Terrorism Without Tears: Part Two - Against the Tide of History

by JOHN W. MILLER August 13, 2010
There is a joke which varies from country to country and it concerns primarily, cities built close to the sea and where untreated sewage is pumped out to sea for disposal. Needless to say, with the wrong tide, it is a case of getting your own back. According to legend, a respected dignitary believed there was no problem dumping raw sewage at sea and to prove the point went for a swim. As reporters gleefully recorded later, it was a question of “going through the motions.” Terrorism is not a frivolous matter but in many respects, our reaction to it is very similar to the fool who went swimming.
 
Terrorism in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan
 
Despite the fact that the 1980s and 1990s saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, we can now look back on that period as one of missed opportunity. There was more than a little triumphalism in Western capitals at the demise of the USSR.  With the virtual collapse of the superpower rivalry and ideological struggle that had taken up the best part of 70 years and the dangerously misnamed Cold War, academic opinion held that there was only one superpower, namely America. The economies of the West were generally buoyant and in what some described as a seminal work, the US academic Francis Fukuyama wrote of the End of History (1992) which elaborated on an essay written in late 1989. 
 
I confess to a certain amount of skepticism about the general thesis that liberal democracy would be the contemporary model of government and therefore, there would be a diminution and finally cessation of major wars in the long term.  I also felt strong disagreement because while economists were talking about increased globalization, lowering of tariffs, migration of labor, the Cold War had taken a toll on the US economy, raising indebtedness, which seemed to point to a reckoning sooner or later. Russia was convulsed firstly by near bankruptcy and a long economic recession, which appeared to militate against any thoughts that the Russian state would embrace Western-style democracy and a free market economy. The appalling behavior of the so-called oligarchs was untenable and most certainly unsustainable and while corruption was rampant, the Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who had been something of a hero when the Russian parliament was attacked by reactionary forces, went on to make a fool of himself at home and abroad.
 
Without wishing to appear wise after the fact, I had always believed that a revived Russia would strive for modernization and a place on the stage. The rise of the siloviki -  the men of power - led by Vladimir Putin, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the KGB led me to believe that autocratic government would follow. He had been described by Maj. Gen. Oleg Kalugin, who had elected to stay in the West as something of a nonentity. However, it was evident to me that he was well-connected in St. Petersburg and soon began to consolidate his power. Few alarm bells rang in the West because Russia was certainly not in a position to exercise power on the world stage, although with its vast natural resources, it had the potential for economic power and a stranglehold on the economies of dependent European countries.
 
By now, the reader will be asking why I am continuing to talk about Russia. The answer is that to coin an old Communist phrase, everything is connected to everything else. The Russians had left Afghanistan with a puppet government in place but no means of supplying aid or support to Najibullah. The Western powers cut their losses and left Afghanistan to its fate. There followed a revival of tribal warfare notable for its savagery which resulted in the overthrow of Najibullah's government and near anarchy. For a country that has been almost ungovernable for most of its history, it was clearly a case of situation normal, all fouled up.
 
As I indicated at the end of the last instalment, nature abhors a vacuum and a force arose in the tribal frontiers of Pakistan and then set about taking over in Afghanistan.  The Anglicized version of the name Taliban (alt.Taleban (Pashto: طالبانṭālibān, meaning "students") appeared harmless enough and certain elements of the Western press -  otherwise known as the usual suspects - heralded their arrival in Afghanistan through Kandahar as a sign that given time, they would restore peace and order.
 
Afghanistan had been in a parlous state immediately after the Soviet withdrawal  because when aid from Moscow was withdrawn, conflict between rival tribal forces deposed Najibullah some three years later (1992) and then proceeded to fight among themselves over the spoils of victory but in so doing, alienated probably the most important element in the Afghan population, namely the Pashtuns. The written history of Afghanistan during this period makes for grim reading with atrocities committed by all sides and, facing the legacy of the struggle against the Soviets, which left land mines and other explosive devices everywhere, killing and maiming a great many people but especially those who were trying to raise crops.
 
In one sense, Afghanistan had been left high and dry by the rest of the world. Its main crop was the opium poppy and attempts to wean farmers from growing the plant met with failure. It continued to be the basis of the Afghan economy and a thorn in the side of law enforcement agencies around the world as sundry US government reports gloomily noted. However, before discussing Afghanistan and the Taliban in some detail, I want to outline a parallel problem, which has a greater potential for international conflict.
 
