Nafeez Ahmed - "Ties With Terror: The Continuity of Western-Al-Qaeda Relations in the Post-Cold War Period"
(This essay was originally submitted as part of the record for Rep. Cynthia McKinney’s congressional briefing; “The 9/11 Commission Report One Year Later, A Citizens' Response: Did the Commission Get it Right?”, re-published with permission of the author. Download the complete transcript and submitted written material from McKinney’s briefing here; 2.5 MB PDF)
© Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed
An accurate understanding of the history of US relations with the Afghan mujahideen who went on to join al-Qaeda’s international terrorist network is crucial to understanding the anatomy of international terrorism today.
I will attempt here to condense this history in order to capture some of its most striking and significant features. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate as fact a hypothesis that flies entirely in the face of the official narrative – that US relations with the mujahideen did not end with the Cold War, but on the contrary have continued to this day in the post-Cold War era; and that this subtle, hidden relationship contributes directly to the systematic undermining of national security, through the cultivation of the sources of international terrorism. Most importantly, I will show that this conclusion is based on reliable, credible sources from the public record. And further, I must emphasize, I will not delve into any form of theoretical speculation, but will concentrate solely on alerting you to verifiable information that can be subject to further investigation.
I will divide this presentation into the following sections:
1. The Formation of al-Qaeda
2. The Utility of al-Qaeda Beyond Afghanistan
3. Al-Qaeda in the Balkans
4. Al-Qaeda in North Africa
5. Al-Qaeda in the Asia-Pacific
6. Al-Qaeda in the Caucasus
In the interests of being both as concise and comprehensive as possible, I will cite a very limited amount of data for each section as necessary to articulate the main substance of my research. For further in-depth understanding of the issues raised here, I recommend referring to my book, The War on Truth.
1. The Formation of al-Qaeda
As early as June 1979, and perhaps earlier, the United States had already commenced a series of covert operations in Afghanistan designed to exploit the potential for social conflict. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under the Carter Administration, US involvement had begun long before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 27, 1979. (1) Brzezinski’s revelations have been corroborated by former CIA Director Robert Gates in his memoirs From the Shadows, where he writes that US intelligence began sponsoring an Afghan rebellion in Afghanistan six months before Soviet intervention. (2)
According to Jane's Defense Weekly, the ISI operatives in contact with al-Qaeda had received assistance from “American Green Beret commandos and Navy SEALS in various US training establishments.” Over 10,000 mujahideen were “trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons.” By 1988, Jane's reports that “with US knowledge, Bin Laden created Al Qaeda (The Base): a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic terrorist cells in countries spread across at least 26 countries.” But in the meantime, “Washington turned a blind eye to Al-Qaeda.” (3)
2. The Utility of al-Qaeda Beyond Afghanistan
After the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the anti-Soviet Afghan factions began competing for power. Although in 1991 the US and the USSR formally agreed to jointly cease aiding any faction in Afghanistan, the US Department of State had remained anxious about who might emerge as the winner of this competition. According to Labeviere, European intelligence sources reveal that the CIA and the Saudis – intent on securing a regime commensurate with their joint regional interests – agreed that they did not want to give up “the assets of such a profitable collaboration,” referring to the Cold War Afghan-US alliance controlled significantly by Osama bin Laden. Accordingly, in 1991, the CIA, Saudi intelligence, and bin Laden held a series of meetings. Although exactly what was agreed upon remains secret, Labeviere reports that the CIA remained determined to maintain its influence in Afghanistan, “the vital route to Central Asia where the great oil companies were preparing the energy eldorado for the coming millenium.” The Saudis were also intent on preserving the bin Laden-Pakistan alliance “at all costs,” which was agreeable for the US in order to ensure a regional stalwart against influence from Shi’ite Iran. (4)
Labeviere’s findings are corroborated by other credible sources. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Osama bin Laden “returned for a short period to Saudi Arabia to tend to the family construction business at its Jeddah head office.” (5) Even after 1991 when Saudi security held on to bin Laden’s passport purportedly “to prevent or at least discourage his contact with extremists he had worked with… during the Afghan jihad,” he had considerable influence in Saudi circles: “After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait he lobbied the Saudi royal family to organize civil defense in the kingdom and to raise a force from among the Afghan war veterans to fight Iraq.” (6)
The Saudi regime turned down his offer, instead accepting the influx of 300,000 US soldiers. According to Gerald Posner – a leading investigative journalist who contributes regularly to NBC’s TODAY Show – this was the key point at which bin Laden decided to become an enemy of the Saudi regime. But in April 1991, according to a classified US intelligence report, then head of Saudi intelligence services Prince Turki al-Faisal struck a secret deal with bin Laden – despite his being under house arrest for his opposition to the presence of US soldiers. Under the deal, although the regime would publicly disown him, bin Laden was permitted to leave Saudi Arabia with his funding and supporters. Moreover, the regime would continue to fund his activities on condition that he does not target the Saudi kingdom itself. (7) Posner’s account of a secret arrangement between bin Laden and Saudi intelligence known to US intelligence confirms the general tenor of Labeviere’s findings. Citing European intelligence sources, however, Labeviere, goes further in suggesting that the CIA was integrally involved in the 1991 Saudi-bin Laden agreement. Even by Posner’s account though, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion of at least tacit US connivance in the agreement since US intelligence was clearly aware of the deal but did nothing about it.
