Osama said to be the background
of action: Diplomats search for 3 missing US commandos
By Allah Nawaz Khan
DERA ISMAIL KHAN, May 7: The hectic search for three Americans
who went "missing" in South Waziristan Agency more than
a month ago has proved abortive. No trace of these persons was
found as reportedly they had crossed into Afghanistan allegedly
in a bid to find the hideout of Saudi dissident, Osama bin Laden
said to be living somewhere in Afghanistan.
Two Peshawar-based US diplomats - principal officer in the
American consulate Brad Hanson and his aide Ms Valescoe - paid a
visit to Tank and D.I.Khan on Thursday reportedly in their bid to
get a clue of the "missing American commandos" who
reportedly disappeared somewhere in this area while on a secret
From the airport the two US diplomats drove straight to Tank to
meet the political agent of South Waziristan. They remained
closeted with the political agent for about three hours and later
returned to D.I.Khan to meet the divisional commissioner. All the
while they were in D.I.Khan the two were closely followed by
sleuths of some sensitive agencies.
Ostensibly, as also confirmed by the divisional commissioner, the
American diplomats were in D.I. Khan to say farewell to the local
officials "as Mr Hanson is due to leave his present
assignment in July." However, their visit to Tank to meet
the political agent before calling on the commissioner is
regarded in concerned circles as both amusing and puzzling.
Sources later confided that the visit was connected with the
search for three "missing Americans" who could be in
the custody of Afghan authorities across the border. It could not
be immediately ascertained how three Americans, "commandos
or not", had managed to get into the interior of South
Waziristan right up to Wana and then went "missing"
without being intercepted or spotted by the authorities. The
entry of foreigners - and even Pakistani nationals - into South
Waziristan is banned without the permission of higher
authorities. In the case of foreign nationals, this permission
can be granted only by the States & Frontier Regions
division, commonly known as SAFRON, in Islamabad.
The two visiting US diplomats later flew back to Peshawar the
same day with their mission to locate the "missing
Americans" apparently having failed.
Our Islamabad Bureau adds: On being asked by Dawn, the US embassy
spokesman Lie Erwin denied the reports of the arrival and the
subsequent disappearance of US "commandos" and also
that the US had mounted a search for bin Laden and the
About the visit of Mr Hanson and Ms Valescoe, Mr Erwin said their
visit to D.I. Khan and other areas of the province was part of
their "routine tours of duty" to study the political
situation of the country. "It's not surprising that two US
diplomats are visiting D.I. Khan," he said, adding: "To
turn their routine visit to some sort of search for Laden or for
missing commandos is a mere fabrication."
Mr Erwin emphasised that the US diplomats regularly visited
different parts of the country for the sake of understanding the
political situation of the country. But he was not sure whether
the two diplomats had obtained the permission of the foreign
office for the visit. He, however, said there were certain parts
of the country which could be visited by diplomats without
seeking prior permission of the foreign office. He said he would
be available during the office timings to provide detailed
information about these prohibited and non-prohibited areas.
The commissioner of D.I. Khan confirmed to this correspondent by
telephone that the two diplomats were currently visiting his
division but he said that their visit was actually a farewell
call by Mr Hanson who was being posted out of Pakistan in the
near future. "It was just a courtesy call over a cup of tea
and we did not discuss either Laden or commandos."
Sources, however, said the two diplomats had also called on
administrative officers in several districts. The DIG of D.I.
Khan police hosted a dinner in their honour on Thursday. They
also met the political agent.
During these meetings, the sources said, the local
administration's assistance was sought to search for the missing
The interior ministry is completely in the dark about the
situation. Sources at the ministry said the foreign office should
be knowing about the movement of the diplomats and also about the
presence of the commandos. They claimed that there were
innumerable secret agency reports about unauthorised movements by
diplomats, mostly Americans and British.
A senior official of the protocol wing in the foreign ministry
which monitors the movement of diplomats told Dawnthat he had no
knowledge about any permission having been sought by the US
diplomats to visit D.I. Khan. He rejected the interior ministry's
view that diplomats moved around without seeking prior permission
from the wing.