Pakistani security forces have torn down the house in Abbottabad where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden lived in hiding from 2005 until he was killed by a U.S. Navy SEAL commando team last May. Heavy equipment operators demolished the three-story house and other structures in the compound over the weekend, and by Monday, only portions of the compound's exterior wall remained standing. Government officials did not say why they destroyed the house. Here, four theories:
1. The house was a symbol of weakness for Pakistan's military
"Islamabad was outraged by the covert American raid" that took out bin Laden, says Anjum Naveed for the Associated Press. Washington didn't alert Pakistan in advance, for fear that some official "might tip off the al Qaeda chief," deepening the diplomatic rift between the two countries. The resulting operation left Pakistan's powerful army "in the awkward position of explaining how it was unable to stop U.S. troops from attacking a compound deep inside Pakistan." Now they've managed to "erase the symbol" of their "colossal security failure."
2. It also embarrassed the vaunted intelligence service
As long as the hideout remained intact, it attracted media attention, Rashid Khan, an international relations professor at the University of Sargodha in central Pakistan, tells Bloomberg. For years, bin Laden lived undetected less than a half mile from one of Pakistan's biggest military training facilities. Pakistan's spy services are supposed to be all-seeing. Obviously, the authorities wanted to "remove this symbol of their humiliation and the most glaring example of their intelligence failure."
3. Now the compound won't become an al Qaeda shrine
Islamabad isn't making any official statements, says Press Trust of India, but military officials have confirmed that they demolished the house in part so that it would "not become a shrine" for bin Laden's followers. They're hoping to demoralize jihadists in Pakistan by proving that the government doesn't want to preserve anything connected with terrorists.
4. It ends local disputes over the house
The people of Abbottabad have complained about tight security in the area since the U.S. raid, says Jibran Ahmad at Reuters. While some locals had hoped that the compound would be turned into a tourist attraction to generate income for the local economy, others are glad to see it go. For better or worse, the demolition ends that argument. Now the military can just "let people live their lives."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- Did the media get Ferguson wrong?
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- What the Middle Ages can tell us about the GOP's big charity myth
- The U.S. is about to sell weapons to Vietnam. That's bad news for China.
- 10 things you need to know today: October 24, 2014
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- Why the government should pay every American child an allowance
- How foreign aid screwed up Liberia's ability to fight Ebola
- America's anti-feminist mega-corporations' toxic disregard for women must stop
- Keira Knightley on Laggies, relationships, and surviving your 20s
Subscribe to the Week