The crucible of terror: how the international Jihad grew
 
Afghanistan, Pakistan and India
 
The English translation of the name Pakistan means land of the pure in Urdu and Persian. The name is believed to date from the 1930s but it was part of the British Empire until the end of World War II, when the process of decolonization commenced, hand in glove with independence movements. The map of the whole region was essentially redrawn in Whitehall and when India formally became an independent state in August 1947, Pakistan was established as a separate Muslim state. It proved to be highly unstable with East Pakistan and West Pakistan divided geographically and ethnically with the disputed territory of Kashmir, ruled by India being a corridor between the two states. The original provinces of Sindh, North West Frontier Province, West Punjab, Balochistan and East Bengal were formally united with the adoption of the constitution in 1956 as an Islamic republic. A mere 15 years later, a civil war in East Pakistan resulted in the creation of Bangladesh and this writer is on the record as saying that the next potential breakaway state is Balochistan, more of which later in the series.
 
Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are strategically placed in their geographic region. Pakistan has been in continual dispute with India, its Hindu neighbor since independence and there have been three major wars, one minor war and numerous continuing armed skirmishes between the two countries.  With the exception of the Indo-Pakistani war of 1971, the official reason for the conflict was Kashmir, which is still regarded as disputed territory but not by the Indian government.  All of the wars were 'won' by India, which commenced the road to becoming a nuclear power in the mid-1950s under the "Atoms for Peace" program, the principal objective of which was to use nuclear power for civil projects and through agreements with the governments concerned, head off a nuclear arms race.  Rather than get bogged down in details, I regard the Federation of American Scientists as being a pretty reliable source of information and they have extensive documentary information on the nuclear programs of both India and Pakistan. [1]
 
It is axiomatic that with India becoming a nuclear power, Pakistan would have to follow and while I do not wish to diverge from the central argument of this series, I will briefly mention that a central figure in Pakistan obtaining the status of the nuclear power was Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, who trained in West Germany, principally in critical centrifuge technology and through his efforts, the Pakistani program was completed earlier than might have been anticipated.   He is also believed to have dealings with North Korea and was only recently released from house arrest. According to some sources, "AQ" is the father of the 'Islamic bomb' and possibly had dealings with Syria and other countries pursuing nuclear weapons. This has caused considerable angst in Western governments because the thought of terrorist groups gaining access to nuclear weapons is the fabric of nightmares.
 
During the Cold War, the Indian government, while ostensibly and officially neutral, was regarded as sympathetic to the Soviet Union and a leader of the Third World.  As a counterweight Pakistan was supported by both the US and China, with the latter having an ongoing border dispute with India in the Himalayan mountains. This flared into a war in 1962 and was fought in the Himalayas and across glaciers but it was a curious conflict because neither side used either their navies or air forces - it was left to the respective armies. Coinciding with the Cuban missile crisis, it received little worldwide publicity and the casualties on the PRC side are unknown but the Indian forces exceeded 7000.  [2] Occasional skirmishing is still carried out and the unresolved status (at least in Indian minds) of Tibet and the Uighur homeland has the potential to complicate relations between the two most populous nations on earth.
 
Pakistan as a major player in terrorism and the war on terrorism.
 
Sometimes it is forgotten in the West that Pakistan is the sixth most populous nation on earth, and ranks behind Indonesia as having the second largest  Muslim population, comprising mainly the Shia branch of that religion. It is my view that to make sense of the international terrorist problem today, we must examine forensically and dispassionately as possible, the events in Afghanistan and the relationship between that country and its neighbors. However, I do not intend to write a history book.  “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” 
 
When the British Empire became the British Commonwealth and most major nations achieved independence, the British had left in their wake local administrations, which very much mirrored old colonial precepts. Both India and Pakistan established intelligence organizations, national armies and in their early incarnations, they were very British in tradition. Even in the 1970s and 80s, most of the officials I met from those countries would be equally at home in a British officer's mess and the working language was English.  It was no surprise that when the decision was made to intervene against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence agency, more usually known simply by the acronym ISI would be used as a conduit to the Afghan mujahedin. In its early days, the ISI was trained by the UKSIS, more popularly known as MI6 but the CIA took the lead role in arming Afghan guerrillas. (They were all guerrillas or freedom fighters in those days because they were on “our side,” while to the Soviets, they were naturally enough terrorists and bandits and in private, "ragheads" a disparaging term for those with a dark complexion.
 
