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Something old, something new, something borrowed, something true/updated x3

Posted by Charles II on May 12, 2015

So is Sy Hersh’s story in the London Review of Books on the raid at Abbottabad in which Osama bin Laden was killed fiction? Is it old news, or even plagiarized? Is it true at all? Is it news at all? Or are a lot of people missing the point entirely?

The answer is that it depends… on what one is looking for in journalism, in what one calls journalism, and so on. Let’s dispose of the plagiarism one first. Raelynn Hillhouse did, indeed, write blog posts in 2011 calling into question the Administration’s story, and laying out a counternarrative that at the very least resembles that of Sy Hersh. She has accused him of doing either fiction or plagiarism. If he were doing fiction, then her own work, which she has presented as fact must be fiction; clearly she doesn’t think so and–whatever her politics–she has some serious journalistic and academic chops (“R.J. Hillhouse, a former professor, Fulbright fellow and novelist whose writing on intelligence and military outsourcing has appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times”). This claim of hers might be wrong, but it’s not fiction.

So is Hersh plagiarizing? Hillhouse states that “I trust my sources–which were clearly different than his.” If Hersh’s sources were different, then it’s clearly not plagiarism.

So, perhaps it’s old news, news that Hillhouse reported on her blog in 2011, but (according to The Intercept) that only made it to the New Zealand Herald. [It also made it into The Telegraph, but was not followed up on.] But if news never makes it out into the mainstream so that it can be discussed, can it be said to have been reported? The answer has to be “no.”

Next we get to the question of whether it is true. Here we have to be careful. The articles that I have read attacking Hersh’s reporting are problematic at best. One by Max Fisher, is filled with invective and largely devoted to attacking Hersh’s reporting on planning for an attack on Iran and chemical weapons in Syria. With regard to Abbottabad, it claims that Hersh alleges “a spectacular international conspiracy,” which is clearly false. Hersh is talking about an assassination conducted with maximum deniability and involving only a handful of players. International, yes. Spectacular, no. Nor a conspiracy: just the ordinary grubby dealings of an imperial state that can’t stop meddling.

If we focus on the few specifics that Fisher raises about Hersh’s reporting on the Abbottabad raid, the criticism comes down to this:

* “his allegations are largely supported only by two sources [ISI chief Asad Durani and a U.S. official], neither of whom has direct knowledge of what happened, both of whom are retired, and one of whom is anonymous”
* “His other two sources are anonymous ‘consultants’ who are vaguely described as insiders.”

Criticism of sourcing is fair. But, first, Fisher completely mischaracterized the latter two sources, who are very specifically described as “longtime consultants to the Special Operations Command.” That’s specific enough to Google and come up with an idea of what kind of person fits the description, like Colonel Jose Baez and Brian Hayes (not that either one is likely to be Hersh’s source).

Contrary to Fisher’s assertion, the retired intelligence official Hersh sourced seemed to have very direct knowledge of the “walk-in” who told the US about bin Laden’s presence in Abbottabad and about military discussions regarding the raid and about diplomatic relations with Saudi Arabia. This suggests he was at very high levels. Someone like Leon Panetta. Suppose, just for a moment, that Panetta was Hersh’s source. Would that change how people are reacting to the story?

There is at least one other CIA source in the story, used to corroborate the meeting with Pasha, that Fisher didn’t notice. Hersh also mentions one or more sources, “from inside Pakistan,” who might include “A Pakistani with close ties to the senior leadership of the ISI.”

So, is Hersh’s sourcing adequate? I don’t know. But Fisher apparently did not read Hersh closely enough to understand what it was.

