The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked in tandem with Pakistan to create the "monster" that is today Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, a leading US expert on South Asia said here. "I warned them that we were creating a monster," Selig Harrison from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars said at the conference here last week on "Terrorism and Regional Security: Managing the Challenges in Asia."
Harrison said: "The CIA made a historic mistake in encouraging Islamic groups from all over the world to come to Afghanistan." The US provided $3 billion for building up these Islamic groups, and it accepted Pakistan's demand that they should decide how this money should be spent, Harrison said.
Between 1978 and 1992, the US government poured at least US$6 billion (some estimates range as high as $20 billion) worth of arms, training and funds to prop up the mujaheddin factions. Other Western governments, as well as oil-rich Saudi Arabia, kicked in as much again. Wealthy Arab fanatics, like Osama bin Laden, provided millions more.
Washington's policy in Afghanistan was shaped by US President Jimmy Carter's national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and was continued by his successors. His plan went far beyond simply forcing Soviet troops to withdraw; rather it aimed to foster an international movement to spread Islamic fanaticism into the Muslim Central Asian Soviet republics to destabilise the Soviet Union.
Brzezinski's grand plan coincided with Pakistan military dictator General Zia ul-Haq's own ambitions to dominate the region. US-run Radio Liberty and Radio Free Europe beamed Islamic fundamentalist tirades across Central Asia (while paradoxically denouncing the “Islamic revolution” that toppled the pro-US Shah of Iran in 1979).
Washington's favoured mujaheddin faction was one of the most extreme, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. The West's distaste for terrorism did not apply to this unsavoury “freedom fighter”. Hekmatyar was notorious in the 1970s for throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil.
After the mujaheddin took Kabul in 1992, Hekmatyar's forces rained US-supplied missiles and rockets on that city — killing at least 2000 civilians — until the new government agreed to give him the post of prime minister. Osama bin Laden was a close associate of Hekmatyar and his faction.
Hekmatyar was also infamous for his side trade in the cultivation and trafficking in opium. Backing of the mujaheddin from the CIA coincided with a boom in the drug business. Within two years, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border was the world's single largest source of heroin, supplying 60% of US drug users.
In 1995, the former director of the CIA's operation in Afghanistan was unrepentant about the explosion in the flow of drugs: “Our main mission was to do as much damage as possible to the Soviets... There was a fallout in terms of drugs, yes. But the main objective was accomplished. The Soviets left Afghanistan.”
According to Ahmed Rashid, a correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review, in 1986 CIA chief William Casey committed CIA support to a long-standing ISI proposal to recruit from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. At least 100,000 Islamic militants flocked to Pakistan between 1982 and 1992 (some 60,000 attended fundamentalist schools in Pakistan without necessarily taking part in the fighting).
In Pakistan, recruits, money and equipment were distributed to the mujaheddin factions by an organisation known as Maktab al Khidamar (Office of Services — MAK).
MAK was a front for Pakistan's CIA, the Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate. The ISI was the first recipient of the vast bulk of CIA and Saudi Arabian covert assistance for the Afghan contras. Bin Laden was one of three people who ran MAK. In 1989, he took overall charge of MAK.
Osama bin Laden, one of 20 sons of a billionaire construction magnate, arrived in Afghanistan to join the jihad in 1980. An austere religious fanatic and business tycoon, bin Laden specialised in recruiting, financing and training the estimated 35,000 non-Afghan mercenaries who joined the mujaheddin.
The bin Laden family is a prominent pillar of the Saudi Arabian ruling class, with close personal, financial and political ties to that country's pro-US royal family.
Bin Laden senior was appointed Saudi Arabia's minister of public works as a favour by King Faisal. The new minister awarded his own construction companies lucrative contracts to rebuild Islam's holiest mosques in Mecca and Medina. In the process, the bin Laden family company in 1966 became the world's largest private construction company.
Osama bin Laden's father died in 1968. Until 1994, he had access to the dividends from this ill-gotten business empire.
(Bin Laden junior's oft-quoted personal fortune of US$200-300 million has been arrived at by the US State Department by dividing today's value of the bin Laden family net worth — estimated to be US$5 billion — by the number of bin Laden senior's sons. A fact rarely mentioned is that in 1994 the bin Laden family disowned Osama and took control of his share.)
Osama's military and business adventures in Afghanistan had the blessing of the bin Laden dynasty and the reactionary Saudi Arabian regime. His close working relationship with MAK also meant that the CIA was fully aware of his activities.
Milt Bearden, the CIA's station chief in Pakistan from 1986 to 1989, admitted to the January 24, 2000, New Yorker that while he never personally met bin Laden, “Did I know that he was out there? Yes, I did ... [Guys like] bin Laden were bringing $20-$25 million a month from other Saudis and Gulf Arabs to underwrite the war. And that is a lot of money. It's an extra $200-$300 million a year. And this is what bin Laden did.”
