All eyes on Pakistan

Almost no one believes that the ISI could not have known of Bin Laden’s whereabouts.

Now that Bin Laden has gone to a watery grave, attention is focused on the role of Pakistan. Almost no one believes that he could have rented a mansion in Abbottabad, within a mile of "Pakistan's Sandhurst", without the knowledge of the Pakistani secret service (the notorious ISI).

Ming Campbell and Rory Stewart are among the British politicians who have argued that it is not credible for Pakistan to claim it did know where Bin Laden was hiding.

Elsewhere, Amrullah Saleh, the former head of Afghanistan's national security directorate, has declared: "Does Pakistan want the whole world to believe that the intelligence agency of a nuclear state did not know OBL was there?"

In an apparent attempt to deter suspicion, the ISI claimed joint responsibility for the operation but, as Barack Obama said in his statement, it was carried out by a "small team of Americans". He did, however, state that "our counterterrorism co-operation with Pakistan helped lead us to Bin Laden and the compound where he was hiding".

But, during a White House press briefing on the raid, a senior administration official pointedly noted that "we shared our intelligence on this Bin Laden compound with no other country, including Pakistan". He added: "That was for one reason and one reason alone: we believed it was essential to the security of the operation and our personnel. In fact, only a very small group of people inside our own government knew of this operation in advance."

In other words, the US simply did not trust Pakistan with the information.

UPDATE: Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan's main opposition leader, tells the Guardian: "It is very worrying that after ten years this man could only be captured in an operation that was kept secret from the Pakistani intelligence service. Just a few weeks ago, the Pakistanis were insisting that the US military and intelligence operations should be stopped in Pakistan and their agents should leave the country."

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why Prince Charles and Princess Anne are both wrong on GM foods

The latest tiff between toffs gives plenty of food for thought.

I don’t have siblings, so I was weirdly curious as a kid about friends who did, especially when they argued (which was often). One thing I noticed was the importance of superlatives: of being the best child, the most right, and the first to have been wronged. And it turns out things are no different for the Royals.

You might think selective breeding would be a subject on which Prince Charles and Princess Anne would share common ground, but when it comes to genetically modified crops they have very different opinions.

According to Princess Anne, the UK should ditch its concerns about GM and give the technology the green light. In an interview to be broadcast on Radio 4’s Farming Today, she said would be keen to raise both modified crops and livestock on her own land.

“Most of us would argue we have been genetically modifying food since man started to be agrarian,” she said (rallying the old first-is-best argument to her cause). She also argued that the practice can help reduce the price of our food and improve the lives of animals - and “suspects” that there are not many downsides.

Unfortunately for Princess Anne, her Royal “us” does not include her brother Charles, who thinks that GM is The Worst.

In 2008, he warned that genetically engineered food “will be guaranteed to cause the biggest disaster environmentally of all time.”  Supporting such a path would risk handing control of our food-chain to giant corporations, he warned -  leading to “absolute disaster” and “unmentionable awfulness” and “the absolute destruction of everything”.

Normally such a spat could be written off as a toff-tiff. But with Brexit looming, a change to our present ban on growing GM crops commercially looks ever more likely.

In this light, the need to swap rhetoric for reason is urgent. And the most useful anti-GM argument might instead be that offered by the United Nations’ cold, hard data on crop yields.

Analysis by the New York Times shows that, in comparison to Europe, the United States and Canada have “gained no discernible advantages” from their use of GM (in terms of food per acre). Not only this, but herbicide use in the US has increased rather than fallen.

In sum: let's swap superlatives and speculation for sense.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.