Now, in addition, Fisher asks questions, like
* “Hersh’s entire narrative turns on a secret deal, in which the US promised Pakistan increased military aid and a “freer hand in Afghanistan.” In fact, the exact opposite of this occurred, with US military aid dropping and US-Pakistan cooperation in Afghanistan plummeting…”
* “Why, for example, would the Pakistanis insist on a fake raid that would humiliate their country and the very military and intelligence leaders who supposedly instigated it?”
* “why would Pakistan bother with the ostentatious fake raid at all, when anyone can imagine a dozen simpler, lower-risk, lower-cost ways to do this?”
* “why would the US cut a secret deal with Pakistan to allow that country a “freer hand” in Afghanistan”

To paraphrase Fisher, “raising questions about [Hersh’s] story is not the same as proving a spectacular [failure of journalism].” That anyone even regards these questions as logical inconsistencies makes one wring one’s hands about the capacity of journalists to analyze stories. Yet Joshua Keating not just bit, but swallowed Fisher’s screed whole. Again, there’s little that can even be addressed. For example, Keating says,

Hillhouse’s claim didn’t get much coverage other than an article in the Telegraph [in 2011] by Pakistan correspondent Rob Crilly, who didn’t exactly endorse her premise. (Crilly blasted Hersh’s article yesterday, calling it “utterly devoid of facts” and likely to appeal to the “soft minded.”

I read Crilly’s original piece. It may not endorse Hillhouse’s claims, but it doesn’t exactly discredit them either. If, as Crilly now says, the story is junk, why did Crilly publish his piece on 2011?

Keating says that Hersh’s article claims that,

… the documents seized from his compound were fabricated in order to make him appear to have been active up until his death.

This seems to be a hasty misreading of what Hersh said. What Hersh said was that

These claims [of bin Laden’s direct involvement in operations] were fabrications: there wasn’t much activity for bin Laden to exercise command and control over.

I don’t see where Hersh says that the documents were phony. However, his source asks some questions about 175 pages of documents that were released:

The retired official disputed the authen[ti]city of the West Point materials…

The questions that the source asks are good. Why are these documents being processed by a contractor with no CIA analysis and before the information contained in the documents could have been acted upon? It’s all very irregular.

Keating also says,

[NYT correspondent Carlotta] Gall concluded that at least some in the country’s spy service [ISI] knew where the terrorist mastermind was. But this is very different from Hersh’s much bolder assertion that the Pakistani agency was keeping him under house arrest and the whole raid was staged.

Keating links Carlotta Gall, who actually says:

Finally, on a winter evening in 2012, I got the confirmation I was looking for. According to one inside source, the ISI actually ran a special desk assigned to handle Bin Laden. It was operated independently, led by an officer who made his own decisions and did not report to a superior. He handled only one person: Bin Laden.

This is not the entire ISI, as Keating implies, but a small compartment within it. This is important, because it’s difficult to keep secrets that are widely held, but–as Iran-Contra demonstrated– easy to keep secrets that are closely held. It is entirely possible that we didn’t notify the Pakistani government of the raid, all the while being in close contact with elements of the ISI and the military.

As for bin Laden being under house arrest, what Gall (ibid) describes is even more disturbing:

Bin Laden did not rely only on correspondence. He occasionally traveled to meet aides and fellow militants, one Pakistani security official told me. “Osama was moving around,” he said, adding that he heard so from jihadi sources. “You cannot run a movement without contact with people.” Bin Laden traveled in plain sight, his convoys always knowingly waved through any security checkpoints.

In other words, the ISI had the capacity to control his movements. For a time, he was undoubtedly useful (Gall, ibid):

Bin Laden rejected Akhtar’s request for help and urged him and other militant groups not to fight Pakistan but to serve the greater cause — the jihad against America. He warned against fighting inside Pakistan because it would destroy their home base.

That must have been very convenient for the Pakistani government. However, at some point, regardless of how one thinks the raid happened, bin Laden’s worth to Pakistan diminished (as al Qaeda weakened and was displaced by the Taliban) or the risks he posed rose, as the Americans discovered his presence. At that point, Pakistan had to give him up. Is it so difficult to believe that Pakistan told the U.S., we won’t resist an assassination of bin Laden, as long as you make it look as if we were not responsible.

Is it difficult to believe that the crash of the helicopter made impossible the plan to grab bin Laden, send him out of town, and kill him under circumstances that wouldn’t look like the ISI had been hiding him and had also ratted him out?

