Carlotta Gall's book reveals nothing not already known about Pakistan's collusion with violent extremists.
Last month, The New York Times ran an excerpt from reporter Carlotta Gall's new book with the blockbuster accusation that Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence directorate (ISI) ran a special desk "assigned to handle bin Laden". In other words, the Pakistani state was not merely negligent, or even incompetent, in its post-9/11 counterterror operations; it was complicit in aiding and abetting America's number one enemy, the world's most notorious terrorist.
Does Gall's story matter? At one level, of course it does. Gall's allegations strengthen the growing chorus in Washington that would rather treat Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism than a "frontline ally in the war on terror". Politically speaking, the United States simply cannot continue to provide billions of dollars in assistance to a state that knowingly harboured Osama bin Laden.
But that's where the complicating factors come in. The first problem is that Gall's case is hardly irrefutable. It hinges, first and foremost, on a conversation she had with an unnamed insider source. Gall adds that the conversation was consistent with conclusions drawn by unnamed US officials, and that another Pakistani source told her the then-ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, was aware of bin Laden's whereabouts. Gall also writes that during his stay in Pakistan, bin Laden was in touch with several important terrorists with longstanding ties to the ISI, including Qari Saifullah Akhtar of al-Qaeda and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Toiba. She observes that these communications were probably known to the ISI.