On the eve of the second anniversary of Al Qaeda's terrorist strikes in the USA on September 11, 2001, the US Government has declassified 32 documents relating to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Twenty-six of these documents are of the US State Department and the remaining are of the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) of the Pentagon. This article analyses the contents of three DIA documents only.
2.The first document (15 pages), prepared in September,1999, is based on an analysis of all information received by the DIA till July 1,1999. It is titled "Defence Intelligence Assessment". The subject of the assessment is "Osama bin Laden/Al Qaeda Information Operations". Nearly 90 per cent of the document has been excised before its declassification. Hence, it does not contain anything of value. From a perusal of the unexcised portions, one could guess that the assessment must have been about Al Qaeda's information assets such as its modern communications capability, its use of the internet,. its capability for attacking the information networks of others etc and the defensive and offensive options available to the US. The defensive aspect relates to protecting the networks of the USA against Al Qaeda attacks and the offensive to neutralising or penetrating Al Qaeda's assets.
3. The second document, dated September 24, 2001, is titled "Veteran Afghan Traveller's Analysis of Al Qaeda and Taliban's Exploitable Weaknesses" and carries the following caution: "This is an information report. Not finally evaluated intelligence."
4. It would appear that this document is not the traveller's report, but an analysis prepared by an official of the DIA, either in the US Embassy in Islamabad or in the DIA headquarters in Washington DC, on the basis of the traveller's report. The language used in the portion declassified and released is that of a professional intelligence analyst and not that of an Afghan traveller.
5. The analysis carries the following summary: "Eventually, the Taliban and Al Qaeda will war with each other. The weakness of both is in the minds of the individuals that belong to the groups and in the power that is given to them by their names. Al Qaeda have not integrated with Afghans or the Taliban, leaving them susceptible to exploitation." By this, the analyst means exploitation by the US to play the Taliban/Afghans and Al Qaeda against each other. What wishful-thinking this has proved to be in retrospect!
6.The analysis carries the most damning account of Pakistan's role as the real host of bin Laden and his Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. It says: "Bin Laden's Al Qaeda network was able to expand under the safe santuary extended by Taliban following Pakistan directives. If there is any doubt on that issue, consider the location of bin Laden's camp targeted by US Cruise missiles, Zahawa. Positioned on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it was built by Pakistani contractors, funded by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Directorate and protected under the patronage of a local and influential Jadran tribal leader, Jalaluddin Haqqani. However, the real host in that facility was the Pakistani ISI. If this was later to become bin Laden's base, then serious questions are raised by the early relationship between bin Laden and Pakistan's ISI."
7. It describes Jalaluddin Haqqani as "the Jadran tribal leader most exploited by ISI during the Soviet-Afghan war to facilitate the introduction of Arab mercenaries " and the Taliban as "the handy cloak woven by Pakistan to shroud their progress?" Whose progress---Al Qaeda's or Pakistan's? Most probably, Pakistan's, but this is not clear.
8. The analysis describes the US objective as "the establishment of a more stable coalition Afghan Government free of the Taliban and Pakistani interference" and advocates a cost effective military engagement, with appropriate air support, than the mass deployment of ground forces. It says: "The enemy does not have mass, which makes them harder to engage."
9. The analysis' predictions of differences one day emerging between the Afghans and the Taliban on the one side and Al Qaeda on the other because of Al Qaeda's superiority complex and its perception of itself as an elite force destined to command have not proved correct so far.
10. The analysis projects the then coming war against terrorism in Afghanistan as likely to be fought on two fronts--- a war to destroy the material strength of Al Qaeda---its cadres, training camps, infrastructure etc--- and another for the minds of the people. In the context of the war for the minds of the people, it underlines the importance of right names and right images to influence the minds of the targeted people.
11. It points out the impact on the minds of the Muslims made by the characterisation of the US as "the Great Satan". The constant reference to the US as the "Great Satan" and not as the US serves the double purpose of highlighting the immense power of the US which could be countered only with determination and projecting that power in negative colours to create an aversion for that power. It stresses the importance of a similar characterisation of Al Qaeda by an appropriate name and not by its real name of Al Qaeda. Apparently, US policy-makers and psy-warriors have not been able to determine what that characterisation could be.
12. The third document, also dated September 24,2001, is titled: "Veteran Afghanistan traveller's analysis of Al Qaeda and Taliban, military, political and cultural landscape and its weaknesses. " It also carries the same caution as the second. It goes into great detail regarding the Pakistani game in Afghanistan in the following words:
13. "During the Soviet-Afghan war, the West preferred to maintain a policy of deniability and allowed Pakistan to handle the daily administration of the war, cash and arms distribution. It was a task Pakistan carried out with great enthusiasm and they helped themselves to generous portion of cash and arms. The Pakistan Government also had a hidden agenda.
14. "Unlike the West, they (Pakistan) were concerned with what would happen after the war to ensure influence over any Government that came to power in Afghanistan after a Soviet withdrawal. Pakistan decided to directly influence the outcome. Rather than allow the most gifted Afghan commanders and parties to flourish, who would be difficult to control later, Pakistan preferred to groom the incompetent ones for the role of future leaders of Afghanistan. Being incompetent, they would be wholly reliant on Pakistan for support. The principal beneficiary of this policy was Gulbuddin Heckmatyar. His credentials were that of an anti-Western Islamic fundamentalist.
