al-Qaeda and Pakistani Intelligence
It has long been clear that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (military intelligence) helped create the Taliban and almost certainly was involved in al-Qaeda somehow.
Just-declassified US military intelligence documents reveal that ISI actually ran one of the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and may have been far more involved in fostering the organization in 1996-1997 than earlier known. The documents admit that the ISI lost control of the Taliban and al-Qaeda over time. Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the current military dictator/ president, has attempted to purge the most extreme of the radical Islamist officers, starting with Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmad. The latter openly engaged in insubordination when Musharraf sent him to Qanadahar to convince Mulla Omar to hand over Bin Laden after Sept. 11. Instead, he is said to have consulted with Mulla Omar on ways of fending off such demands. Musharraf sacked him and replaced him with a secularist Pushtun. Officers at ISI are detailed there from other military units, and Musharraf began retiring extremist Islamists or sending them back to their units, where he hoped they would be diluted. There was a danger they would make a coup against him and get control of the Pakistani nuclear arsenal, as well as starting the Taliban back up. So far Musharraf has forestalled such a move, and the recent elections have probably helped, since the vast majority of the country voted centrist and there is now a parliament in place. Under Musharraf, the Pakistani military has arrested hundreds of al-Qaeda operatives; apparently they knew where to look :-).
The big question is whether any US intelligence agencies will also be implicated in this way. See below.
Far rightwing figures like Lt. Gen. Hamid Gul and Gen. Javed Nasir, who have served as Directors General of the ISI, have played an extremely sinister role in underming Pakistani democracy. The ISI’s political bureau even rceived campaign money to throw the election to the Muslim League and defeat the left of center Pakistan People’s Party in the 1990s.
The power of the ISI was magnified a hundred-fold in the 1980s, via their alliance with the CIA against the Soviet Union. The United States used the ISI as a pass-through agency to funnel billions of dollars from the Reagan Administration to Islamist radicals like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar (who is now killing US troops in Afghanistan).
B. Raman, formerly of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (its own CIA), explains that “The Afghan war of the 1980s saw the enhancement of the covert action capabilities of the ISI by the CIA. A number of officers from the ISI’s Covert Action Division received training in the US and many covert action experts of the CIA were attached to the ISI to guide it in its operations against the Soviet troops by using the Afghan Mujahideen, Islamic fundamentalists of Pakistan and Arab volunteers. Osama bin Laden, Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers outside their office in Langley, US, in 1993, Ramzi Yousef and his accomplices involved in the New York World Trade Centre explosion in February, 1993, the leaders of the Muslim separatist movement in the southern Philippines and even many of the narcotics smugglers of Pakistan were the products of the ISI-CIA collaboration in Afghanistan. The encouragement of opium cultivation and heroin production and smuggling was also an offshoot of this co-operation. The CIA, through the ISI, promoted the smuggling of heroin into Afghanistan in order to make the Soviet troops heroin addicts. Once the Soviet troops were withdrawn in 1988, these heroin smugglers started smuggling the drugs to the West, with the complicity of the ISI. The heroin dollars have largely contributed to preventing the Pakistani economy from collapsing and enabling the ISI to divert the jehadi hordes from Afghanistan to J & K after 1989 and keeping them well motivated and well-equipped.”
[Actually, it is far more likely that the opium sales were for the purpose of financing Mujahidin anti-Soviet actions than that they hoped to hook any large number of Russian soldiers on the stuff. Drug money is off the books and helped the Reagan administration fund the effort, just as Iran-Contra weapons sales to Iran helped fund the death squads in Nicaragua].
The ISI Islamist officers considered that the fostering of far rightwing Islamist radicals in Afghanistan had a twin benefit for Pakistani interests. They denied Afghanistan to India as an ally (India-Afghanistan alliances have emerged at several points, in the mid-1970s and again today, which Islamabad views with alarm since they lead to Pakistan being surrounded, especially if New Delhi and Tehran also have good relations, as they do now). Also, Afghanistan terrorist training camps could be used to foster jihadi groups that could be sent over the border into Kashmir to hit Indian targets.
For the just-declassified documents on ISI and al-Qaeda see
The documents themselves are up on the Web at
For Raman’s extensive analysis of the Inter-Services Intelligence, see
Of course, this is like reading a former KGB officer on the CIA, so caveat emptor.