"Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo," radioed a member of SEAL Team Six as the special-operations force zeroed in on bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
When it was over, the SEALs had not only eliminated the al Qaeda leader, they had his mail as well -- thousands of letters, plus notes on al Qaeda activities. The U.S. government handed some of the stuff over to the Countering Terrorism Center at West Point, which in turn cranked out a report analyzing the documents.
The report found only "scarce and inconclusive" mentions of our "trusted Pakistani brothers." That seems odd, since Pakistan had become not just the place bin Laden chose to build his retirement home, but the new home base for al Qaeda central. But it's not odd at all when you consider that the Countering Terrorism Center was given access to only 17 (count 'em, 17) documents.
The SEALs were reported to have removed thousands of pages of material from the bin Laden compound. Obviously, the U.S. government decided not to share documents involving al Qaeda's affiliates in Pakistan.
Of course, the government might want to keep those materials secret to exploit their intelligence value. On the other hand, the White House just might have been none too keen to highlight al Qaeda's relationship with affiliate groups in Pakistan. The latter possibility would be in keeping with administration policy, which, from day one, has downplayed the affiliates -- even as these groups have become an ever more clear and present danger to the United States.
Consider the Haqqani Network -- an association of terrorism and criminal enterprises operating in northwest Pakistan. As Lisa Curtis, a regional expert and analyst at the Heritage Foundation, testified before Congress, "The Haqqani network has been a major facilitator of the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan and is responsible for some of the fiercest attacks against U.S. and coalition forces." In 2010, Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the leaders of the network, declared in an interview, "We believe that defeating the United States in Afghanistan will help to hinder this Crusade against the Muslim world."
Yet, while the Haqqanis were busy killing Americans and working to undermine the search for peace and stability in Afghanistan, the Obama administration determinedly refused for years to designate the network an official foreign terrorist organization, or FTO.
What was the White House thinking? Just that the Haqqanis have links with ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service. To go after the Haqqanis would only add stress to the strained relations between the U.S. and the Pakistan. Further, the White House has reached out to groups like the Haqqani Network in the course of "negotiating" America's way out of Afghanistan.
Whatever the White House hoped to accomplish with its go-soft policy, it clearly wasn't working. Congress was clearly frustrated. A subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee planned hearings on Sept. 13 to call out the administration for not slapping the FTO designation on the Haqqanis.
Suddenly, in August, the administration switched course. It targeted one of the network's top operational commanders with a drone strike. That was a first. Though the U.S. had been gathering intelligence on the Haqqanis for a long time, whacking their leaders was out of bounds. Apparently, not anymore.
Then, a week before the congressional hearing, the State Department abruptly designated the network an FTO.
Why the change? Well, the facts on the ground haven't changed -- but there is an election in November. By designating the Haqqani Network an FTO, the White House takes off the table a possible source of criticism. What a way to fight a war on terror.
Examiner Columnist James Jay Carafano is a senior research fellow for national security at the Heritage Foundation.