According to a former CIA analyst cited by Labeviere in his Dollars for Terror: “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.” (8)
In other words, the CIA had always seen vast potential to use the terrorist network established by bin Laden during the Cold War in an international framework in the post-Cold War era against the Russian and Chinese power, i.e. in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Central Asia.
3. Al-Qaeda in the Balkans
Successive US administrations have used al-Qaeda to pursue strategic interests in the Balkans. A further examination of this issue, however, reveals that the US-al-Qaeda alliance in the Balkans has been instrumental in facilitating successive terrorist attacks against US targets. Nevertheless, the alliance continues to this day. As the London Spectator noted:
America’s role in backing the Mujahideen a second time in the early and mid-1990’s is seldom mentioned… From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon assisted with the movement of thousands of Mujahideen and other Islamic elements from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs… If Western intervention in Afghanistan created the Mujahideen, Western intervention in Bosnia appears to have globalised it. (9)
This secret US-backed conduit between Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Bosnian Muslims was also used to fly in al-Qaeda mujahideen forces connected to Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya, Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere. The US played a very direct role in facilitating this influx. According to one authoritative report from London’s International Media Corporation affiliated to Washington DC’s International Strategic Studies Association: “The Mujahideen landing at Ploce are reported to have been mujahideen accompanied by US Special Forces equipped with high-tech communications equipment.” Intelligence sources indicated that “the mission of the US troops was to establish a command, control, communications and intelligence network to coordinate and support Bosnian Muslim offensives – in concert with Mujahideen and Bosnian Croat forces.” The US military, in other words, was actively coordinating on the ground with several thousand members of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network in Bosnia. (10)
According to Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, most reliable intelligence estimates indicate that the number of al-Qaeda affiliated mujahideen operating in Bosnia at this time was more than 10,000. (11)
The policy of connecting with al-Qaeda in the Balkans continued in relation to the Kosovo conflict. As early as 1998, the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization connected to al-Qaeda. (12) Other US intelligence reports prove that not only is the KLA funded from afar by al-Qaeda, numerous KLA fighters have trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Albania, and numerous al-Qaeda mujihadeen have joined the ranks of the KLA. The reports substantiate a “link” between bin Laden and the KLA, “including a common staging area in Tropoje, Albania, a center for Islamic terrorists.” KLA-sponsored border crossings into Kosovo from Albania of hundreds of foreign fighters include “veterans of the militant group Islamic Jihad from Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan,” carrying forged Macedonian Albanian passports. (13)
As Ralf Mutschke, Assistant Director of Interpol’s Criminal Intelligence Directorate, testified before Congress in December 2000: “In 1998, the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Osama bin Laden.” Mutschke also confirmed that Osama bin Laden sent one of his top military commanders to Kosovo to lead “an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict.” (14)
While much of the KLA’s funds came from Osama bin Laden as reported by Mutschke, and while KLA fighters were trained in al-Qaeda camps, US and British military intelligence personnel actively mingled with the al-Qaeda backed KLA, providing them further extensive training and assistance. The Sunday Times reported that since March 1999: “American intelligence agents have admitted they helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia.” CIA officers were “developing ties with the KLA and giving American military training manuals and field advice on fighting the Yugoslav army and Serbian police” under the cover of ceasefire monitors. The US military gave KLA commanders – including no doubt Osama’s own military commander in Kosovo – “satellite telephones and global positioning systems.” KLA commanders also “had the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander.” (15) The Herald also disclosed that:
Both the UK and the US set up clandestine camps inside Albania to teach the KLA effective guerilla tactics… Despite government denials on both sides of the Atlantic, SAS (British Special Forces) and US Delta Force instructors were used to train Kosovar Volunteers in weapons handling, demolition and ambush techniques, and basic organization. (16)
The same has been noted by Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional anti-terrorism task force, who also notes that the KLA and its Albanian mafia allies constitute a vital arm of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network within the US, providing broad financial and logistical support for operations. “The role of the Albanian Mafia, which is tightly connected to the KLA, is laundering money, providing technology, safe houses, and other support to terrorists within this country…
This isn’t to say that the Albanians themselves would carry out the actual terrorist operations. But there are undoubtedly “sleeper” agents within the Albanian networks, and they can rely upon those networks to provide them with support. In any case, a serious investigation of the Albanian mob isn’t going to happen, because they’re “our boys” – they’re protected.