And is it difficult to believe that then, when the Administration’s story made it clear not only that the ISI knew where bin Laden was but that they had also ratted him out, it created a serious rift between the US and Pakistan that resulted in a suspension of aid?

These are the kind of answers that seem pretty obvious to me, but not so much to Fisher.

Meanwhile, in Pakistan, the editors of the main English-language paper Dawn takes Hersh seriously.

Maybe Hersh is wrong. But I think that if one doesn’t enter the fray with a pre-determined conclusion in mind, what he has written is at least plausible.

And, I think that the most important part of the story hasn’t been recognized. For me, the basic story that the ISI knew where bin Laden was and to some degree stood aside for the US assassination was likely to be true from the start. But who among our leaders was lying, and to what degree? The answers Hersh gives are uncomfortable. I think that may be why so many people who know better are so exercised that they aren’t exercising judgment in examining the story.


Phillip Carter also challenges Hersh. Again, the article is marred by attitude:

Many of the actual details in the piece, such as the reported obliteration of Bin Laden’s corpse by gunfire, shred any remaining credibility the article might have.

This is not refutation.

Pakistan’s military fell asleep at the switch multiple times, allowing Bin Laden to live near Pakistan’s version of West Point

Gall (see above) makes it clear that it wasn’t neglect, but collusion.

[His sources are]at least two degrees of separation from the small teams in the Defense Department and CIA who led the operation

This is a useful piece of information. However, if my guess that his main source is at the general level of Leon Panetta is correct, then it might be irrelevant.

[skipping over some]

Hersh goes on to dispute the fact that Bin Laden was then buried at sea, suggesting that his body may have been thrown out of the SEALs’ helicopter on the way out of Pakistan, and that the entire burial at sea was concocted as a cover story. This too goes too far, reflecting a more vivid imagination that sees secrets in the shadow of truth, where no reporting or evidence exists.

Journalists are trying without success to get the logs of the USS Carl Vinson:

Although the Obama administration has pledged to be the most transparent in American history, it is keeping a tight hold on materials related to the bin Laden raid. In a response to separate requests from the AP for information about the mission, the Defense Department said in March that it could not locate any photographs or video taken during the raid or showing bin Laden’s body. It also said it could not find any images of bin Laden’s body on the Vinson.

The Pentagon also said it could not find any death certificate, autopsy report or results of DNA identification tests for bin Laden, or any pre-raid materials discussing how the government planned to dispose of bin Laden’s body if he were killed.

The Defense Department also refused to confirm or deny the existence of helicopter maintenance logs and reports about the performance of military gear used in the raid. One of the stealth helicopters that carried the SEALs to Abbottabad crashed during the mission and its wreckage was left behind. People who lived near bin Laden’s compound took photos of the disabled chopper.

The AP is appealing the Defense Department’s decision

This is not helping Carter’s case.
Carlotta Gall has commented:

Among other things, Hersh contends that the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s military-intelligence agency, held Bin Laden prisoner in the Abbottabad compound since 2006, and that “the C.I.A. did not learn of Bin Laden’s whereabouts by tracking his couriers, as the White House has claimed since May 2011, but from a former senior Pakistani intelligence officer who betrayed the secret in return for much of the $25 million reward offered by the U.S.”

On this count, my own reporting tracks with Hersh’s. Beginning in 2001, I spent nearly 12 years covering Pakistan and Afghanistan for The Times.

I do not recall ever corresponding with Hersh, but he is following up on a story that many of us assembled parts of.

I cannot confirm Hersh’s bolder claims — for example, that two of Pakistan’s top generals, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the former army chief, and Ahmed Shuja Pasha, the director of the ISI, had advance knowledge of the raid. But I would not necessarily dismiss the claims immediately. Hersh’s scenario explains one detail that has always nagged me about the night of Bin Laden’s death.

Hersh’s claim that there was little or no treasure trove of evidence retrieved from Bin Laden’s home rings less true to me.