Integral to the establishment of the links to the Afghan mujahedin was Lieut. Gen. Hamid Gul of the ISI, a gifted and well credentialed intelligence officer, who nevertheless is no stranger to controversy. He is credited widely with being a key figure in organizing the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan and as head of the ISI at the time, he worked closely with the CIA. Whether he became acquainted with Osama bin Laden, a field commander with the mujahedin during that period, is not known but after the Soviet withdrawal and the cessation of aid to the Afghani insurgency, Gul became increasingly bitter about the lack of support from the West and although he was, like most Pakistanis a Shia, contact with the foreign volunteers led him to become more tolerant of the Sunni/Wahibist strain of radical Islam, found in the Middle East.
 
There is little doubt but not a great deal of proof to support the contention that under Gul, the ISI supported the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and fomented trouble with India through support of insurrection in Kashmir. During the war against the Soviet army, he is credited with the capture of Jalalabad from the Soviets in early 1989, although there was a heavy cost borne by the mujahedin.   I am not in the fortunate position of knowing the complexities of what followed but it has been claimed that the Pakistani army was intent on installing a fundamentalist dominated government of Afghanistan with Jalalabad as the provisional capital. It was during this period that General Gul became involved in organizing an Islamic right-wing political party,, known variously as Islami Jamhoori Ittehad (the Islamic Democratic Alliance) in opposition to the Pakistan People's Party. There is no small amount of irony in the fact that the PPP had been instrumental in commencing the Pakistani nuclear program and as such, should have commanded more loyalty from the Army. 
 
In the event,  the IJI was barely competitive at elections although it wielded considerable power in the Punjab and it was from there that Nawaz Sharif emerged to challenge the PPP and Sharif became prime minister in 1990.  Amidst interminable turmoil, he served just over two years before being dismissed by the Pakistani president and was later succeeded in power by the late Benazir Bhutto. However, Sharif was reelected for a second term in 1997, and was instrumental in the first tests of the Pakistani nuclear weapon in 1998. Notable also was his closeness to the Army and relationship with Gen. Gul.
 
Pakistan as an Islamic state.
 
It is a fact of history and not recognized particularly well in the West that in 1998 Nawaz Sharif proposed a law to create an Islamic order in Pakistan, where the legal system to be based on the Koran. He told his fellow countrymen that the proposed bill was a charter of duties and not power. According to Pakistani news sources, had he been successful, the existing Civil Code would have been replaced by the sharia and Sharif would have been declared Amir-ul-Momineen which is translated as Commander of the Faithful, a term that is pregnant with meanings in both the Islamic and non- Islamic worlds. [3] The proposed law found its way through the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, where it needed a two-thirds majority to be accepted. In the event, martial law was declared in the Northwest on the borders with Afghanistan and the amendment failed in the Senate. Before Sharif could move further, his government was dismissed by the military under Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
 
Despite the fact that this legislation was defeated conclusively by circumstances rather than legislation, Pakistan is and remains an Islamic state and sharia law is found in many provinces, especially the more unruly regions where the central government's control can be considered loose at best.
 
A dangerous legacy - Note well!
 
In exile, Sharif was considered to be an influential opponent of General Musharraf and his attitude to sharia law remained strong. Indeed, it says a great deal for the Pakistani press and its freedom at the time that reports were carried of meetings between Nawaz Sharif and Osama bin Laden, revealed by a discontented ISI officer who had been dismissed for being outspoken. This officer claimed to have been involved with the other key actors in the establishment of the IJI and had arranged meetings with bin Laden in Saudi Arabia in 1988. Apparently bin Laden was not terribly convinced by Sharif's commitment to jihad and consequently gave the latter a smaller amount of finance that he had requested in order to fight the government of Benazir Bhutto. However, Sharif met leading members of the Saudi royal family and they arranged for his release after the military coup in 1999 and gave him exile in Saudi Arabia.
 