The KLA/Albanian mafia network camouflages the “blonde-haired, blue-eyed Bosnians and Albanians who are bin Laden operatives. After the last attack we’re all looking for Arab suspects, but it’s not going to be that easy.” (17)
4. Al-Qaeda in North Africa
The Armed Islamic Group (GIA) is an al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group in Algeria. The group was first “created in the house of the Mujahirin in 1989 in Peshawar.” From here, on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, “the first hard core of ‘Algerian Afghans’ launched their terrorist campaign against Algeria.” The al-Qaeda veterans of the Afghan war against the Soviets, “trained in the Afghan militias, returned to Algeria with the help of international networks, via Bosnia, Albania, Italy, France, Morocco or Sudan.” (18) According to Jane’s Defense Weekly, in the late 1980s between 400 and 1,000 Algerians who trained as bin Laden’s mujahideen in Afghanistan joined various armed groups in Algeria. By January 1993, most of these groups united under the banner of the GIA. (19) The latter forged close links to al-Qaeda “in the early 1990s,” reports the Office of the Attorney-General in Australia, when the UK-based Abu Qatada “was designated by bin Laden as the spiritual adviser for Algerian groups including the GIA.” (20) Afghan veteran Khamareddine Kherbane was close to both the GIA and al-Qaeda leaderships. Both the GIA and its sub-faction the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) “developed ties with Al-Qaeda early on.” From 1997 to 1998, al-Qaeda achieved further ‘large-scale penetration of Algerian groups.” (21) So far the total civilian death toll from the GIA massacres in Algeria amounts to nearly 150,000. (22) The GIA is also implicated in terrorist atrocities outside Algeria and has been “linked to terrorist attacks in Europe.” (23) According to Stephen Cook, an expert on Algeria at the Brookings Institute, “there are Algerian (terrorist) cells spread all over Europe, Canada, and the United States.” (24)
In a detailed report, British journalists John Sweeney and Leonard Doyle interviewed ”’Yussuf-Josheph’ a career secret agent in Algeria’s securite militaire until he defected to Britain.” Algeria’s secret police state, they conclude, “is indicted by one of its own members for crimes against humanity.” “Joseph,” who spent 14 years as an Algerian secret agent, told Sweeney and Doyle that: “The bombs that outraged Paris in 1995 – blamed on Muslim fanatics – were the handiwork of the Algerian secret service. They were part of a propaganda war aimed at galvanizing French public opinion against the Islamists.”
The massacres in Algeria, blamed on the GIA, are in fact “the work of secret police and army death squads… The killing of many foreigners was organized by the secret police, not Islamic extremists.” GIA terror is, in fact, “orchestrated by two shadowy figures… Mohammed Mediane, codename ‘Tewfik,’ and General Smain Lamari, the most feared names in Algeria. They are, respectively, head of the Algerian secret service, the DRS, and its sub-department, the counter intelligence agency, the DCE.” According to Joseph:
The GIA is a pure product of Smain’s secret service. I used to read all the secret telexes. I know that the GIA has been infiltrated and manipulated by the government. The GIA has been completely turned by the government… In 1992 Smain created a special group, L’Escadron de la Mort (the Squadron of Death). One of is main missions to begin with was to kill officers, colonels. the death squads organize the massacres. If anyone inside the killing machine hesitates to torture or kill, they are automatically killed… The FIS aren’t doing the massacres.
As for the Paris bombings, Joseph reveals that Algerian secret agents sent by Smain organized “at least” two of the bombs in Paris in summer 1995. “The operation was run by colonel Soumaes Mahmoud, alias Habib, head of the secret service at the Algerian embassy in Paris.” (25)
Indeed, Western intelligence agencies know far more about the crisis than they have publicly conceded. In a remarkable report in The Guardian, Richard Norton-Taylor recorded that: “An unprecedented three-year terrorist case dramatically collapsed yesterday when an MI5 informant refused to appear in court after evidence which senior ministers tried to suppress revealed that Algerian government forces were involved in atrocities against innocent civilians.” The report refers to “secret documents showing British intelligence believed the Algerian government was involved in atrocities, contradicting the view the government was claiming in public.” Attempting to suppress the evidence, three British Cabinet ministers – Jack Straw, Geoffrey Hoon and Robin Cook – “signed public interest immunity certificates.” (26)
The secret Foreign office documents “were produced on the orders of the trial judge” 18 months late. But when they finally arrived, “they were in marked contrast to the government’s publicly-stated view, expressed by the Foreign Office in 1998, that there was ‘no credible, substantive evidence to confirm’ allegations implicating Algerian government forces in atrocities.” The documents, read out in open court, revealed that according to Whitehalls’ Joint Intelligence Committee: “responsibility for violence cannot be conclusively laid in one place… There is no firm evidence to rule out government manipulation or involvement in terrorist violence.” According to one document: “Sources had privately said some of the killings of civilians were the responsibility of the Algerian security services.” Another document from January 1997 cites a British source as follows: “military security (in Algeria) would have… no scruples about killing innocent people… My instincts remain that parts of the Algerian government would stop of nothing.” Multiple documents, according to The Guardian, “referred to the ‘manipulation’ of the GIA being used as a cover to carry out their own operations.” A US intelligence report similarly confirmed that “there was no evidence to link 1995 Paris bombings to Algerian militants.” On the contrary, the US report indicates “that one killing at the time could have been ordered by the Algerian government.” Crucially, a Whitehall document cites the danger to British government interests if this information becomes public – “if revealed,” it warns, it “could open us to detailed questioning by NGOs and journalists.” (27)
