AP: Key source on bin Laden’s courier freed by Pakistanis

A month ago, I asked: Why was key source on bin Laden’s courier freed? The question centered on Hassan Ghul, an al Qaeda operative who was captured in Iraq, interrogated by the CIA, and gave up vital information on Osama bin Laden’s preferred courier, Abu Ahmed al Kuwaiti. It was al Kuwaiti who unwittingly led US authorities to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad.

Ghul was turned over to the Pakistanis and freed. Why?

Adam Goldman of the Associated Press has a must-read update. Goldman reports [emphasis added]:

The terrorist described as the linchpin in the hunt for Osama bin Laden has rejoined al-Qaida after the Bush administration released him from a secret CIA secret prison under pressure from Pakistan, according to former and current U.S. intelligence officials.

Shortly after the CIA decided to close the secret prisons, the U.S. intelligence agency returned al-Qaida operative Hassan Ghul in 2006 to his native Pakistan, which had been demanding his release since his capture about two years earlier.

Pakistan held Ghul for at least a year before he was released, eventually making his way back to al-Qaida to help with operations against the U.S., the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because details about Ghul’s case remain classified.

Later in the piece, Goldman adds:

It’s not clear why Pakistan wanted Ghul back so badly, but former CIA officers who targeted Ghul said he had ties to the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror group, which had the backing of ISI.

That’s about right.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Nic says:

    @Bill: What is your take on Pakistan busting those who helped the CIA?

  • Mr T says:

    Double dealing snakes.
    How is this guy going to survive with Al Qaeda now? “Hi, I am Hassan Ghul. I gave the info that got our dear leader killed. My bad.”
    I also see where Pakistan is going after the spies that gave info on Bin Laden instead of going after Bin Ladens support network.
    So they go after the good guys instead of stepping up operations on the bad guys. And they think we should give them more info on what we are doing? Yeah, if we are total idiots.

  • kp says:

    You don’t have to be much of a conspiracy theorist to think the US government is playing an interesting “leaks” game with Pakistan slowly leaking information they can’t say on the record to put more pressure on the Pakistani government. Perhaps so they can play “good cop” to Congress’ “bad cop” when they next think about Pakistani aid. This follows last weeks WP report on tip-offs on IED factory intel and Panetta’s recent inconclusive visit.

    One other item buried in the middle of the same article with the same sort of drumbeat:

    On Tuesday, a U.S. official said Pakistan’s intelligence service had arrested the owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe bin Laden’s compound before the U.S. raid that killed him. And a Western official in Pakistan confirmed a New York Times report that five of the Pakistani informants who fed information to the CIA before the May 2 raid were arrested by Pakistan’s top military spy agency. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence matters.

    It seems that the ISI is spending as much time fighting the CIA over UBL raid as they are fighting AQ and the TTP. That horse has already bolted.

  • Villiger says:

    Nice little piece.
    So we see, under the lens, the chain of PakMil>ISI>LeT>AQ….and how it actually works. But then one thinks, whats so unusual about that?
    The thing to watch out for is LeT’s ambitions as key parts of AQ are dismantled.

  • Charu says:

    And why were the Pakistanis told of the CIA safe house from which surveillance on the bin Laden compound was carried out? How did they know about the army major who is now arrested? Why weren’t these assets given better protection? This is bad!
    These mistakes stem from the continuing notion that the Pakistani military leadership remains friendly to the US and can be trusted. The satellite video of the evacuation of terrorist bases, barely 24 hours after Kayani and Pasha were informed that we knew their location, indicates that the Pakistan state is clearly the enemy and its actions result in the killing and maiming of our troops. It is dangerously delusional to keep hoping for a change in Pakistan’s treacherous mindset. It is time to refashion the political geography of this region in favor of the aspirations of the Baloochis, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks and other non-Punjabi ethnics.
    Furthermore, Pakistani generals like Musharraf and Kayani and Pasha must be held accountable for their deadly duplicity and not be allowed to retire anywhere in the West. They can build their ill-gotten villas and million-dollar flats in Saudi Arabia or in the Gulf states, or live in the failed rump state that they had a hand in creating.