15." In tandem with favouring the incompetent Heckmatyar over more enterprising and gifted commanders such as Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Tadjik commander from Northern Afghanistan, Pakistan also encouraged, facilitated and often escorted Arabs from the Middle East into Afghanistan...... Visitors from the Middle East had been in evidence since the very early part of the Soviet-Afghan war. However, they lacked numbers, confidence, experience or bonding ties sufficient to give them a separate identity from their hosts.
16." This was allowed to evolve over a period of time, which was effectively the incubation of Al Qaeda. For the first time, large numbers of Arabs were observed in Afghanistan during the Soviet withdrawal. One of the key features of the Paktia border province, in which they were first established, was that it had no Russians.....At that point, the Arab visitors were largely linked and reliant on Haqqani's mujahideen in Paktia.
17. "When Kabul finally fell, it was Ahmed Shah Massoud who captured it, not Heckmatyar. Pakistan could not accept this result and the fragile Afghan coalition Government began another civil war, with the Pakistani stooge Heckmatyar being backed to seize total power. He was never able to wrest Kabul from Massoud, despite massive logistical and material ( including manpower) support from Pakistan. Against this failure, it should be noted that Pakistan has lost every war it has ever fought.
18. "After years of futile effort, which effectively saw the Lebanonisation of Afghanistan, Pakistan finally abandoned Heckmatyar. However, not in favour of a more rational policy. Instead, they set about doing the same thing all over again. They created another force they hoped to have better control over than Heckmatyar's rabble. It was called Taliban,the Arabic name "Talib" being literally translated as "Asker" or "Seeker".
19." Taliban means "the Seekers", signifying a student of divinity. This inspired title helped cloak Pakistan's hidden agenda in a new Islamic coat. To lead the Taliban Pakistan chose Mullah Mohammad Omar, who was willing to do as he was told. According to Taliban propaganda, the Mullah was divinely inspired to rid Afghanistan of the troublesome war and warlords. Afghanistan was blighted with both, largely due to years of civil war sponsored by Pakistan and reliant on the stockpile of arms plundered from a covert Western arms pipeline. From the old Soviet-Afghan war days, the Mullah emerged with a fully functioning, fully-armed, conventionally-equipped, fully-trained military force prone to large-scale conventional actions. Omar's emergence is credited to Pakistan ISI's actions.
20."The repeated, pronounced pattern under ISI direction has been to ignore the poorly-trained guerilla nature of the Afghan Mujahideen and press them to conduct conventional-style engagement, the same style Taliban are credited with learning from the Koran. As a result of these actions, the fully-supported by Pakistan Taliban prevailed over the unsupported legitimate government of Afghanistan.
21." The Taliban is not synonymous with Afghanistan. It was created, imposed and recognised by Pakistan in pursuit of its own interests. Playing the Islamic fundamentalist card as a means of securing control over a compliant proxy regime in neighbouring Afghanistan has seriously backfired. Pakistan has also lost control of the Taliban, who are proving to be both unpredictable and ungrateful. Under the shade of the Taliban umbrella, the bin Laden brand of extremism has been able to grow unmolested inside Afghanistan.
22." The Al Qaeda agenda in Afghanistan differs significantly from that of the Taliban. They are not about creating an independent Islamic State. Long term, there can be no room for Taliban in their ambitions. Having been artificially introduced to the region and encouraged in their ambitions so far, they have grown in confidence and stature. Taliban acceptance and approval of fundamentalist non-Afghans as part of their fighting force were merely an extension of the Pakistani policy during the Soviet-Afghan war. It is very important to realise that members of 055 Brigade (Al Qaeda) might serve with Taliban forces, but they are not in any Western sense integrated. They remain rather like an international brigade, different in language, habit and in the interpretation of Islam. Additionally, their vision of the future of Afghanistan differs.
23."Pakistan's goals are simple, the continuance of the policy they have always demonstrated regarding Afghanistan. It is failing with the Taliban and it cannot succeed under any Afghan Giovernment controlled by Al Qaeda. The repercussions from Pakistan's attempt to manipulate the Islamic card are just surfacing.
24." In Islamabad, they have tried to ignore or bury the evidence for some time. It must be a deeply troubling period for General (Musharraf) in Pakistan, who is asked to help hunt down the culprits that he helped to establish and supported. Not to support the US invites trouble and to assist the US to their aims also presents problems to Pakistan. The quandary leaves the Pakistanis confused as to how they might be absolved without permanently shattering their regional aspirations or their Government." (Citation of document ends)
25. The second and third documents are both dated September 24, 2001. The language in the second document is apparently that of a professional intelligence analyst, but the language of the third is not. It appears to be that of a source and not of the DIA. It would seem that the third document is the report of the source and the second is the note of a DIA analyst or analysts who had forwarded it to their superiors giving their assessment and making their recommendations regarding the future course of action.
26. From these documents, it is clear that the DIA knew of the role of the ISI in the sponsorship of not only the Taliban, but also Al Qaeda. And yet, the Bush administration has for over two years chosen to close its eyes to the complicity of Pakistan and to project Musharraf to its own public opinion as well as to the international community as a frontline ally in the war against terrorism. Why? A question to which there has been no convincing answer.
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-Mail: email@example.com )