The Algerian junta-GIA-al-Qaeda terror nexus has also received heavy Western financial assistance. In the late 1990s, for instance, the European Union relased 60 million Euros – some $65 million – to the Algerian generals. The total loan package was worth 125 million Euros. (28) Algeria has the fifth largest reserves of natural gas in the world, and is the second largest gas exporter, with 130 trillion proven natural gas reserves. It ranks fourteenth for oil reserves, with official estimates at 9.2 billion barrels. Approximately 90 per cent of Algeria’s crude oil exports go to Western Europe, including Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain. Algeria’s major trading partners are Italy, France, the United States, Germany, and Spain. (29)
ABC News correspondent John Cooley, a specialist in north Africa and the Middle East, further reports the presence of “500 to 600 American engineers and technicians living and working behind barbed wire” in a collection of “protected gas and oil enclaves in Algeria.” This little-publicized but heavy US commercial involvement in Algeria “began in earnest… in 1991.” At the end of that year, the regime “opened the energy sector on liberal terms to foreign investors and operators…
About 30 oil and gas fields have been attributed to foreign companies since then. The main American firms involved, Arco, Exxon, Oryx, Anadarko, Mobil and Sun Oil received exploration permits, often in association with European firms like Agip, BP, Cespa or the Korean group Daewoo… The majority of oil and gas exports go to nearby Europe… the main clients in the late 1990s (being) France, Belgium, Spain and Italy. (30)
In June 2000, US-based international banks and investment houses such as Chase Manhattan visited Algiers, along with them Under-Secretary of the Treasury Stuart Eizenstat. US private investments in Algeria were estimated at between $3.5 and $4 billion – almost entirely in oil and gas exploration and production. (31)
Anas al-Liby is on the FBI’s list of “Most Wanted Terrorists” “in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya… The Rewards For Justice Program, United States Department of State, is offering a reward of up to $25 million for information leading directly to the apprehension or conviction of Anas al-Liby” (32)
David Shayler worked for the international terrorism desk of MI5 for 6 years before resigning in 1997. In 1995, he obtained classified MI6 documents detailing a covert British intelligence plan to assassinate Libyan Head of State, Col. Mu’ammar Gaddafi. Most surprisingly, Shayler disclosed that as part of the plot, MI6 paid over 100,000 Pounds to the al-Qaeda network in Libya to conduct the assassination. The operation, however, failed. The al-Qaeda operatives working on the MI6 payroll placed a bomb under the wrong car, killing six innocent Libyan civilians. (33) In a press release on the subject, Shayler observed:
We need a statement from the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary clarifying the facts of this matter. In particular, we need to know how around 100,000 Pounds of taxpayers’ money was used to fund the sort of Islamic Extremists who have connections to Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network. Did ministers give MI6 permission for this? by the time MI6 paid the group in late 1995 or early 1996, US investigators had already established that Bin Laden was implicated in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Centre. Given the timing and the close connections between Libyan and Egyptian Islamic Extremists, it may even have been used to fund the murder of British citizens in Luxor, Egypt in 1996. (34)
In a further comment piece for The Observer, Shayler elaborated on these concerns. The “real criminals,” he argued, “are the British Government and the intelligence services. The Government has a duty to uphold the law. It cannot simply be ignored because crimes are carried out by friends of the Government.” Noting his November 1999 dossier of evidence on the plot sent to Home Secretary Jack Straw, Shayler pointed out: “Although the assassination failed when attempted in 1996, innocent Libyan civilians were killed.” In the face of such compelling evidence, “these very senior Ministers should, of course, have called in the police immediately… The Government’s failure to ensure that two MI6 officers are brought to justice for their part in planning a murder is what I would expect of despots and dictators.” (35)
The British government’s response was at first to completely deny the story. Then Foreign Secretary Robin Cook described Shayler’s allegations as “pure fantasy” (36) The government then changed tactic, accusing Shayler of breaching the 1989 Official Secrets Act – his revelations, officials claimed, were a threat to British national security – and subsequently pursued legal action against him to prevent further publication of his information. Reporting on the upcoming trial in October 2002, the Evening Standard observed that:
Michael Tugendhat, QC, appearing for various national newspapers, is expected to argue that the Government has provided no evidence that national security will be threatened by the trial and will underline the importance of open justice… Shayler will be defending himself during the trial. He is expected to claim that British secret service agents paid up to 100,000 Pounds to al Qaeda terrorists for an assassination attempt on Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafy in 1996. He is seeking permission to plead a defense of “necessity” – that he acted for the greater good by revealing wrongdoing by the security service. (37)
In further startling revelations supporting Shayler’s allegations, French intelligence experts journalist Guillaume Dasquie and adviser to President Jaques Chirac, Jean-Charles Brisard, documented that among the members of the Libyan al-Qaeda cell hired by MI6 to assassinate Col. Gaddafi was one of Osama bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants Anas al-Liby, who as already noted was on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorist” list for his involvement in the 1998 terrorist attacks on US embassies in Africa. London Observer home affairs editor Martin Bright reported in detail on Dasquie’s and Brisard’s devastating findings:
British intelligence paid large sums of money to an al-Qaeda cell in Libya in a doomed attempt to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi in 1996 and thwarted early attempts to bring Osama bin Laden to justice. The latest claims of MI6 involvement with Libya’s fearsome Islamic Fighting Group, which is connected to one of bin Laden’s trusted lieutenants, will be embarrassing to the Government…
The Libyan al-Qaeda cell included Anas al-Liby, who remains on the US government’s most wanted list with a reward of $25 million for his capture. He is wanted for his involvement in the African embassy bombings. Al-Liby was with bin Laden in Sudan before the al-Qaeda leader returned to Afghanistan in 1996. Astonishingly, despite suspicions that he was a high-level al-Qaeda operative, al-Liby was given political asylum in Britain and lived in Manchester until May of 2000.