  • bill says:

    will he be punished by AQ for giving up the information that lead to OBL?
    Is that the CIA’s intention in releasing this information?

  • kp says:

    @Charu: I don’t think it takes a rocket scientist to figure out which rented property close to the UBL house was used as a safe house. Not a lot of choices there.

    @bill: The same though crossed my mind. A bit of the “James Jesus Angleton” style mind games to mess with their counter-intel arm can’t go amiss especially if he hasn’t been debriefed on what he told to whom.

  • Charles says:

    The Times said detained informants included a Pakistani army major who officials said copied the license plates of cars visiting bin Laden’s compound in the weeks before the raid. The Pakistani military denied Wednesday that an army major was arrested.
    Read more: //www.miamiherald.com/2011/06/16/2269092/pakistan-arrests-after-fatal-raid.html#ixzz1PPdyznBh
    This means that the CIA now knows what parts of the military and the ISI actively support OBL & AQ.

  • Villiger says:

    For some additional perspective:

  • bill says:

    The ISI are double dealing female dogs but then the CIA, the NSA. the FSE and MI 5/6 are not choir boys either.
    Pakistan may want to support their terrorist muslim brothers against the heathen western world but Pakistan is addicted to western money and weapons. I cant wait until we leave Afghanistan at the end of 2011. We will then no longer have any interest in Pakistan. No more money for Pakistan. No more free military support and guess what India has cash to spend and we have weapons (for example 35 Billion USD worth of strike aircraft) to sell to India.
    Then the ISI and pakistan in general can suck on their nukes for support.

  • Charu says:

    True, it isn’t rocket science *once* the Pakistanis were told about the surveillance, but why was this leaked in the first place? There was no need to announce to them and the world how we monitored the bin Laden compound. And as soon as this was foolishly blown, we should have realized that we had imperiled the cover of our assets and whisked them away immediately.
    It comes down to the insane notion still rampant is some circles that the Pakistanis are our friends and allies, and not the conniving, back-stabbing murderous terrorists that they are. Bin Laden wasn’t accidentally living in a secure military neighborhood; he was there under their protection. They essentially declared war against us by sheltering him. Any doubts should have vanished after they evacuated their terror bases 24 hours after being told we had identified them, and now when they went after our assets who helped to bring bin Laden to justice instead of uncovering who gave him protection in the first place. There are no longer half-way measures in how we respond to this treachery.
    If Kayani gets overthrown by some bearded ignorant colonels, so be it. It may become marginally more hostile for us (considering how hostile Pakistan already is to our interests), but our response can also be more clear cut. This is an incompetent army that has repeatedly lost in the battlefield, and the obvious precedent is how the Northern Alliance routed the Taliban (staffed and manned by Pakistani officers) once we gave them our full support after 9-11.
    Build up the ANA and the Balochi freedom fighters to take their battle across the Durand line. See the map in Melissa Roddy’s article exposing the Pakistani lies and distortions over Afghanistan, //www.huffingtonpost.com/melissa-roddy/why-we-must-not-leave-afg_b_582522.html), which shows the rough outline of the future nation states in AfPak.

  • Charu says:

    “I cant wait until we leave Afghanistan at the end of 2011. We will then no longer have any interest in Pakistan.”
    @bill; the last time we left Afghanistan to the Pakistanis we got 9-11 in return. It is entirely in our interest to create an economically viable and relatively peaceful Afghanistan with access to the sea, and to keep the Pakistanis (Punjabis) out. Tribal loyalties are dominant in this region, and we need to realize Pashtun aspirations along with those of the Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras, and the Balochis, to help us meet the objective of eliminating safe territories for al Qaeda in south Asia.


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