I would guess that certain people are going to start walking back some of their more reckless comments.
Thanks to Jo6pac, the following post from Pat Lang’s shop, in which FB ali which used open source technique to try to flesh out Hillhouse’s post. It’s very interesting. An excerpt or two:

The Saudi motive behind this request [sanctuary for bin Laden in exchange for calling off al Qaeda from attacking Pakistan] presumably had to do with their internal imperatives. The bin Ladens are a very rich and influential family in Saudi Arabia. Osama and al Qaeda, and their goals, are supported by a large number of religious Saudis (even though the royal family considers them enemies). If bin Laden were to be hunted down and killed by the Americans in the tribal badlands of Pakistan, it would give the regime a black eye in the view of many of its people as well as being a serious blow to the bin Laden clan. It made sense to the Saudis to get Osama bin Laden into a safe hideout while at the same time neutralizing him as a functioning jihadi.

The cover story finally agreed upon was that the US had carried out a drone strike on the house (though none would in fact take place). This would account for the night-time explosions at the house, and, more importantly, provide an explanation to give to the Saudis for bin Laden’s sudden and unfortunate demise (his body having been almost obliterated by the bombs!). The US’s agreement was simply a ruse, however, in order to keep the Pakistanis cooperating; having rejected the drone option because it did not allow a definitive claim of the operation’s success, the US administration had no intention of going through with this cover story.

As for the fallout from the operation, it was, as expected, mainly on US-Pakistan relations. If the US had the intention of making it easier for the Pakistanis by fudging the site of the raid, the crashed helicopter’s tail sticking up from bin Laden’s Abbottabad compound ended that option. This stark evidence of the US incursion left the US with no option but to (in Hillhouse’s apt phrase) throw the Pakistanis under the bus.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | 8 Comments »

Is Al Qaeda winning the long war?

Posted by Charles II on March 28, 2014


PATRICK COCKBURN: The Saudis have got rather nervous at the moment that—having supported these jihadi groups, that are all either linked to al-Qaeda or have exactly the same ideology and method of action of al-Qaeda, so they’ve introduced some laws saying that—against Saudis fighting in Syria or elsewhere. But it’s probably too late for this to have any effect. The al-Qaeda-type organizations really control a massive area in northern and eastern Syria at the moment and northern and western Iraq. The largest number of volunteers fighting with these al-Qaeda-type groups are Saudi. Most of the money originally came from there. But these people now control their own oil wells. They probably are less reliant on Saudi money.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010. In a December 2009 memo, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton identified Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest source of funds for Islamist militant groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba. She writes, quote, “While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority… donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.”

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to move onto a segment next on Iraq. And earlier this month, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar of openly funding the Sunni Muslim insurgents in western Anbar province.

PATRICK COCKBURN: …these declarations of victory, I think, just divert attention from the fact that you look at the map, that al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda-type groups, that are no different from those that followed Osama bin Laden, now control a large territory. They have large revenues from oil wells. They have lots of experienced people. At the moment, they’re fighting against Assad and the Iraqi government. But they don’t like the governments of the West anymore. They’re not ideologically committed to only one enemy in their home countries. So if they do want to start making attacks in the West again along the lines of 9/11, they’re far better equipped militarily and politically, financially and any other way than they were when the attacks of 9/11 were originally made.

Beau Barnes, Small Wars Journal, describing the late Syed Saleem Shahzad’s book:

These new leaders—with both strong local ties and loyalty to Al-Qaeda—will then render the broader jihadist movement inextricable from organizations like the original Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Somalia’s Al Shabaab. According to this logic, if every Muslim militant organization in the world is “part of Al-Qaeda,” then Al-Qaeda itself will never be defeated.

I’ve been reading the book and, while I think that Shahzad got caught up with the romance of rebellion, what he describes is a great intensity and focus by the Taliban… unlike certain US generals who are focused on affairs and self-enrichment.

The Taliban, who are the water in which Al Qaeda swims, strengthened itself by establishing a system of justice in an area of Pakistan where government incompetence and corruption was the rule. The long war is the war to establish genuine representative government. When we have so done, our cause has usually prevailed. When we have not, it has generally failed.