A police raid at al-Liby’s Manchester accommodation discovered a 180-page al-Qaeda “manual for jihad” containing instructions for terrorist attacks. According to Shayler, the plot came to his attention in formal meetings with this MI6 colleagues. The Observer’s Bright revealed that the said officers involved in the plot were “Richard Bartlett, who has previously only been known under the codename PT16 and had overall responsibility for the operation; and David Watson, codename PT16B.” The latter was the MI6 handler for Libyan al-Qaeda operative “Tunworth,” who was providing information from within the cell. Eager to crush further damaging publicity on these issues emerging from the Shayler trial, Home Secretary David Blunkett and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw “signed Public Interest Immunity certificates to protect national security. Reporters were not able to report allegations about the Gaddafi plot during the course of the trial.” (38)
5. Al-Qaeda in the Asia-Pacific
The roots of the Abu-Sayyaf, the most prominent terrorist group in the Philippines, lead us straight back to al-Qaeda. In the mid-1980s, Professor Abdul Rasul Sayyaf nominally headed an alliance of extremist armed groups financed by Osama bin Laden, among others, and influenced by Saudi Wahabism. He established a notorious but secretive “university” – Dawal al-Jihad – in the north of Peshawar, which functioned as a major terrorist training camp. Roughly 20,000 mujahideen from 40 countries – including the Philippines – were trained there by Pakistani military intelligence (ISI) with extensive CIA support in the form of expertise, weapons, and funds. Many of these fighters were in search of “other wars to fight,” including in the Phlippines, the Middle East, north Africa, and New York. It was not long before “a nucleus of Abu Sayyaf fighters had moved to the Philippines and were operating there under that name.” The Philippines division of the Abu Sayyaf group conducted “kidnappings and bomb attacks on Christian and government targets” in the south. Among those coordinating operations in the Philippines with Afghan veterans of Abu Sayyaf was al-Qaeda operative Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing plot and an author of Project Bojinka. The first half of Bojinka was implemented by Abu Sayyaf on December 11, 1994, in the bombing of Philippines Airlines flight between Manila and Tokyo, and the targeting of 11 other American airliners over the Pacific on the same day. The latter plot failed due to the FAA’s tighter security measures, but the plot was traced back by Philippine police and the FBI to Abu Sayyaf/al Qaeda operative Yousef. The other half of Bojinka was eventually implemented on 9/11, involving a scheme to fly civilian planes into key US buildings. (39) Another member of the Abu Sayyaf terror cell in Manila was 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a key al-Qaeda leader who participated in Yosef’s Bojinka Operation. He lived only a few floors from Yousef. (40)
According to Washington DC’s Center for Defense information: “Abu Sayyaf-al Qaeda links are strong. Many of its fighters claim to have trained in Afghanistan, including as many as 20 who were in the graduating class of a Mazar-e Sharif camp in 2001… Zamboanga City, a Mindanao Islamic hotbed, was frequented by members of al Qaeda. Janajalani forged a close relationship with Saudi businessman Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law, who set up a network of Islamic charities used to fund Abu Sayyaf fighters. Khalifa’s “main organization, the International Islamic Relief Organization, has an office in Zamboanga, as does a bin Laden foundation. Abu Sayyaf received training and momey funneled through Khalifa’s network.” (41)
Clandestine official connivance in the activities of al-Qaeda’s Abu Sayyaf group has also been documented by a leading member of the Philippine government, Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. Former law professor Pimentel has been involved in Philippine politics for over 30 years, has been Senator of the Republic since 1998, and is a respected legislator. In a July 2000 speech before the Philippine Senate, he disclosed some startling evidence of joint US-Philippine government involvement in the emergence and activities of Abu Sayyaf:
Because the Abu Sayyaf was operating on the fringe of the Muslim insurgency in the country, its participants were enticed by certain officers of the armed forces to serve as informers on the activities of the Muslim insurgents in Southern Mindanao… at least, three military and police officers (were ) coddlers or handlers of the Abu Sayyaf.
These officers hold very high posts. “One was the commanding general of the Muslims at that time, Brig. Gen. Guillermo Ruiz; the other two were police officers, Chief Supt. Leandro mendoza and Chief Supt. Rodolfo mendoza,” continued Senator Pimentel:
My information is that the Abu Sayyaf partisans were given military intelligence services IDs, safe-houses, safe-conduct passes, firearms, cell phones and various sorts of financial support.
Edwin Angeles, a leader of the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan, told me after the elections of 1995, that it was the Abu Sayyaf that was responsible for the raid and the razing down of the town of Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur in early 1995. In that raid, Angeles told me that the Abu Sayyaf raiders were reportedly provided with military vehicles, mortars and assorted firearms. All this time, Angeles was “handled” – by police officers, now chief superintendant, Rodolfo mendoza.
According to Senator Pimentel, these Philippine military and police “handlers” funneled CIA assistance in the form of both weapons and finances to Abu Sayyaf: ”... these officers did not only ‘handle’ the Abu Sayyaf, they coddled them, trained them, protected them, passed on military equipment and funds from the CIA and its support network, and probably even from the intelligence funds of the armed forces to them.
