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Engaging with Osama bin Laden in Swat

Guidelines for target acquisition by Special Forces (Part #1)

Osama bin Laden: The Akond of Swat?

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This is a contribution to the unique conjunction of strategically significant factors in May 2009. These include the invasion of the Swat Valley, a Taliban stronghold, by the Pakistan Army assisted by US military advisors (SWAT Teams). This notably follows the unusual shift in US military strategy with the announcement on 12 May of the appointment of Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, reputed for his skills in directing covert operations and targeted assassinations in that arena. The region is recognized as being the highly probable location of Osama bin Laden, the person most wanted on the planet by the most powerful person on the planet. Inspired by the possibility of a Poetic Engagement with Afghanistan, Caucasus and Iran an unexplored strategic opportunity? (2009), the latter had held a poetry strategy session, in the guise of a "party" (Ewen MacAskill, Obama to host poetry party at White House, The Guardian, 12 May 2009), undoubtedly as a contribution to the "fresh thinking" and "fresh eyes" required of the new approach. It has only recently been recognized that Osama bin Laden is a skilled poet (Michael Hirst, Analysing Bin Laden's jihadi poetry, BBC News, 24 September 2008).

To assist in such rethinking, the period also saw the first appointment of a woman Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, by the principal ally of the US in the Afghanistan-Pakistan arena. In addition, the BBC is sending Simon Armitage, previously tipped for that laureate position. to the arena (BBC plans to send poet to Afghanistan battlefields, The Observer, 24 May 2009), The action in the SWAT Valley is in process of displacing millions of people -- all heavily armed with the unique poetic weapons of the Pashtun language. As a contribution to this engagement, and given the early British strategic learnings in that arena as part of the Great Game (on the North West Frontier), the following guidelines have been slightly adapted from one of the few relevant poems to emerge from British experience in the SWAT Valley, namely that by Edward Lear (The Akond of Swat)

The poem focuses on the local leadership in the former princely state of Swat. through the Akond (or Ahhoond). Given the challenge of locating Osama bin Laden, and his promotion of the Muslim faith, there is the strong probability of his association with that Muslim clerical role and its involvement in madrassas. The Akond of that time was a Sufi ascetic with a highly charismatic and warlike personality who united the Swatis. Of additional strategic significance at this time is the launch on 20 May of a long-range missile by Iran, immediately following the meeting between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss the nuclear threat of Iran. The fact that Akhoond is a Persian name for a Muslim cleric should reinforce, within the intelligence community, the strategic connection with the leadership of Al-Qaida. The poem, lightly adapted, focuses on the challenge of identifying (aka "profiling" for SWAT Teams) Osama bin Laden -- given insights from the original challenge of identifying the Akond in the period of the Great Game.

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