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October - November 2008

Political News

9/11 and Musharraf

by Krishan Tyagi

Will the US seek his extradition now at least!

As is well-known, on 11th September 2001, nineteen terrorists hijacked four commercial passenger jet airliners. The hijackers crashed two of the airliners into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York, killing everyone on board and many others working in the building, causing both buildings to collapse, destroying at least two nearby buildings and damaging others. The hijackers crashed a third airliner into the Pentagon. The fourth plane crashed into a field near Shanksville in Pennsylvania, after passengers and members of the flight crew attempted to retake control of their plane, which was heading for Washington DC. There were no known survivors from any of the flights. Nearly three thousand people died in the attacks – about two hundred and fifty of them were Indians. It is almost universally believed that Al Qaeda was behind these attacks on the US, known as 9/11, and the Al Qaeda leadership based in Afghanistan planned and co-ordinated the attacks. Even the Pakistani government has not disputed this assertion of the US government.

The question is, could 9/11 have happened without the knowledge of General Parvez Musharraf. Let’s go back to 11th September 2001. Al Qaeda had made Afghanistan its base at the invitation of the Afghanistan government.

But who constituted the Afghanistan government of that time? The so-called Taliban government was formed by the Afghan youth trained in Pakistani madrasas (religious schools) organised by the Pakistani army – particularly by the ISI – to dislodge the ever-squabbling Mujahideen (who were also trained by the Pakistani army earlier to fight the communist government of Dr Najibullah in Afghanistan.) And, not only were the Taliban trained by the Pakistani authorities, they operated under the tutelage of the Pakistani army. After interviewing the Taliban leader Mullah Omar in Afghanistan on 13th June 2001, the United Press International (UPI) reporter Arnaud de Borchgrave wrote in an article: “Despite Pakistan’s official denials, the Taliban is entirely dependent on Pakistani aid. This was verified on the ground by UPI. Everything from bottled water to oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, and from telephone equipment to military supplies, comes from Pakistan.” (Osma bin Laden – ‘Null and Void’, UPI, 14th June 2001). According to a report, up to 30 ISI trucks were crossing into Afghanistan everyday – in direct violation of UN sanctions against the Taliban imposed on 14th November 1999 and 19th January 2001). Actually Musharraf looked at the Taliban as his own baby. Just three weeks before the 9/11 attacks, on 20th August 2001, he openly condemned the UN sanctions against the Taliban. The Taliban was nothing more than an extension of the Pakistani army in Afghanistan, providing Pakistan with “strategic depth” (against India).

Thus with a total control over the Taliban, the Pakistani army was virtually running the government in Afghanistan. Indeed, the Bush administration did hold the Taliban as much responsible for the 9/11 attacks as Al Qaeda. That’s why it has been pursuing the Taliban since then. Pakistan security forces have captured a lot of Taliban leaders and handed them over to the US.

The fact was that the Taliban could not take even one step without the consent of the Pakistani army. Commenting on Bin Laden’s return from Sudan in 1996, the 9/11 Commission, set up by the Bush administration to investigate the circumstances leading to the terrorist attacks, writes in its report: “Though Bin Ladin’s destination was Afghanistan, Pakistan was the nation that held the key to his ability to use Afghanistan as a base from which to revive his ambitious enterprise for war against the United States… It is unlikely that Bin Ladin could have returned to Afghanistan had Pakistan disapproved.” (The 9/11 Commission Report, p. 63-64).

In that situation, could Al Qaeda have – dependent on Taliban patronage which meant Pakistani army’s patronage – attacked the US targets without the knowledge of the Pakistani army! Highly improbable.

On the other hand, it is very highly probable that the 9/11 took place with the knowledge and consent of General Parvez Musharraf. Making its observations about Bin Laden’s return from Sudan to Afghanistan, the 9/11 Commission further writes: “The Pakistani military intelligence service probably had advance knowledge of his coming, and its officers may have facilitated his travel… Pakistani intelligence officers reportedly introduced Bin Ladin to Taliban leaders in Kandahar…” (p. 64)

If the Pakistani intelligence service could have advance knowledge of even Bin Laden’s coming to Afghanistan, would they not have known the Al Qaeda’s plans to attack the US!

As outlined by B Raman in his article 9/11: Did Musharraf know? published on the website on July 27, 2004, Omar Sheikh, one of the accused in the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl told Karachi Police that he, with the knowledge and permission of the ISI, frequently travelled to Kandahar to meet the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, and Osama bin Laden. Sheikh told that he had personally met Mohammad Atta, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, during one of his visits to Kandahar, knew of the plan for the terrorist strikes, and had told Lieutenant General Ehsan-ul Haq and General Aziz Khan about it – before the attacks took place. As B Raman concludes, it is inconceivable that Ehsan-ul Haq and Aziz Khan would not have mentioned this to their boss, General Pervez Musharraf.

And, there are plausible reasons for Musharraf to give his tacit approval to the Al Qaeda plan for attacks on the US. By that time, not only a disillusioned Bin Laden was ready to fight the “infidel Americans” occupying his own country (Saudi Arabia), a bitter Musharraf was also looking for an opportunity to punish the US for jilting its five-decade old friend, Pakistan, and tilting towards India. Because of the shift in the US foreign policy, there was a wide-spread resentment in Pakistan against the US. Musharraf, particularly felt belittled by the humiliating retreat from Kargil imposed by the US through his boss – the concurrent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. It was but natural that the impetuous Musharraf was looking to punish America for its “infidelity”. Al Qaeda’s desire to attack the centres of the American power was a very good opportunity for Musharraf to hit the US. As Musharraf was the head of the Pakistani army and the intelligence services that controlled Afghanistan, 9/11 could not have happened without the knowledge and consent of General Musharraf. Had Musharraf been bothered about the safety of the US interests, he would not have allowed Al Qaeda to operate from Afghanistan in the first place, particularly after Al-Qaeda conducted the bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. There is little room to doubt that Musharraf wanted America to be punished, and that’s why he did not inform the US authorities of the Al Qaeda plan to attack the US.

And, in all likelihood, the Bush administration knew that too!!! However they decided to hide this fact from the American public. Again, there are plausible reasons for that too. It was a strategic necessity at the time. Suppose the CIA and other agencies had come out publically and said, ‘Musharraf was complicit in the attacks on the US’. The consequence of that stance would have been that the US forces would have had no alternative but to go after Musharraf – the head of a big country with a huge army and substantial nuclear arsenal. Bombing Pakistan and reducing it to the Stone Age would have been the only option. It could have proved to be a very dangerous venture. And attacking two Muslim countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, at the same time with a fierce force could have sparked a much bigger war with the Muslim world. So, the alternative strategy of forcing a divide between Musharraf’s army and the Taliban was preferred. Cutting a deal with Musharraf that he and his people would be spared if they break off their relations with the Taliban and provide bases for the US fighter planes was pursued as the preferred option. And, it did work at a level. Scared Musharraf changed sides in the name of ‘Pakistan First’.

Now things have changed in Pakistan. Musharraf is no longer the head of the state or the chief of the army there. Conducting an investigation as to how much Musharraf knew about the Al Qaeda’s plan to attack the US targets, and why he did not inform the US authorities, would cause no war with Pakistan. Actually, the new leadership of Pakistan would most probably be quite happy to hand over Musharraf to the US if they receive a request for his extradition.

The question is, would the US authorities like the whole truth about the 9/11 – which groups and which states were actually behind the attacks – to be known to the American public?

Or are there still more compulsions before the US authorities that they would like to let sleeping dogs lie! And to keep the American people still in the dark!

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