... The evidence is now overwhelming – unassailable in my mind – that the CIA was the procreator of the Abu Sayyaf and that some of our own military officers acted as midwives at its delivery and who have nursed the hooligans under illegal, if not, at least, questionable circumstances that enabled the latter to pursue their criminal activities to this day. (42)
The US military works extremely closely with the Philippine military, providing weapons, advice, and extensive training. For instance, nearly 1,000 US combat troops were sent to the southern islands of Mindanao, Basilan, and Jolo in 2002 to join with thousands of Philippine troops supposedly hunting Abu Sayyaf. So closely are US military officers and and soldiers liasing with their Philippine counterparts that Operation Balikatan (“shoulder to shoulder”) commands US troops to accompany Philippine military patrols with permission to fight in self-defense. According to US Major Cynthia Teramae: “We are here as counterparts. We will be working alongside each other. We have two co-directors and two co-generals. It shows the kind of relationship that we have.” (43)
It is not a surprise then that the key US objective in the Philippines is not the elimination of terror. One the contrary US-backed Philippine state-sponsored terror appears to have provided a crucial justification within the “War on Terror” narrative for the expansion of US military power in the region and the consolidation of US economic control. “The important thing is to have a safe and stable security environment for domestic and foreign investors, including US entrepreneurs,” remarked US Assistant Secretary of Commerce, William Lash, in a January 2002 visit to Manila. indeed, according to former Philippine President Fidel Ramos, the US aim in the Philippines “is to maintain a viable presence in Asia-Pacific as a means to secure their own interests and their huge investments.” (44)
6. Al-Qaeda in the Caucasus
The Chechen resistance movement to Russian occupation has for some time been increasingly penetrated and manipulated by al-Qaeda. According to R.P. Eddy, former Director of Counterterrorism at the White House National Security Council, at the end of the Afghan war in 1989, “a multinational force of mujahidin slithered into Chechnya” led by “Omar ibn al Khattab, who had trained in bin Laden’s camps. Bin Laden and Khattab enjoyed an unusually close theological affinity, and exchanged personnel and resources.” Khattab was appointed operations chief “under the overall commander, Shamil Basayev. Like Khattab, Basayev had trained in al Qaeda camps and was personally close to bin Laden.” (45) Basayev himself has admitted to reporters that he ‘visited training camps in Afghanistan three times in the early 1990s to study the tactics of guerrila warfare. In Chechnya, he and Khattab built their own training camp in the village of Serzen-Yurt, complete with advanced communications equipment.” (46)
Since the mid-1990s, bin Laden has funded Chechen guerilla leaders Shamil Basayev and omar Ibn Khattab, sidelining the moderate Chechen majority, “to the tune of several millions of dollars per month” according to the Asia Times:
Khattab, after the outbreak of the second Chechen war in 1999, aligned ever more closely with the most radical Chechen elements around Shamil Basayev and Arbi Barayev, sidelining more moderate chechen leader Aslan Maskhadov. Not only did significant funds and guns flow from al-Qaeda to Khattab; chechens also received training in Afghanistan and an Islamic “learning center” preaching strict Wahhabism (and at one point counting 1,000 recruits to the Islamic jihad cause) was established in Chechnya. (47)
Indeed, Russian and US sources confirm that by 1999, al-Qaeda mujahideen from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Sudan, with heavy financing from bin Laden, were involved in Basayev’s insurrection. According to Bodansky, the mujahideen force consisted of 10,000 fighters trained in al-Qaeda camps. Shortly before Basayev’s invasion of Dagestan, Osama bin laden himself “made a weeklong visit to a training camp in the village of Serzhen-Yurt in Chechnya.” (48)
Russian co-optation of Basayev and the Chechen resistance is longstanding. Patrick Cockburn – visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC – notes for instance that: “In 1992-93 (Basayev) is widely believed to have received assistance from the GRU when he and his brother Shirvani fought in Abkhazia, a breakaway part of Georgia. Russia did not want to act overtly against Georgia but covertly supported a battalion of volunteers led by Mr. Basayev.” (49)
Forbes senior editor and historian – the late Paul Klebnikov – in his book, Godfather of the Kremlin, notes the widely acknowledged fact that “Kremlin oligarch Boris Berezovsky gave the al Qaeda-connected Chechen terrorist leader Shamil Basayev $1 million prior to the 1999 Dagestan incursion that triggered the latest Chechen conflict.” Klebnikov reports that “Berezovsky, together with other members of the Yeltsin inner circle, had long maintained a secret relationship with Chechen extremists…
To the extent Berezovsky represented the interests of the Yeltsin regime in Chechnya, the Kremlin had been undermining the (Chechen) moderates, supporting the extremists financially and politically, and consequently sowing the seeds of conflict… the Berezovsky strategy with the Chechen warlords was a deliberate attempt to fan the flames of war.
According to Boris Kagarlitsky, a political scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences who is also adviser to the Russian Parliament, writing in Novaya Gazeta (January 24, 2000), Shamil Basayev and his brother have long been special agents of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff. In an article titled “Who blew up Russia” in the February 2000 edition of Versiya, another researcher Pyotr Praynishnikov reported that “Chechnya’s terrorists had been trained by the GRU – by Russia’s SPETSNAZ (special diversionary troops).” The Basayev brothers, Shamil and Shirvani, were “both recruited as agents by the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU) in 1991-2.” Indeed, Basayev was initially recruited by the GRU to “organize kidnappings, bombings and airline hijackings in Russia and Abkhazia.” In 1992, Basayev and his men were allowed by Russian guards to travel freely across the borders into Chechnya. (50)
Ironically, the Russians are not the only ones who have co-opted the al-Qaeda guerillas in Chechnya. US Congressional intelligence and security analyst Yossef Bodansky reports that the US government was actively involved in “yet another anti-Russian jihad” in the “Summer of 2000.” The end of the Cold War, it seems, did not mean the end of the US alliance with the mujahideen:
As if reliving the “good ‘ol days” of Afghanistan of the 1980s, Washington is once again seeking to support and empower the most virulent anti-Western Islamist forces. The US crossed the line in mid-December 1999, when US officials participated in a formal meeting in Azerbaijan in which specific programs for the training and equipping of mujahideen from the Caucasus, Central/South Asia and the Arab world were discussed and agreed upon. This meeting led to Washington’s tacit encouragement of both Muslim allies (mainly Turkey, Jordan and Saudi Arabia) and US “private security companies” (of the type which did the Clinton Administration’s dirty job in the Balkans while skirting and violating the international embargo the US formally supported) to assist the Chechens and their Islamist allies to surge in the Spring of 2000 and sustain the ensuing jihad for a long time.
