Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Why Osama bin Laden's death will make little difference

David Cameron told MPs that Osama bin Laden's assassination was "a strike at the heart" of international terrorism.

The BBC's Laura Kuenssberg has tweeted about British government sources expressing the hope that his death may speed up our withdrawal from Afghanistan.

But is either of these true?

Think about it: bin Laden has been living in a house with no telephone and no internet connection for anything up to six years. He can hardly have had any leadership role in Al Qaeda over that period.

When you add in his move to a garrison town, he sounds more like a retired colonel than anything else. You cannot entirely rule out the possibility that he has spent his time writing angry letters to the local paper. Disgusted of Abbottabad.

Certainly, the idea of bin Laden as a sort of Bond villain, directing operations from a cave at Tora Bora has never convinced. Al Qaeda is a much looser organisation than that, if it is a single organisation at all.

And, as I once wrote in a House Points column:
What Islamist terror we have seen in Britain has been homegrown – almost homemade, in fact, though no less deadly for that.
If bin Laden's death does hasten the departure of British troops from Afghanistan, that will be extremely welcome. But it will strengthen the case of those who believe that our presence there has always had more to do with the dictates of our relationship with the USA than it has with fighting global terrorism.

4 comments:

Lang Rabbie said...

A nice conceit but I rather suspect the house contained a satellite phone and scrambler kit to avoid interception of the landlines. It will be interesting to see just what the Americans disclose about the kit they took away with them.

Edis said...

Cellphones and scramblers are useless agaimst modern Signals Intelligence technology.

The UK and USA have massive SigInt operations in Afghanistan.

Dr Richard Aldrich, in his book "GCHQ the uncensored story of Britains most secret intelligence agency" talks about the current surveilance programme in Afghanistan. Cellphone conversations between Taliban supporters are intercepted and recorded and turned into voiceprints.

CGHQ takes the recordings that sound as if the speakers have British accents. CGHQ operated planes regulary overfly British cities sucking in cellphone conversations and comparing them to the Afghanista obtained data to try to identify possible returned 'Jihadists'

You have to read the book to decide if that sounds like a credible procedure. The author is lecturer in security studies at Warwick University.

The only way to stay out of the clutches of SigInt is to have no electronic communications whatsoever. It makes perfect sense for the bin Laden hideout to have only human courier communications.

Logo said...

A Republican candidate comes up with the right idea, one that's been around for about seven years, and it makes headlines.

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