Lt Col Anil Bhat is a prolific writer on military and strategic affairs. He is also an itinerant seminarian, who stays acutely in touch with all the thinking within the Indian strategic community in New Delhi. His latest book, After Abbottabad: Terror and Turmoil in Pakistan, is a reflection of his wide swathe of experience in the Indian Army and outside, garnered over decades.
Now, terrorism and turmoil is so endemic to Pakistan that one would expect that the writer would essentially walk on the path, well-trodden, by many others in arena. But, refreshingly, Bhat did not do what was expected. His first 170-odd pages are a description of the actors of the American, ‘War on Terror’ script.
The early pages of the book actually read like a well-written thriller, accounting for all the details about Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and the main characters that have caught the attention of Western media. The book details the profile of Osama Bin Laden, some of his sons and accomplices.
The book also talks about Operation Geronimo, the US Seals’ adventure into the town in Pakistan, Abbottabad, a garrison town, where Bin Laden was staying since 2006. He was living at a distance of a few kilometers from a military academy, being run by Pakistan Army.
The US multi-agency sleuths who tracked Osama and his family since 2008, pieced together the puzzle about who was staying in that three-acre compound. They even sent a local medic who took the blood samples of Osama and his family; matched DNA and made a positive identification of the fugitive.
The operation could easily have turned out to be a disaster as the Jimmy Carter operation into Iran to free the hostages taken by the Iranian students inside the US Embassy in Teheran. At that time the choppers had collided with each other and had gone down in flames killing all on board.
This time, with the Bin Laden operation, one of the four choppers, developed a technical snag and went down to be taking down a portion of the boundary wall of the compound.
But the operation was a success. The commercial pressure for encashing the success story is coming out every day in the media. This book details the operation, through the eyes of a former Indian Army officer.
Then there is a largely political account of Pakistan’s problems. How the country’s major stakeholders reacted to the situation after the US operation? How the Pakistan Army was proved to be incapable of even detecting or reacting to the development, close to their lair, as Lt Col Bhat says, ‘a few kilometres away from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) office.’
But I should not tell the whole story. That’s for you to find out by reading the book.