Thus, the al-Qaeda affiliated Chechen guerillas have been jointly manipulated by both Russian and US intelligence services, although it seems that the two powers have varying interests for doing so. While Russia sees the war with Chechnya as an opportunity to militarize Russian foreign policy and forcefully maintain its military occupation of the region to protect strategic and oil pipeline routes, the US sees the ongoing conflict as a way to do the opposite by “depriv(ing) Russia of a viable pipeline route through spiraling violence and terrorism… US-assisted escalation and expansion of the war in Chechnya should deliver the desired debilitation of Russia.” Thus, the US was “fanning the flames of the Islamist jihad in the Caucasus through covert assistance (and) tacit encouragement of allies to actively support the mujahideen.” (51)
At every major strategic point in the world, we find that US and Western power is symbiotically melded – through financial, military and intelligence connections – with al-Qaeda; and further that al-Qaeda has in certain places been explicitly used as a military-intelligence asset by Western powers, particularly the United States and United Kingdom. This documentation indicates that international terrorism in the form of al-Qaeda is not merely an enemy to be fought, but rather an unruly asset to be, when possible, controlled and manipulated in the pursuit of quite specific strategic and economic interests. Worse still, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that certain elements of the policy-making establishment are perfectly cognizant that as a direct result of such policies, national security is being fundamentally and continuously undermined with repeatedly fatal consequences. Yet the same brand of policies persists. Without dwelling unnecessarily on the possible theoretical ramifications of this phenomenon, it is sufficient for me to note that these facts fundamentally challenge the entire paradigm of the ‘War on Terror’ as articulated and legitimized by the official narrative.
1. Warrick, Jo and Stephens, Joe, ‘Before Attack, US Expected Different Hit, Chemical, Germ Agents Focus of Preparation,’ Washington Post, 2 October, 2001.
3. PEC Report, ‘Terrorist Plans to Use Planes as Weapons Dates to 1995: WTC bomber Yousef confessed to US agents in 1995’ Public Education Center, Washington DC, http://www.publicedcenter.org/faaterrorist.htm
4. Garcia, Raphael M., ‘Decoding Bojinka,’ Newsbreak Weekly, 15 November 2001, Vol. 1, No. 43. Also see Cooley, John, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, American and International Terrorism, Pluto Press, London, 1999, p. 247.
5. Woodward, Bob and Eggen, Dan, ‘Aug. Memo Focused on Attacks in US’, Washington Post, 18 May 2002, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35744-2002May17.html
6. Hudson, Rex A., Report Prepared for the National Intelligence Council, The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism, Federal Research Division, Library of Congress, Washington DC, September 1999, p. 8, http://www.loc.gov/rr/frd/pdf-files/Soc_Psych_of_Terrorism.pdf
7. National Intelligence Council website (viewed July 9 2004), http://www.cia.gov/nic/NIC_home.html
8. National Intelligence Council website, NIC Mission (viewed July 9 2004), http://www.cia.gov/nic/NIC_about.html
9. Shenon, Philip, ‘Traces of Terrorism: The Warnings: FBI Knew for Years About Terror Pilot Training’, New York Times, 18 May 2002.
10. Monterey Herald, 18 July 2002.
11. Stafford, Ned, ‘Newspaper: Echelon Gave Authorites Warning of Attacks,’ Newsbytes, 13 September 2001, http://www.newsbytes.com/news/01/170072.html ECHELON is a vast intelligence information collection system capable of monitoring all the electronic communications in the world. It is operated by the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. While no government agency has ever confirmed or denied its existence, an EU committee that investigated ECHELON for more than a year confirmed that the system does exist in early September 2001. The EU committee reported that ECHELON sucks up electronic transmissions “like a vacuum cleaner”, using keyword search techniques to sift through enormous amounts of data. The system covers the whole world’s electronic communications with 120 satellites. For more on ECHELON see Bamford, James, _Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency, Doubleday, 2001.
12. Hill, Joint Inquiry Staff Statement Part I, op. cit. (emphasis added)
13. Neumeister, Larry, ‘Trade Center Bomber’s Threat Foreshadowed September Terrorist Attacks,’ Associated Press, 30 September 2001.
14. Lines, Andy, ‘Pentagon Chiefs Planned for Jet Attack,’ The Mirror, 24 May 2002, http://www.intellnet.org/news/2002/05/24/9488-1.html Also see Ryan, Dennis, ‘Contingency planning Pentagon MASCAL exercise simulates scenarios in preparing for emergencies’, Military District of Washington News Service, 3 November 2000, http://www.mdw.army.mil/news/Contingency_Planning.html
15. Hill, Joint Inquiry Staff Statement Part I, op. cit. “In March 2001, an intelligence source claimed a group of Bin Ladin operatives were planning to conduct an unspecified attack in the United States in April 2001. One of the operatives allegedly resided in the United States;
In April 2001, the Intelligence Community obtained information that unspecified terrorist operatives in California and New York State were planning a terrorist attack in those states for April;
Between May and July, the National Security Agency reported at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack… These reports were widely disseminated within the Intelligence Community;
In May 2001, the Intelligence Community obtained information that supporters of Usama Bin Ladin were reportedly planning to infiltrate the United States via Canada in order to carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives. This report mentioned an attack within the United States…
In July 2001, this information was shared with the FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), US Customs Service, and the State Department and was included in a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials in August 2001;
In May 2001, the Department of Defense acquired and shared with other elements of the Intelligence Community information indicating that seven individuals associated with Usama Bin Ladin departed various locations for Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States;
In June 2001, the DCI’s CTC had information that key operatives in Usama Bin Ladin’s organization were disappearing while others were preparing for martyrdom;
In July 2001, the DCI’s CTC was aware of an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan who had reported, ‘Everyone is talking about an impending attack.’ The Intelligence Community was also aware that Bin Ladin had stepped up his propaganda efforts in the preceding months.”