In 1986, bin Laden brought heavy construction equipment from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan. Using his extensive knowledge of construction techniques (he has a degree in civil engineering), he built “training camps”, some dug deep into the sides of mountains, and built roads to reach them.
These camps, now dubbed “terrorist universities” by Washington, were built in collaboration with the ISI and the CIA. The Afghan contra fighters, including the tens of thousands of mercenaries recruited and paid for by bin Laden, were armed by the CIA. Pakistan, the US and Britain provided military trainers.
Tom Carew, a former British SAS soldier who secretly fought for the mujaheddin told the August 13, 2000, British Observer, “The Americans were keen to teach the Afghans the techniques of urban terrorism — car bombing and so on — so that they could strike at the Russians in major towns ... Many of them are now using their knowledge and expertise to wage war on everything they hate.”
Al Qaeda (the Base), bin Laden's organisation, was established in 1987-88 to run the camps and other business enterprises. It is a tightly-run capitalist holding company — albeit one that integrates the operations of a mercenary force and related logistical services with “legitimate” business operations.
Bin Laden has simply continued to do the job he was asked to do in Afghanistan during the 1980s — fund, feed and train mercenaries. All that has changed is his primary customer. Then it was the ISI and, behind the scenes, the CIA. Now it is the Corporatocracy.
Bin Laden only became a “terrorist” in US eyes when he fell out with the Saudi royal family over its decision to allow more than 540,000 US troops to be stationed on Saudi soil following Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.
When thousands of US troops remained in Saudi Arabia after the end of the Gulf War, bin Laden's anger turned to outright opposition. He declared that Saudi Arabia and other regimes — such as Egypt — in the Middle East were puppets of the US, just as the PDPA government of Afghanistan had been a puppet of the Soviet Union.
He called for the overthrow of these client regimes and declared it the duty of all Muslims to drive the US out of the Gulf states. In 1994, he was stripped of his Saudi citizenship and forced to leave the country. His assets there were frozen.
By terrorising the Saudi Regime Osama Bin Laden crated the need for the US troops to remain based in Saudi Arabia.
After a period in Sudan, he returned to Afghanistan in May 1996. He refurbished the camps he had helped build during the Afghan war and offered the facilities and services — and thousands of his mercenaries — to the Taliban, which took power that September.
During the 2004 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and John Kerry battled about whether Osama bin Laden had escaped from Tora Bora in the final days of the war in Afghanistan. Bush, Kerry charged, "didn't choose to use American forces to hunt down and kill" the leader of Al Qaeda.
America was itself to blame for the events of September 11 because the US administration was using "kid gloves" in tracking down Osama bin Laden and "other fanatics linked to Saudi Arabia", a special BBC investigation has alleged in a damning indictment of the two presidents Bush and American foreign policy.
The report, which the BBC claimed was based on a secret FBI document, numbered 199I WF213589 and emanating out of the FBI’s Washington field office, alleged that the cynicism of the American establishment and "connections between the CIA and Saudi Arabia and the Bush men and bin Ladens" may have been the real cause of the deaths of thousands in the World Trade Centre attacks.
The investigation, which featured in the BBC’s leading current affairs programme, Newsnight, said the FBI was told to "back off" investigating one of Osama bin Laden’s brothers, Abdullah, who was linked to "the Saudi-funded World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY), a suspected terrorist organisation," whose accounts have still not frozen by the US treasury despite "being banned by Pakistan some weeks ago and India claiming it was linked to an organisation involved in bombing in Kashmir".
Newsnight said there was a long history of "shadowy" American connections with Saudi Arabia, not least the two presidents Bush’s "business dealings" with the bin Ladens and another more insidious link revealed by the former head of the American visa section in Jeddah.
The official said he had been concerned about visas issued to large numbers of "unqualified" men "with no family links or any links with America or Saudi Arabia", only to find out later that it "was not visa fraud" but part of a scheme in which young men "recruited by Osama bin Laden" were being sent for "terrorist training by the CIA" after which they were sent on to Afghanistan.
In a reiteration of a now well-known claim by one of George W Bush’s former business partners, the BBC said he made his first million 20 years ago on the back of a company financed by Osama’s elder brother, Salem. But it added the more disturbing assertion that both presidents Bush had lucrative stakes along with the bin Ladens in Carlyle Corporation, a small private company which has gone on to become one of America's biggest defence contractors. The bin Ladens sold their stake in Carlyle soon after September 11, it said.
American politicians later told the BBC programme that they rejected the accusation that the establishment had called the dogs of the intelligence agencies off the bin Ladens and the royal House of Saud because of a strategic interest in Saudi Arabia, which has the world's biggest oil reserve.