Posted in Afghanistan, Pakistan | 1 Comment »

US ally Pervez Musharraf charged with murder of Pakistani PM Benazir Bhutto

Posted by Charles II on August 22, 2013

Syed Fazl-e-Haider:

Pakistan’s former president and military ruler General Pervez Musharraf has been charged with the murder of former premier Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in a gun and suicide attack in December 2007.

An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, in an unprecedented move, on Tuesday indicted Musharraf on three counts during a brief hearing. He may get the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.

“He was charged with murder, criminal conspiracy for murder and facilitation for murder,” AFP reported public prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar as saying.

Six others were charged along with Musharraf, including four suspected militants and two senior police officials.

Ms Bhutto was killed on December 27, 2007, in a gun-and-bomb attack outside Rawalpindi’s Liaquat Bagh – the same park where prime minister Liaquat Ali Khan was assassinated in 1951. Twice-elected as prime minister (she held office from 1988-1990 and 1993-96), Ms Bhutto was killed after addressing an election rally in the garrison city.

Who could have predicted that one of the architects of the Taliban would be involved in terrorism?

Well, certainly not the US government, if you ask them.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | 1 Comment »

Further destabilization of Pakistan

Posted by Charles II on May 3, 2013

This is just purely depressing.

Jon Boone, The Guardian:

A lawyer leading the effort to prosecute Pakistan’s former military dictator, Pervez Musharraf, over the murder of Benazir Bhutto has been shot dead in Islamabad as he was driving to court.
Pakistan’s former prime minister Benazir Bhutto shouts ‘freedom freedom’ slogans at a protest camp arranged by journalists against the media crackdown in Islamabad Benazir Bhutto.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a state prosecutor for the Federal Investigation Agency, died in a hail of bullets on Friday when his car was attacked by unidentified gunmen riding on motorbikes as he was travelling through a busy street in the Pakistani capital, police said.

I.A. Rehman, Dawn:

The terrorist attacks on candidates, election meetings and political workers have certainly made holding a free and fair election nearly impossible. Except for Punjab, all parts of the country are disturbed, with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan, and Fata in an acute state of disorder. Thus, peaceful elections in 124 National Assembly constituencies, 45.5 per cent of the seats up for direct election, are quite unlikely.

The terrorists are enjoying the freedom of the land.

Unfortunately, the blood of all those killed in election-related violence is not on the hands of militant extremists alone. The hands of all those who have the power to confront the extremists are not clean either. Besides, a ceaseless campaign to demonise politicians, started by Ayub Khan and carried out to this day by holy knights of various brands and in different robes, has alienated the people from democracy to an extent that they do not see in the killing of a political worker an attack on their own rights.

Posted in Pakistan, terrorism | Comments Off on Further destabilization of Pakistan

Pakistan on edge

Posted by Charles II on January 13, 2012

Kalbe Ali and Munawar Azeem, Dawn:

Still the presence of some 600 extra security personnel in the city, particularly in the Red Zone area where the Presidency, the Prime Minister`s House and the Supreme Court are located, looked ominous to the common citizens and even hospital and emergency services.

Though no alert was sounded officially, hospitals, the firefighting services and police did not want to be caught unawares.

`No special directive has been issued but we are keeping an eye on the situation,` an officer of the Capital Development Authority`s fire department said.

Incidentally the telephone lines of the CDA`s main fire station at Zero Point are disconnected due to non-payment of bills.

Ongoing questions as to whether there’s going to be a coup.

Posted in Pakistan | 1 Comment »

Rumors of his replacement have been greatly exaggerated

Posted by Charles II on December 18, 2011

In one of the weirder events of the season, President Asif Ali Zardari is back in Pakistan after what was widely assumed to be a coup when he traveled unexpectedly to Dubai.

Dawn editorialized:

PRESIDENT Zardari`s return to Pakistan in the early hours of this morning is a significant moment in the context of the speculation that has dominated Pakistan in recent weeks. The word put out by the PPP over the weekend suggested that the possibility of a fatal collision between the government and the army has been averted for now. … Now with President Zardari returning to Pakistan and hopefully appearing in public soon, the rumours about the president`s health and threats to his presidency should subside.

