Following the claim by the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Seymour Hersh that a Pakistani intelligence official informed the CIA about the Abbottabad hideout of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, Pakistani sources have allegedly identified the Pakistani official as Brigadier Usman Khalid.
According to a Pakistani journalist Amir Mir, well-informed sources within the intelligence community in Rawalpindi revealed that former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) official Brigadier Usman Khalid provided information to the CIA in exchange for a bounty of US $25 million, a new identity, and U.S. citizenship for himself and his family.
According to Mir, the retired brigadier and his family have been granted U.S. citizenship.
The former intelligence official helped the CIA confirm bin Laden’s presence at Abbottabad by convincing Pakistani physician Shakil Afridi to spy while pretending to conduct a polio awareness campaign in the Bilal Town area of the Abbottabad compound.
The Daily Pakistan reports that Afridi is currently held by the Pakistani authorities.
In an article published in the London Review of Books Sunday, Hersh had alleged that the White House lied about the circumstances leading to Osama bin Laden’s death in May, 2011.
The White House had claimed after bin Laden’s assassination that Pakistani state and military officials were not involved in the operation and were not told about it. The White House had also claimed that bin Laden was killed in firefight with U.S. Navy Seals.
But Hersh claimed that the White House had been lying and that there was no firefight. The CIA also received assistance from top ranking Pakistani officials, including two top officials, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of the army staff, and General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of the ISI.
According to Hersh, contrary to the claim by the U.S. government that bin Laden was traced to his Abbottabad hideout through a courier, his location was revealed by a senior Pakistani intelligence official.
He also claimed that at the time he was killed, bin Laden was not hiding, but was being held as a prisoner by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Pakistani journalist Amir, referred to an article by David Ignatius, published in the Washington Post on February 18, 2012, which claimed that some Pakistani media reports said that former ISI Chief General Ziauddin Butt once said that Brigadier Ijaz Shah, head of the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau from 2004 to 2008, had arrange for Osama to stay at Abbottabad on former President Pervez Musharraf’s orders.
Bin Laden reportedly arrived in Abbottabad in 2005 when Gen. Ashfaq Kayani was the Pakistani ISI chief.
Butt also reportedly repeated the claim that Brigadier Shah and arranged for bin Ladin to stay in Abbottabad in an interview with Newsweek, published in the February, 2012, issue of the magazine.
However, Musharraf and other top-ranking Pakistani officials have denied allegations that they had knowledge of bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad.
An article by the New York Times foreign correspondent, Carlotta Gall, published in the New York Times on March 19, 2014, had also claimed that there appeared to have been evidence that former ISI chief Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shuja Pasha had known that bin Laden was in Abbottabad.
In another article published in the New York Times on May 12, 2015, Gall backed Hersh’s controversial account of the death of bin Laden, saying that it “rings true” and that while researching her book The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan, she learned from a “high-level member of the Pakistani intelligence service” that the ISI had been holding bin Laden prisoner.
She said she also learned after she had published her book that “it was indeed a Pakistani Army brigadier who told the C.I.A. where bin Laden was hiding, and that bin Laden was living there with the knowledge and protection of the ISI.”
According to Gall, Seymour’s account and recent reports by NBC News and AFP that U.S. sources and former senior Pakistani military officials admitted that a Pakistani defector has assisted the U.S. in its hunt for bin Laden suggests Pakistani complicity in “hiding a man charged with international terrorism.”
“This development is hugely important — it is the strongest indication to date that the Pakistani military knew of bin Laden’s whereabouts and that it was complicit in hiding a man charged with international terrorism and on the United Nations sanctions list.”
Pakistani military authorities had issued denials in response to Gall’s allegations in her March, 2014, New York Times article. But it is difficult to believe that bin Laden lived for six years in a compound near a major Pakistani military garrison without the knowledge of key Pakistani military and government officials.