16. Drogin, Bob, ‘US Tells of Covert Afghan Plan Before 9/11,’ Los Angeles Times, 18 May 2002, http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-051802strike.story
17. Breitweiser, Kristen, Statement Concerning the Joint 9/11 Inquiry, op. cit.
18. Wright, Lawrence, ‘The Counter-Terrorist,’ New Yorker, 14 January 2002. Under pressure from Congress, the White House has finally officially admitted that the US intelligence community had information that Al-Qaeda was planning an imminent attack through hijacking. However, National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice has gone on record denying that US intelligence had any other specific information, such as that the planes might be used as missiles (BBC Newsnight, 16 May 2002). This denial, however, is patently false, as demonstrated by the reports on the public record discussed here.
19. Washington Post, 17 May 2002.
20. Diamond, John, ‘US had agents inside al-Qaeda,’ USA Today, 4 June 2002, http://www.usatoday.com/news/attack/2002/06/03/cia-attacks.htm
21. Ensor, David, et. al., ‘Justice may probe leaked pre 9-11 intercepts,’ CNN, 21 June 2002.
22. Crary, David and Schwartz, David, ‘World Trade Center collapses in terrorist attack,’ Associated Press, 11 September 2001.
23. ‘The Proof They Did Not Reveal: Two key pieces of evidence were missing from the government’s dossier on the US attacks, made public last week. Now full details of the case against Bin Laden can be disclosed’, Sunday Times, 7 October 2001, http://www.sunday-times.co.uk/news/pages/sti/2001/10/07/stiusausa02012.html
24. CNN, ‘Blair’s full statement’, 4 October 2001, http://edition.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/europe/10/04/gen.blair.statement
25. Waller, Douglas, ‘Was Hijack “Ringleader” in Bin Laden Orbit?’, Time Magazine, 5 October 2001, http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,178228,00.html
26. Diamond, John, ‘US had agents inside al-Qaeda’, USA Today, 4 June 2002. http://www.usatoday.com/news/sept11/2002/06/03/cia-attacks.htm
28. Thomas, Evan, Newsweek, 24 September 2001.
29. Hirsh, Michael, ‘We’ve hit the targets,’ Newsweek, 13 Sept. 2001.
30. Crewdson, John, Hijacker Held, Freed Before Sept. 11 Attack,’ Chicago Tribune, 13 December 2001, http://www.chicagotribune.com/search/chi-0112130293dec13.story Also see Baltimore Sun, 14 December 2001.
31. MacVicar, Sheila and Faraj, Caroline, ‘September 11 Hijacker Questioned in January 2001,’ CNN, 1 August 2002, http://edition.cnn.com/2002/US/08/01/cia.hijacker/index.html
34. CNN, ‘Another hijacker was stopped for traffic violation’, 9 January 2002, http://edition.cnn.com/2002/US/01/09/inv.hijacker.traffic.stops/
35. MacVicar and Faraj, ‘September 11 Hijacker Question’, op. cit.
36. Staff Statement No. 9, Law Enforcement, Counterterrorism, and Intelligence Collection in the United States Prior to 9/11, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Washington DC, April 2004, p. 7.
37. Gordon, Greg, ‘FAA security took no action against Moussaoui,’ Corpus Christi Caller Times, 13 January 2002.
38. Staff Statement No. 9, op. cit., p. 9.
39. Ibid. p. 2.
40. Ibid. p. 10.
41. Ibid. p. 10.
42. Ibid. p. 4.
43. Ibid. p. 9.
44. CAP report, ‘The Blame Game Continues: Intelligence and the 1990s’, Center for American Progress, Washington DC, 18 February 2004, http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=33582 (emphasis added)
45. Cited in Letter by Senator Charles E. Grassley to the Honorable Robert S. Mueller, Director, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12 April 2004, http://grassley.senate.gov/releases/2004/p04r04-12.htm
46. Ibid. p. 4.
47. Ibid. p. 11.
48. Staff Statement No. 11, The Performance of the Intelligence Community, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Washington DC, March 2004, p. 6.
49. Staff Statement No. 5, Diplomacy, National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, Washington DC, March 2004, p. 6.
50. Staff Statement No. 11, op. cit. p. 12.
51. Statement for the Record, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 3 September 1998, archived at http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1998_hr/98090302_npo.html
52. Statement for the Record, FBI Director Louis J. Freeh before the Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee for the Departmenst of Commerce, Justice, and State, the Judiciary, and Related Agencies, 4 February 1999, archived at http://www.fas.org/irp/congress/1999_hr/990204-freehct2.htm
53. ‘Avoiding the real questions,’ Jane’s Intelligence Digest, 28 May 2002.