bin Laden’s Death: A Game Changer in Pakistan

The death of Osama bin Laden at the hands of US forces will no doubt bring closure to many throughout the world who’ve lost loved ones to al-Qaeda’s terror campaign. But far from signalling the end of the battle for supremacy in South Asia, bin Laden’s demise only marks the end of the beginning.

The United States reportedly launched the attack on bin Laden’s luxury, Pakistani hideaway without informing the Pakistani authorities. The failure to gain prior consent lays bare the lack of trust which has characterized relations between Islamabad and Washington since the beginning of the War on Terror.  Speculation has been rife for years that Pakistan has been playing a double game with the West – posing as a cooperative ally in the war in neighbouring Afghanistan while secretly aiding the Afghan Taliban which gave bin Laden sanctuary.  Classified US documents posted online by Wikileaks repeatedly accuse the ISI, Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency, of supporting the Afghan Taliban.

Not surprisingly, Islamabad has vigorously denied all charges that it has or continues to help the Afghan Taliban, often citing its own fight against the Pakistani Taliban; a bogus comparison in my view given that the Pakistani Taliban is committed to the destruction of the government in Islamabad as opposed to the ouster of the US-led coalition from Afghanistan.  Moreover, the location, scale and opulence of the compound where bin Laden met his end would seem to suggest that there are at the very least powerful elements in Pakistan’s establishment
sympathetic if not supportive of al-Qaeda’s war against the West.  The secured, luxury villa worth a reported £600,000 was built five years ago in Abbottabad, an affluent garrison town firmly under the control of Pakistan’s military elite and home to its main military academy.


 The fact that bin Laden was hunted down and killed just a stone’s throw from Pakistan’s version of Sandhurst/West Point puts Islamabad between a rock and hard place.  It is doubtful the civilian-led Pakistani government has the power to clean house and ruthlessly weed out Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda supporters in the military and security services without inviting a coup.   And if they throw their hands up and claim that they had no idea bin Laden was living comfortably right under their noses, it will completely undermine claims that Islamabad can prevent terrorists from doing as they like in the country– including exploiting Pakistan’s most precious military asset; its nuclear arsenal.

For years, Islamabad has refused to allow outside observers to check the safety of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, stating it will never allow any country to have direct or indirect access to its nuclear facilities.  Whether Islamabad pleads ignorance on sheltering bin Laden or starts purging its military and security services of al-Qaeda sympathizers, it will be very difficult now for Pakistan to resist US offers to help secure its nuclear assets (especially if the US secures the backing of the United Nations for such a plan).


 If the US can get its foot in Pakistan’s proverbial nuclear door, it will be the ultimate game changer.  Contrary to popular belief, the US and
Britain are not Pakistan’s most treasured allies.  It’s China (not only have I blogged frequently about this strategic relationship over the past year; it serves as the backdrop for my forthcoming novel The Good Jihadist, ).  China has huge influence with Islamabad; selling Pakistan arms and investing billions in developing natural resources and energy routes through the country including highways and a strategically important port in Gwadar, Baluchistan.

The Sino-Pakistani nexus is not just commercially beneficial to both parties.  By serving as a direct energy conduit between oil rich Gulf nations and Western China, Pakistan is vital to Beijing’s future security.  In turn, Beijing offers Islamabad a powerful buffer against its most bitter enemy, India (whose nuclear ambitions are currently being supported by the US).

Just last week, the The Wall Street Journal reported that Pakistan’s Prime Minister was attempting to cut the US out of Afghanistan’s future by reportedly urging Afghan President Karzai to forget about a long-term US military presence in his country and instead embrace Pakistan and China as allies.   The article went on to quote unnamed US officials, saying that ‘the idea of China taking a leading role in Afghanistan
was fanciful at best.’

Anyone who has been following China’s commercial progress in Afghanistan and Pakistan knows full well that Beijing is in a prime position to be the hegemonic power in the region.  But by finally killing bin Laden, the United States has shown it is not about to abandon South Asia to forces beyond its control.

Published by: bobshepherdauthor

Bestselling author Bob Shepherd has spent nearly forty years operating in conflict areas around the world. A twenty year veteran of Britain’s elite 22 SAS Regiment with nearly two decades of private security work to his credit, Bob has successfully negotiated some of the most dangerous places on earth as a special forces soldier and a private citizen. Bob comments regularly on security issues and has appeared on CNN International, BBC, SKY News, and BBC Radio. He has also authored numerous articles and books including the Sunday Times Top Ten bestseller The Circuit. In addition to writing and lecturing, Bob continues to advise individuals operating in hostile environments. For more of his insights on security and geopolitics visit

Categories Global Security, PakistanTags, , , , , , , , 10 Comments

10 thoughts on “bin Laden’s Death: A Game Changer in Pakistan”

  1. Bob,

    I have come to your blog via your two books late! it is so refreshing to read insight and analysis of global politics without any political/financial bias. I was unaware of the Sino-Pakistani alliance and find it almost as uncomfortable to think of as the Korean situations which seems to have so many parallels?

