Click here for Part 1 of Pakistan’s ISI: Undermining Afghan Self-determination since 1948
When 26-year old Osama bin Laden moved to Peshawar in 1984 as an ISI guest he became closely aligned with Hekmatyar. In 1987 bin Laden bulldozers built a “military academy” in the Kurram tribal agency and created a cave complex south of Jalalabad. Bin Laden also befriended Jalaluddin Haqqani, who has close ties with the ISI to this day, and helped Haqqani expand his base in North Waziristan.
Bin Laden also built roads in poverty-stricken Pashtun mountain villages on both sides of the Durand Line in the Tora Bora area. The local popularity he secured from these projects later paid off in facilitating his escape after 9/11.
The ISI schemed to install Hekmatyar as the ruler of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan, which was a recipe for failure considering Hekmatyar had little support among Afghans because his violent Muslim radicalism was an affront to the Afghans’ traditional moderate version of Islam.
In fact, an Afghanistan Information Center survey found that 70% of the Afghan refugees at the time supported the return of King Zahir Shah as head of state over the Peshawar-based radicals. Zahir Shah was considered a symbol of tolerance, nationalism and political moderation who ruled during a 40-year era of peace in Afghanistan until his ouster in 1973.
Gul and Beg didn’t consider Najib their prime threat but saw pro-Zahir Shah Durranis as their biggest obstacle, and worked tirelessly to block the revival of the traditional Durrani power structure in southern Afghanistan.
In 1989 Mohammad Sabir tried to play the same role as Mawlawi did at the historic 1847 jirga which selected Ahmad Shah Durrani as Afghan king, as Sabir organized a large gathering of elders outside of Kandahar who appealed for Zahir Shah to return.
To counter the jirga initiative, the ISI established the Argestan Shura led by mullahs who would later become Taliban leaders. The ISI’s Quetta office chief, Colonel Faizan, told an American visitor that his shura had “decisively reversed three hundred years of Durrani rule in Afghanistan.”
Shortly after, the Argestan Shura fired ISI-supplied rockets into Kandahar city as the ISI and Hekmatyar collaborated to assassinate the “Lion of Kandahar”, Barakzai commander Haji Latif, which dealt a devastating blow to the Durrani moderate cause.
All the while, Pakistani leaders told Americans officials they were interested in a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan. However, their actions – a full and active commitment to a military solution to install Hekmatyar – contradicted their words.
The CIA behind the scenes worked to ensure the U.S. continued funding the Pakistani “pivot”. Pakistan’s strategic shift in 1988 – 1989 was more than obvious yet hundreds of classified CIA documents mysteriously failed to reflect this reality. Tomsen attributed this to the CIA’s willful ignorance, incompetence and hyper-focus on tactical rather than strategic “taskings”.
CIA tactics ran counter to the stated American policy of supporting a political solution to restore Afghan independence through a process of grassroots self-determination. In contrast, Langley collaborated with Pakistani and Saudi intelligence to implement a top-down military solution which featured replacing Najib with Hekmatyar, as CIA assistance to the ISI continued until the early 1990s.
The truth is, the Afghans didn’t want Najib or Hekmatyar because both were creations placed on the Afghan political terrain by foreign powers that would survive only as long as their external backers provided support.
The ISI’s “freedom fighters” soon became the very warlords that divided and terrified Afghanistan as it spiraled into civil war, moral decay and chaos between 1992 and 1996, which led to conditions ripe for the rise of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The Taliban forced its Deobandi-Wahhabist perversion of Islam upon the Afghans, further weakening the tribal structure.
The ISI directly provided weapons, funding, manpower and logistical support to the Taliban and helped them capture Kabul in 1996, although they continued fighting Massoud’s forces in the north. By 1998, of the roughly 45,000 Taliban fighting against Massoud only 14,000 were Afghan, the rest were Pakistani nationals and Al Qaeda Arabs.
After 9/11 the moderate mujahideen commander Abdul Haq had a plan to topple the Taliban and restore Zahir Shah without the need for a U.S. invasion. Support for the Taliban inside Afghanistan had withered as Haq won the loyalty of key Taliban division commanders who committed to help overthrow Mullah Omar.
However, the CIA ignored Haq while Haq made the tragic mistake of telling the ISI about his endeavor in an effort to win their support. The U.S. began bombing Afghanistan on October 7, 2001 and on October 26 Abdul Haq was assassinated while trying to put his plan in motion, a plan that would reinstall the monarchy and restore the tribal balance – in other words, the only plan with a reasonable chance of ever bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Since 9/11 Pakistan has continued playing its double game but now it appears the ISI is at war with its benefactor. Pakistani military leaders tell Washington one thing while they continue to support militant attacks inside Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, it appears the U.S. is, once again, attempting to implement a top-down military solution as they actively support a puppet in Kabul who is just as illegitimate as Najib and Hekmatyar were.
When will the U.S. quit repeating the mistakes of the past that allowed the ISI to rise to prominence in the first place? Now, that would be a news flash.