Still, with the Supreme Court to resume hearing of the Memogate [a memo given to Admiral Mike Mullen on the Haqqani network] petitions this morning, the latest bizarre episode in Pakistani politics cannot be assumed to be over. Also, still unknown is the circumstances in which Mr Zardari has returned. Does it suggest that some kind of understanding with the army has been reached and that wobbly civil-military relations will stabilise in the days ahead? Or has the president returned to personally take charge of the political leadership`s response to thinly veiled attacks from other institutions? … Given that all sides do not appear to be keen to climb further up the ladder of escalation but are also wary of appearing as if they have backed down under pressure, time and space may be just what are needed to stave off a fresh round of crisis.

…The preferred course of action, from the point of view of national political stability and institutional harmony, would be for the president to send a signal that he is ready to use his authority to reduce the tensions between Islamabad and Pindi.

Posted in Pakistan | Comments Off on Rumors of his replacement have been greatly exaggerated

Speculation: a coup in Pakistan? Also: An update on Egypt/Update on Pakistan

Posted by Charles II on December 6, 2011

Update, 12/8: It looks like Zardari will return. All in all, it sounds like Zardari is just a very strange man.
Via Rachel, Josh Rogin of the Cable:

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari left Pakistan suddenly on Tuesday, complaining of heart pains, and is now in Dubai. His planned testimony before a joint session of Pakistan’s parliament on the Memogate scandal is now postponed indefinitely.

On Dec. 4, Zardari announced that he would address Pakistan’s parliament about the Memogate issue, in which his former ambassador to Washington Husain Haqqani stands accused of orchestrating a scheme to take power away from Pakistan’s senior military and intelligence leadership and asking for U.S. help in preventing a military coup. Haqqani has denied that he wrote the memo at the heart of the scheme, which also asked for U.S. support for the Zardari government and promised to realign Pakistani foreign policy to match U.S. interests.

A former U.S. government official told The Cable today that when President Barack Obama spoke with Zardari over the weekend regarding NATO’s killing of the 24 Pakistani soldiers, Zardari was “incoherent.”

The former U.S. official said that parts of the U.S. government were informed that Zardari had a “minor heart attack” on Monday night and flew to Dubai via air ambulance today. He may have angioplasty on Wednesday and may also resign on account of “ill health.”

Zardari lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai from 2004 through 2007 after being released from prison, where he had been held for eight years on corruption charges.

The military may be force behind pressuring Zardari. They tried to detain him from leaving.

Juan Cole points out that Pakistan is forcing the US military to leave Pakistan, but since the US is the primary destination for Pakistani exports (not to mention its major source of military funding), is unlikely to sever the relationship.

So, the question arises: did the military invite Zardari to leave at US instigation? The nature of the relationship between the US and the Pakistani military is extremely interesting, since US intelligence got its hooks into Pakistan in the 1980s by funding the mujahedeen, which turned into Al Qaeda in the 1990s. So, is the Pakistani military calling the tune, or is US intelligence?
Speaking of Juan Cole, he says that fears of a theocratic takeover of Egypt are overblown. He says that these are the freest and fairest elections in Egypt’s history, a bar so low that it touches the ground. But, yeah.

As’ad Abu Khalil says that turnout was low, representing a deliberate boycott of an election that is meaningless as long as the military has the final say. reminiscent of Honduras, NYT has revised estimates of turnout down from 70% to 52%.

Posted in Arab Spring, Pakistan | 4 Comments »

Noted with sorrow

Posted by Charles II on June 3, 2011

Syed Saleem Shahzad, a journalist with and Pakistan Bureau chief for ATimes who I have cited many times, was murdered, perhaps by Pakistani’s ISI (intelligence service), perhaps by Al Qaeda, or perhaps by parties unknown. As Munawer Azeem and WA Butt of Dawn note, Pakistani law enforcement wrapped up the case with unusual alacrity.

Shahzad, a rare journalist of moderate viewpoint but with sources inside Islamic extremism, was a voice almost impossible to replace. He will be missed.

