Let Bin Laden Stay Free?
Let Bin Laden stay free, says CIA man (Times of London, Sunday)
The world may be better off if Osama Bin Laden remains at large, according to the Central Intelligence AgencyÃ¢€™s recently departed executive director. If the worldÃ¢€™s most wanted terrorist is captured or killed, a power struggle among his Al-Qaeda subordinates may trigger a wave of terror attacks, said AB Ã¢€œBuzzyÃ¢€ Krongard, who stepped down six weeks ago as the CIAÃ¢€™s third most senior executive. Ã¢€œYou can make the argument that weÃ¢€™re better off with him (at large),Ã¢€ Krongard said. Ã¢€œBecause if something happens to Bin Laden, you might find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho they are by unleashing a stream of terror.Ã¢€
Krongard, a former investment banker who joined the CIA in 1998, said Bin LadenÃ¢€™s role among Islamic militants was changing. Ã¢€œHeÃ¢€™s turning into more of a charismatic leader than a terrorist mastermind,Ã¢€ he said. Ã¢€œSome of his lieutenants are the ones to worry about.Ã¢€ Krongard, 68, said he viewed Bin Laden Ã¢€œnot as a chief executive but more like a venture capitalistÃ¢€. He added: Ã¢€œLetÃ¢€™s say you and I want to blow up Trafalgar Square. So we go to Bin Laden. And heÃ¢€™ll say, Ã¢€˜Well, hereÃ¢€™s some money and some passports and if you need weapons, see this guyÃ¢€™. Ã¢€œI donÃ¢€™t see him keeping his fingers on everything because the lines of communications are just too difficult.Ã¢€
Several US officials have privately admitted that it may be better to keep Bin Laden pinned down on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than make him a martyr or put him on trial. But Krongard is the most senior figure to acknowledge publicly that his capture might prove counter-productive.
Krongard also acknowledged that the CIA was still having trouble planting spies in Islamic militant ranks. Ã¢€œThere are hundreds and hundreds of (Al-Qaeda) cells Ã¢€” itÃ¢€™s like a living, moving bit of protoplasm,Ã¢€ he said. Ã¢€œIn order to penetrate you not only have to be language-proficient, you also have to commit acts that exceed criminality. ItÃ¢€™s very hard.Ã¢€
Certainly counter-intuitive. While it’s always been the case that bin Laden’s primary role was managerial rather than as a terrorist manager, it’s hard to conceive that capturing/killing him would be a bad move. While his acquiring martyr status might have negative consequences from a recruitment standpoint, presumably the same is true of his continued ability to elude the West. One would think, too, that a power struggle would be more likely to occur in the aftermath of bin Laden’s death/capture than in the present circumstances.