to apprehend him, but was denied permission.  American inference continued and Ambassador Carney was pushing the Sudanese to expel Bin Laden. CIA could not get to apprehend Osama since there was no legal basis to ask for it as was no indictment outstanding against him then.

In Sudan, Osama Bin Laden escaped at least one assassination attempt that was believed to be the work of either or both Egyptian or Saudi regimes, and hence he no longer felt safe there.

In May 1996, Sudan facing immense pressure from US, Egypt and Saudi Arabia forced Osama Bin Laden to flee to Afghanistan, Jalalabad on a chartered flight. While in Afghanistan he forged close alliance with the Taliban who by then were growing militarily and were led by Mullah Mohammed Omar. After his alliance with the Taliban, Al Qaida shot into prominence, and became a virtual terror tag for the west.

Acts blamed on Al Qaida

Al Qaida has been blamed for many terrorist attacks including the 1993 (New York) World Trade Center bombing (6 killed), 1996 Khobar Base (Saudi Arabia) bombing (19 killed), 1998 US embassies bombing in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam (224 killed mostly Africans), suicide boat attack in 2000 on USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen (17 US marines killed) and more importantly the 9/11 attack on World Trade centre twin towers (about 3000 killed).


Al-Zawahiri (Ayman Muhammad Rabaie al-Zawahiri ) often described as a lieutenant and second in command to Osama Bin Laden is a qualified surgeon, speaks Arabic, English and French and was the last "emir" of EIJ (Egypt). By 12 Al-Zawahiri had joined Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and following Sadat’s assassination in 1985 he was among the hundreds arrested, faced a 3 year sentence charged for ‘dealing in weapons’.  In 1985, Al-Zawahiri performed the hajj pilgrimage to Saudi and then worked as a doctor there for one year. Following that he traveled to Peshawar, Pakistan where he worked in a Red Crescent hospital treating wounded refugees. It was in Peshawar, he met Osama bin Laden and the radical positions held by both him and Osama bought them close.

Al-Zawahiri’s wife Azza and daughter Aisha were killed during American bombardment of a building at Gardez, Afghanistan after 9/11, where Azza was pinned under debris of a guesthouse roof and four year old daughter Aisha died from exposure of the cold night, her mother lying under the building debris.

According to western intelligence in December 1996 Al-Zawahiri went to Russia where Russian authorities have claimed that he was under arrested for six months for travelling on forged documents and under aliases. This was contradicted by assassinated Russian intelligence officer Alexander Litvinenko who stated that he had been a part of an operation in which Al-Zawahiri and many people were trained for 6 months by the Russian FSB in Dagestan. Former KGB officer and writer Konstantin Preobrazhenskiy has also supported Litvinenko's claim. Al-Zawahiri left Russia in June 1997 and became soon Bin Laden's second-in-command. It is anticipated that after Osama’s death Al –Zawahiri is likely to succeed him.

Creating the monster

The Afghan war machine was supported and fed by the Americans during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in order to oust the Russian army. The war machine grew bigger and soviet army faced huge casualties in Afghanistan. That was all fine with US till the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, post which the US had no plans in place on what to do with the monolithic war structure it has supported and part financed. The Afghan war asset of US now became its burden and liability, and adding to the confusion were the various armed groups operating in the Afghan war where central US control was loose or non existent. The power vacuum created in Afghanistan by the change after Najibullah was overthrown and the sudden withdrawal of US policy in Afghanistan created fertile grounds for groups promoting an ideological war since the common enemy “the soviet army” had been defeated and eliminated. The repercussion of the ‘post Soviet withdrawal’, anarchy in Afghanistan and the warring militias had side effects in neighboring Pakistan where the recruit grounds and border Afghan war schools had to divert their priorities after the common enemy “soviet” union ceased to exist as a target. Adding to this paradox was the tight controls of the autocratic governments in Maghreb and Middle East from where most of the Arab fighters for the war in Afghanistan had come. Some of these fighters were either not ready to accept the continuity of decades of monolithic power structures back home and wanting a change or felt they could carry the Islamic change mission on a larger scale. Instead of assimilating them in the political process of their native lands, most of the originating countries governments now viewed these fighters with suspicion and started imposing heavy curbs on them. In most cases these non local fighters of the Afghan war were banished, exiled and hounded by their governments making them take refuge in Afghanistan, where the bitterness against their own governments and the US for supporting these autocratic governments created a demonic grudge in them. And the resultant terror acts that followed have been largely blamed on Al Qaida. The war demon that had been created during the Afghan Soviet war was suddenly no body’s baby now and Al-Qaida (or the other names the groups may be recognized with) had now turned against their nourishers and erstwhile supports of the Afghan war, the US and Pakistan.  The reactionary policy that US maintained after the Afghan war and the disowning of the war child it had fathered created a vacuum of control and direction in which the various radical political formations were created.  Even within Pakistan the border areas started erupting one incident after another in an uncontrolled frenzy, which was fuelled by the halfhearted recovery and reconciliatory efforts within the local political establishment in Pakistan and the US trying its power stick instead of any political policy in AfPak region. The spill over of this volcano is being felt across the length and breadth of Pakistan today, with no let up in bloodletting.

Is Al Qaida a single organization with its reach across the world? For many Al Qaida is an organizational idea used as name sake by many similar ideological organizations, for their activities in various countries, often such activities ending in bloodshed.

While the west may see Osama as the epitome of terrorism, many in the Arab world may differ with that view. The fact remains Osama and his fighters were created as a war machine by the US in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet might and after its utility was over, the master (US) did not know what to do with this machine, the monolithic machine having now turned upon its own creator. Killing one Osama will not help the US in killing the idea and the thought current behind it that may have been created over years of political hopelessness and hatred among the radicalized. There will sure be thousands of other disgruntled Osama’s waiting in the wings. The Abu Ghraib’s and the Guantanamo bays may have created many more Osama’s than the US has ever captured. In order to control this poison from spreading and taking roots else where, the US will have to relook its Maghreb - Arab policy allowing and nurturing a democratic change there, change its involvement in enforced battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan, relook its approach towards historic trouble spots and ensure just resolution of issues like Palestine and to top it all desist from painting an evil of the Muslim world. 

Such a policy reversal and course change by US may seem tough but is doable at least in the best interest of a peaceful world order.

In Kashmir there is a saying “Yusui rachum tamsei neish rachtam Khudayo” (Oh God save me from the one I nourished)

2nd May 2010