Posted in media, Pakistan, world news | Comments Off on Noted with sorrow

How Bush lost bin Laden and opened the door to the Afghan insurgency

Posted by Charles II on September 12, 2010

National Security Archive Update, September 13, 2010

“No-Go” Tribal Areas Became Basis for Afghan Insurgency Documents Show

U.S. had “Absolutely No Inclination” to Negotiate with Taliban September 2001; Pakistan Disagreed, Claimed “Real Victory” Only Through Talks

Washington’s Immediate 9/11 Demands to Islamabad

For more information contact:
Barbara Elias – (202) 994-7000 /

Washington, DC, September 13, 2010 – Pakistani tribal areas where Osama bin Laden found refuge were momentarily open to the Pakistani Army when “the tribes were overawed by U.S. firepower” after 9/11, but quickly again became “no-go areas” where the Taliban could reorganize and plan their resurgence in Afghanistan, according to previously secret U.S. documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive and posted today at

According to U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald E. Neumann, the 2005 Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan was a direct product of the “four years that the Taliban has had to reorganize and think about their approach in a sanctuary beyond the reach of either government.” This had exponentially increased casualties as the Taliban adopted insurgency tactics successful in Iraq, including suicide bombings and the use of IEDs. Ambassador Neumann warned Washington that if the sanctuary in Pakistan were not addressed it would “lead to the re-emergence of the same strategic threat to the United States that prompted our OEF [Operation Enduring Freedom] intervention” in 2001.

As current U.S. strategy increasingly pursues policies to reconcile or “flip” the Taliban, the document collection released today reveals Washington’s refusal to negotiate with Taliban leadership directly after 9/11. On September 13, 2001, U.S. Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin “bluntly” told Pakistani President Musharraf that there was “absolutely no inclination in Washington to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban. The time for dialog was finished as of September 11.” Pakistan, as the Taliban’s primary sponsor, disagreed. Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) Chief Mahmoud told the ambassador “not to act in anger. Real victory will come in negotiations… If the Taliban are eliminated… Afghanistan will revert to warlordism.”

The new materials also illustrate the importance of the bilateral alliance to leaders in both Islamabad and Washington. One cable described seven demands delivered to Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) Director Mahmoud by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage two days after the attack, while another reported Pakistani President Musharraf’s acceptance of those requests “without conditions” the next day. However, the documents also reveal fundamental disagreements and distrust. While Pakistan denied that it was a safe haven for anti-American forces, a State Department Issue Paper for the Vice President claimed “some Taliban leaders operate with relative impunity in some Pakistani cities, and may still enjoy support from the lower echelons of Pakistan’s ISI.”

Posted in Afghanistan, BushCo malfeasance, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan | Comments Off on How Bush lost bin Laden and opened the door to the Afghan insurgency

The enemy of my enemy is my enemy

Posted by Charles II on June 13, 2010

Declan Walsh, The Guardian:

Pakistani intelligence is so deeply involved in the arming and funding of the Afghan Taliban that it holds a seat on the militant leadership council and has sent the president, Asif Ali Zardari, to make prison visits to captured leaders, a report by the London School of Economics has said.

Researcher Matt Waldman said Pakistani support for the insurgency was “official” policy, implemented by the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency in the form of money, weapons and training.

“Pakistan appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude,” the report, which cited interviews with unnamed Taliban commanders and western officials, said.

An ISI official in Islamabad described the report as “rubbish”….

One [interviewee] said the ISI support originally came from the US government…

The latter point is a question that I asked Ahmed Rashid and he did not answer. Not that he would necessarily know. But logically someone kept militant Islam in Central Asia alive and well after US military aid was cut off from Pakistan. Funds came from Saudi Arabia, presumably. But would the Saudis have done that without American approval? Doubtful.

So it’s interesting that the creation of the Taliban may or may not (according to one interviewee in a report that may or may not be rubbish) have been accomplished with American dollars. I suspect it did, but only because I believe in the existence of Nemesis.

Posted in eedjits, our tax dollars at work, Pakistan, terrorism | 3 Comments »

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