Pakistan's chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad "was in the US when the attacks occurred." He arrived in the US on the 4th of September, a full week before the attacks. He had meetings at the State Department "after" the attacks on the WTC. But he also had "a regular visit of consultations" with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon during the week prior to September 11.
What was the nature of these routine "pre-September 11 consultations"? Were they in any way related to the subsequent "post-September 11 consultations" pertaining to Pakistan's decision to cooperate with Washington. Was the planning of war being discussed between Pakistani and US officials?
On the 9th of September while General Ahmad was in the US, the leader of the Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated. The Northern Alliance had informed the Bush Administration that the ISI was allegedly implicated in the assassination.
The Bush Administration consciously took the decision in "the post September 11 consultations" with Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad to directly "cooperate" with Pakistan's military intelligence (ISI) despite its links to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and its alleged role in the assassination of Commander Masood, which coincidentally occurred two days before the terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, senior Pentagon and State Department officials had been rushed to Islamabad to put the finishing touches on America's war plans. And on the Sunday prior to the onslaught of the bombing of major cities in Afghanistan (October 7th), Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad was sacked from his position as head of the ISI in what was described as a routine "reshuffling."
In the days following General Ahmad's dismissal, a report published in the Times of India, revealed the links between Pakistan's Chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad and the presumed "ring leader" of the WTC attacks Mohamed Atta. The Times of India article was based on an official intelligence report of the Delhi government that had been transmitted through official channels to Washington. Quoting an Indian government source Agence France Press (AFP) confirms in this regard that: "The evidence we [the Government of India] have supplied to the US is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism."
The revelation of the Times of India article has several implications. The Indian intelligence report not only points to the links between ISI Chief General Ahmad and terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta, it also indicates that other ISI officials might have had contacts with the terrorists. Moreover, it suggests that the September 11 attacks were not an act of "individual terrorism" organised by a separate Al Qaeda cell, but rather they were part of coordinated military-intelligence operation, emanating from Pakistan's ISI.
The Times of India report also sheds light on the nature of General Ahmad's "business activities" in the US during the week prior to September 11, raising the distinct possibility of ISI contacts with Mohamed Atta in the US "prior" to the attacks on the WTC, precisely at the time when General Mahmoud and his delegation were on a so-called "regular visit of consultations" with US officials.
In assessing the alleged links between the terrorists and the ISI, it should be understood that Lt. General Ahmad as head of the ISI was a "US approved appointee". As head of the ISI since 1999, he was in liaison with his US counterparts in the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Pentagon. Also bear in mind that Pakistan's ISI remained throughout the entire post Cold War era until the present, the launch-pad for CIA covert operations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans
The existence of an "ISI-Osama-Taliban axis" was a matter of public record.
The links between the ISI and agencies of the US government including the
CIA are also a matter of public record. The Bush Administration was fully cognizant of Lt. General Ahmad's role. In other words, rather than waging a campaign against international terrorism, the evidence would suggest that it is indirectly abetting international terrorism, using the Pakistani ISI as a "go-between".
The Bush Administration's links with Pakistan's ISI --including its "consultations" with General Ahmad in the week prior to September 11-- raise the issue of "complicity". While Ahmad was talking to US officials at the CIA and the Pentagon, ISI officials were allegedly also in contact with the September 11 terrorists.
In other words, according to the Indian government intelligence report, the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had links to Pakistan's ISI, which in turn has links to agencies of the US government. What this suggests is that key individuals within the US military-intelligence establishment might have known about the ISI contacts with the September 11 terrorist "ring-leader" Mohamed Atta and failed to act.
The intelligence service of Pakistan, a crucial American ally in the war on terrorism, has had an indirect but longstanding relationship with Al Qaeda, turning a blind eye for years to the growing ties between Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, according to American officials.
The intelligence service even used Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan to train covert operatives for use in a war of terror against India, the Americans say.
The intelligence service, known as Inter-Services Intelligence, or I.S.I., also maintained direct links to guerrillas fighting in the disputed territory of Kashmir on Pakistan's border with India, the officials said.
Nine hundred families of September 11 victims have filed a trillion-dollar lawsuit against members of the royal Saudi family, businessmen worth a combined $5 billion, and banks and charities. The lawsuit accuses them of financing Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, and the Taliban government. And one of the defendants - Saudi Sheikh Khalid bin Mahfouz -- will likely draw increasing attention in coming months due to his past business relationships with President George W. Bush - the sweetheart deals he made during the elder Bush's presidency.
According to a Saudi government audit acquired by U.S. intelligence officials, five of Saudi Arabia’s wealthiest businessmen, including National Commercial Bank (NCB) founder and chairman Khalid bin Mahfouz, transferred personal funds along with $3 million diverted from a Saudi pension fund, to New York and London banks with accounts linked to terrorism. (USA Today, 10-28-99)
The money transfers were discovered in April, 1999 after the royal family ordered an audit of both NCB and Sheikh Mahfouz.
