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Friday, June 14, 2024

Looking back at the US politics in Afghanistan

In late 2001, the United States and its close allies invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taliban government. The invasion's stated aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda, which had executed the September 11 attacks, and to deny it a safe base of operations in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban government from power.

While it is an open secret that the Afghan militants were created by the US during the infamous Afghan Jihad, the same militants turned against their American masters when they went out of their jobs after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. How did it happen?

Mir Aimal Kasai was born in Quetta in1967. It is said that he was on the payroll of the CIA and had been performing various intelligence gathering and other covert tasks in Pakistan at the behest of the agency. Like Osama bin Laden, he fell afoul of his US taskmasters and decided to pay them back for abandoning him after he had outlived his utility for the CIA. To actualize his plan, Kasai entered the US in 1991, taking a substantial sum of cash he had inherited after the death of his father in 1989.

Read more: Instability in Afghanistan to have negative consequences for entire world

Looking back at the excerpts from history

On January 25, 1993, Kasai killed two CIA employees in their cars as they were waiting at a traffic signal and wounded three others outside the CIA headquarters campus in Langley, Virginia. Thereafter, he fled the US and was placed on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list, sparking a four-year international manhunt.

In 1997, Nawaz Sharif, then PM of Pakistan, authorized a joint FBI- CIA/ISI operation in Pakistan. The CIA conducted a massive covert operation in Pakistan to apprehend Kasai. Hundreds of thousands of matchboxes bearing Kasai’s image and the offer of head money on him were distributed in the far-flung tribal areas of KP and Balochistan. In May 1997, an informant walked into the U.S. consulate in Karachi and claimed he could help lead them to Kasai. As proof, he showed a copy of a driver’s license application made by Kasai under a false name but bearing his photograph.

The people who had been sheltering Kasai were now prepared to accept the multimillion-dollar reward offer for his capture. Other sources claim they were pressured by the Pakistani government.

He was eventually captured in a joint raid on his hideout in the Shalimar Hotel in Dera Ghazi Khan. Kasai was handed over to the US to stand trial. He admitted to shooting the victims, was found guilty of capital and first-degree murder, and was executed by lethal injection in 2002.

Read more: Western powers urge Taliban to reopen girls schools in Afghanistan

In an earlier opinion piece, I had written:

Nawab Khair Muhammad Marri (28 February 1928 – 10 June 2014), a key leader of the 1973-77 Baloch insurgency had, along with his tribesmen, gone into a self-imposed exile in Afghanistan, where he remained till 1993, a year after the government of President Najibullah was toppled by the Taliban. He was eventually evacuated to Pakistan in a PAF C-130 plane. The airlift was ordered by Nawaz Sharif, then PM of Pakistan. So much for Pakistan’s Byzantine politics.

During the US-sponsored Afghan Jihad, Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national, came in contact with the Americans and, after some time, became a CIA contractor. It is widely believed in Pakistan that, during the Afghan Jihad, Osama’s construction company built the famous Tora Bora complex for the US Army. Tora Bora  (“Black Cave”) is a cave complex, part of the Spin Ghar (White Mountains) mountain range of eastern Afghanistan. It is situated in the Pachir Aw Agam District of Nangarhar, approximately 50 kilometers (30 miles) west of the Khyber Pass and 10 km (6 mi) north of the border of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan.

Tora Bora and the surrounding Safed Koh range had natural caverns formed by streams eating into the limestone that had later been expanded into a defense complex, a sort of stronghold for the Mujahedin. This stronghold was used by the Mujahedin, during the 1980s, for their operations against the Soviet occupation forces.

These details have been given to highlight the love-hate relationship between Osama and the US. Osama was the US’ Frankenstein Monster who, like many others, turned against his US accomplices after the culmination of the “Afghan Jihad”.

Read more: Pakistan opens up Gwadar port for Afghanistan

According to Goldberg & Ambinder (2011)

” When Navy SEALS penetrated Pakistani air defences, landed in helicopters streets away from a prestigious military academy, killed the most wanted fugitive in modern history, and then departed, the Pakistani military was oblivious for the duration pervasive derision followed. A popular text message in the days after the raid read ‘If you honk your horn, do so lightly because the Pakistani army is asleep”

After the raid, CIA chief Leon Panetta remarked that either the Pakistan Army knew about bin Laden staying at Abbottabad, or it was incompetent. Ahem! Goldberg and Aminder imply that a future attempt by the terrorists (or the United States) to grab Pakistan’s nuclear weapons will be successful even as the Americans had succeeded in taking out bin Laden in the Abbottabad operation.

There were deep fissures in the Pakistani corridors of power. We all know how Zardari and Haqqani, president of Pakistan and Pakistan’s ambassador to the U.S. respectively at the time of the Abbottabad incident, were overactive after the operation and defended the Americans to the embarrassment of the Pakistan Army. It looked like Zardari and Haqqani had foreknowledge about the US plans. Perhaps they did not know the details but had the inkling that something tumultuous was going to happen.

Read more: US at odds with Russia over UN’s future in Afghanistan

From this, we can conclude that the Americans, after receiving information about bin Laden’s hideout in Abbottabad from the Pakistan Army/ISI, kept the latter in the dark about the impending operation while they took Zardari and Haqqani into confidence on a need to know basis.


Saleem Akhtar Malik is a Pakistan Army veteran who writes on national and international affairs, defense, military history, and military technology. He Tweets at @saleemakhtar53. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.