The timing of Ghailani’s arrest

The New Republic’s prediction comes true

Last month The New Republic had written that Bush administration officials had told Pakistan’s intelligence chief to produce some high-value al Qaeda targets to coincide with the Democratic National Convention in the last week of July to maximise political mileage. That prediction came true when the arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani – one of umpteen senior al Qaeda leaders – was announced a few hours before John Kerry’s acceptance speech.

The Bush administration had denied any connection between the two events, just as it first denied that there was any pressure with respect to the timing. But the actual shootout and arrest took place four days before the announcement. Pakistani officials explain the delay in announcing the names due to the efforts required to double-check the identity. After the fiasco over high-value targets in Waziristan, the Pakistanis cannot be faulted for being extra careful.

On the other hand, some officials feel that revealing Ghailani’s identity was a mistake as it will cause his al Qaeda contacts to scoot and cover their tracks. From this angle it would appear both the Bush campaign and the Pakistani double game would benefit from an early announcement of Ghailanis release.

Like almost everything else during an American election campaign, it is extremely difficult to be sure of where the truth really lies (pun unintended). But if an al Qaeda terrorist is captured before John Kerry makes important speeches, he should be making a lot more of those.

Related Link: Robert Tagorda rounds up some of reactions on the blogosphere