    Having said that;I am sure as the material resources of the planet dwindle and the China’s industrial might grows it’s influence will be felt greater than at present on a global scale.

    best regards,

    1. Thanks Glenn,

      You’re smack on there, I like your thoughts on Pakistan having a parallel with the Koreas too, China/US struggle for command of the region. The big problem with Pakistan/Afghanistan is that there are more major actors working in a proxy manor.
      Very best regards and thanks again.

  2. Dear Bob,

    Thank you for yet another interesting and illuminating blog. I knew that the Chinese are currently busy extending their influence in Africa, the Pacific and even in South America (Surinam), but that they are also trying, through Pakistan, to curb US influence in South Asia and gain influence in Afghanistan was new to me. But I wonder if the alliance between Islam and the Chinese will hold up in the long run. After all, in the past the Chinese have shown that they are are not very keen on any religious activism by the muslim Uighurs living in the western part of China.

    Best regards,

    1. Hi Paul,

      Cheers, the situation really is a jigsaw puzzle, extremely hard to put together. China remember hasn’t fired a shot in anger either in Afghanistan or Pakistan. It’s doing everything economically and diplomatically. However China and Pakistan have taken part in joint military exercises. It’s up to the USA/Britain etc to put the puzzle together….or not!
      Very best regards.

  3. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for another interesting article.

    I find it very fanciful indeed that Pakistan could not have known anything about the compound in Abbotabad.
    Given that they have their own struggle with the Pakistani Taleban, they would have surely been suspicious of such a secretive compound.

    As symbolic as the killing of bin Laden was, I doubt that much will change.

    It is interesting to note you observations on China’s relationship with Pakistan.
    It would further add to the senselessness and futility of the ongoing war in Afghanistan if the Chinese reap all the rewards once we have pulled out.


  4. Hi again Bob

    Once again really enjoyed the article .

    Recently I watched a documentary detailing Chinas “sneak” invasion of Africa – pouring money into various projects etc – with this in mind and the world economic state is it possible by taking action on two fronts do you think the Chinese could possibly be overstretching themselves ?


    1. Hi Yvonne,
      Thanks for this. No, I don’t think so, as they’re doing everything economically and diplomatically as opposed to bombing their way into these places. I do believe however that they’re putting massive pressure on the rest of the industrial world who require these resourses too. Hence why we are where we are today militarily, whether it’s for oil or other resources.
      Take good care.

  5. Hi Bob

    Interesting thoughts and very provoking. I think that one of the key reasons why China is making such economic inroads into places such as Africa, Pakistan etc is that, unlike the West, they place no conditions on the aid they give. When you have a choice between a judgmental /non judgmental aid provider, who would you prefer…..

    As an aside, do you have plans to bring out Kindle versions of your books?

    Per Ardua

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for commenting. Links for books including Kindle are on the relevent book pages of this blog.

      There are Kindle UK versions of The Circuit and The Infidel. For The Circuit, go to

      For The Infidel, go to

      A Kindle UK version of my next novel, The Good Jihadist, will be released on 4 August this year. I’ll post the link on
      The Good Jihadist page of this blog ( so please check back.

      Once again, thanks for your comments on this post.


  6. Hi Bob,

    I realise this comment is late, just subscribed to blog after reading The circuit, great book thoroughly enjoyed. I was concerned that the Americans reportedly launched their attack on bin Laden in Pakistani without informing the Pakistani authorities. Failure to gain prior consent whether there was a lack of trust or not between the two nations is frightening. I thought there was international laws’ regarding this sort of conduct and historically has America not been burned before with this type of covert operation. Had the op gone totally pear shaped how the Americans would have handled the press release if there was one I would have been interested to view.

    I was also concerned with the televised celebrations on the streets of many US cities and obvious delight of the US citizens when their President announced the death of bin Laden. Whilst I understand the significance of 9/11 and bin Laden in this connection I personally thought the Americans let themselves down by behaving in this extreme show of emotion and disregard for human life regardless of the atrocities associated to his name. I would expect many would be disturbed by Islamic extremist displaying the same jubilation at the death of a western leader.

    I recall you saying in your book that whilst serving in the military you were fed a certain line and basically that was the line you took without question. Your politicisation only took place when you left the military and started working the circuit as a civilian and in particular working with journalist in hostile environments. I understand this concept and in context with the portrayed American reaction to bin Laden’s death I find it disturbing how the American and British governments through the media and throughout the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have whipped up such hysteria over the War on Terror albeit public support in Britain is more passive today. Being fed a line springs to mind and anyone reading your books who was not aware of hidden agenda’s will now have some alternative insight.

    Briefly on China I personally welcome their economical and diplomatic involvement as America needs tamed, their hegemonic power globally post WWII is historically questionable and in simple terms good guy bad guy also springs to mind. I look forward to reading your other books and future blogs.

    Kind regards,


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