The plot thickens when we find Mahfouz is also linked by marriage to terrorist Osama bin Laden, as Mahfouz’s sister is married to the Al Qaeda leader, according to not only former CIA Director James Woolsey in 1998 Senate testimony, but also Jean-Charles Brisard, lead 9/11 lawsuit attorney Ronald Motley's researcher, and author of the book, The Forbidden Truth.
Powerful Washington, D.C. law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss Hauer & Feld LLP has earned hefty fees representing Mahfouz, other billionaire Saudi businessmen and the Texas-based Islamic charity, Holy Land Foundation – the largest in America -- which FBI officials fingered as a terrorist front organization in America. And two of Bush’s closest Texas friends, James C. Langdon and George R. Salem -- chair of Arab-Outreach in his 2000 campaign -- are partners at Akin, Gump. (Boston Herald, 12-11-2001)
Five days before September 11, the FBI raided Holy Land’s internet firm InfoCom Corporation, indicating pre-attack investigative interest in the charity‘s links to terrorism.
Mahfouz’s past also includes business dealings with George W. Bush, having invested $50,000 in the younger Bush’s first company, Arbusto Energy, through his U.S. representative James R. Bath, an aircraft broker and friend of Mr. Bush from their days together in the Texas Air National Guard. (Wall Street Journal (WSJ), “Vetting the Frontrunners: From Oil to Baseball to the Governor’s Mansion,” 9-28-1999).
According to a 1976 trust agreement, Salem bin Laden appointed James Bath as his business representative in Houston. Revelation about Bath’s relationship with the bin Laden financial empire and the CIA was made public in 1992 by Bill White, a former real estate business partner with Bath. White informed federal investigators in 1992 that Bath told him that he had assisted the CIA in a liaison role since 1976 – the same year former President George Herbert Walker Bush served as director of the CIA.
Legal papers regarding Bath's contested divorce listed one of his assets as a $50,000 investment in Arbusto Oil -- Bush's first company. Moreover, Bath's business partner said he had no substantial money of his own at the time he made the Arbusto investment, implying that Bath received the money from someone else: "Most of Bath's investments....were really fronts for Mahfouz and other Saudis connected with the Bank of Credit and Commerce (BCCI)." (The Outlaw Bank: A Wild Ride Into the Secret Heart of BCCI, Random House, Beaty & Gwynne, 1993, page 229.)
Strangely, given wide reports that Saudi billionaires are and have been financing terrorism in the United States for years, President Bush has still not issued a freeze on all correspondent transactions linked to banks in Saudi Arabia -- since most of the hijackers were Saudi nationals. [ See Executive Order 3224 Blocking Terrorist Property, The White House, 9-23-2001 http://www.banking.state.ny.us/il01102a.pdf ]
A Washington Post report (9-29-20010) also questioned “why [Bush’s] original Executive Order did not name any banks,” as the President has the power to freeze American monetary operations connected to global banks with institutions in countries refusing to cooperate in the terrorist finance probe. Thus Saudi financial scrutiny has been avoided.
According to Afghan, Iranian, and Turkish government sources, Hamid Karzai, the Prime Minister of Afghanistan, was a top adviser to the El Segundo, California-based UNOCAL Corporation which was negotiating with the Taliban to construct a Central Asia Gas (CentGas) pipeline from Turkmenistan through western Afghanistan to Pakistan. Karzai, the leader of the southern Afghan Pashtun Durrani tribe, was a member of the mujaheddin that fought the Soviets during the 1980s. He was a top contact for the CIA and maintained close relations with CIA Director William Casey, Vice President George Bush, and their Pakistani Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) Service interlocutors. Later, Karzai and a number of his brothers moved to the United States under the auspices of the CIA. Karzai continued to serve the agency's interests, as well as those of the Bush Family and their oil friends in negotiating the CentGas deal, according to Middle East and South Asian sources.
When one peers beyond all of the rhetoric of the White House and Pentagon concerning the Taliban, a clear pattern emerges showing that construction of the trans-Afghan pipeline was a top priority of the Bush administration from the outset. Although UNOCAL claims it abandoned the pipeline project in December 1998, the series of meetings held between U.S., Pakistani, and Taliban officials after 1998, indicates the project was never off the table.
Quite to the contrary, recent meetings between U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlain and that country's oil minister Usman Aminuddin indicate the pipeline project is international Project Number One for the Bush administration.
Chamberlain, who maintains close ties to the Saudi ambassador to Pakistan (a one-time chief money conduit for the Taliban), has been pushing Pakistan to begin work on its Arabian Sea oil terminus for the pipeline.