In a nutshell, Pakistan came perilously close to becoming a state where sharia law would be implemented, largely because of the efforts of Nawaz Sharif and behind him, Lieut. Gen.Gul and others of a like mind.  Some idea of the full impact of sharia law can be gained by reference to the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan until US-led intervention, to be covered in the next article. The most important conclusion to this part of the series is that America's allegedly staunch ally during the Cold War nearly became a fundamentalist state in the 1990s. It is also important to emphasize that the militant form of Islam had gained considerable ground in that country. In many respects, while attention is centered on Afghanistan, the West has every reason to be suspicious of developments within Pakistan, irrespective of whether they are government policy. [4]  
 
While the attention of many in the Western intelligence communities is focused on Al Qaeda because of 9/11, an equally lethal group exists within Pakistan and within the Pakistani diaspora abroad in the form of Lashkar-e-Taiba (L-e-T/LeT) - the Army of the Pure. To cite the testimony of an American expert on the subject, LeT was founded in 1987 by Hafiz Saeed, Abdullah Azzam, and Zafar Iqbal as the armed wing of the Markaz Dawat-ul Irshad (MDI), the Center for Proselytization and Preaching, which sought to realize a universal Islamic state through tableegh (preaching) and jihad (armed struggle). [5]
 
In his testimony, and that of a year earlier  Mr.Tellis [6] considered LeT to rank second after Al Qaeda as the most important terrorist group operating from South Asia. He points to similar objectives between the two groups but states unequivocally that: “...unlike Al Qaeda, which is truly a stateless terrorist organization, LeT remains primarily Pakistani in its composition, uses Pakistani territory as its primary base of operation and continues to be supported extensively by the Pakistani state, especially the Pakistani army and the ISI. (2010 page 2)  As we have seen, prominent military and political figures have fully supported the implementation of sharia law in Pakistan and LeT has an ideology based on establishing a universal caliphate through jihad at home and abroad.
 
While there is little doubt that LeT was originally established as a quasi-military  body, with its headquarters in the Pakistani administered area of Kashmir and a history of fomenting trouble in that area including terrorism against India (and in all probability being behind the Mumbai hotel raid of November 2008). I tend to disagree with Mr. Tellis on the danger it represents to the West.  Often overlooked is the number of Pakistani communities abroad to the extent that the Pakistani diaspora is sizeable, extensive and the majority are in a relative sense (compared to rural peasantry) well-educated.  In due course, the problematic relationship between the US and Pakistan will be examined in the context of the current situation. Suffice to say, one of the deadliest warnings was produced by The Economist magazine (UK) in an article entitled: “A single space;  Islam in Britain and South Asia” (May 2, 2009) which dwelt on the Pakistani diaspora and the fact that  “theologically as well as socially, Muslims in Britain and their countries of origin form a seamless whole.”  [7] The Economist also produced a well-written article in its issue of December 11, 2008 entitled “Rogue Elephants” which was part of a small series covering militant attacks inside Pakistan.
 
There are countless other papers written, which touch on the subject. I wrote a series of articles following the Mumbai attack and then the ensuing and markedly similar attacks on the Police academy in Lahore and the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in the same city. The conclusion of LeT involvement remains basically unchanged and unchallenged. And the international reach of LeT has been amply demonstrated in the past few years.  
 
While the US government regards Pakistan as an ally in the conflict against the Taliban in Afghanistan, the situation can be compared to clasping an asp to the bosom in many respects.   As a direct consequence of his anti-American, anti-Western and pro-bin Laden views Lieut. Gen.Hamid Gul has been placed on the US governments watch list of global terrorists. According to the New Testament, a person is known by his deeds to which we might add his words. In a revealing interview conducted in August 2003, the general stated: “God will destroy the US in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever it will try to go from there.”  [8]  From assisting the West in the campaign against the Soviets in Afghanistan, the general has turned to a belligerent anti-American, anti-Western stance and is known to be a supporter of Osama bin Laden.  He has also been extremely active in promulgating the proposition that Mossad and the CIA were behind the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.  
 
That will be dealt with in a later article but Part Three will examine the terrorist lead-in to that catastrophic event and once again, demonstrate that the West has a proclivity to forget evil actions rather easily.
 
[1]   FAS (Federation of American Scientists): Indian Nuclear weapons and Pakistan Nuclear Weapons.         
 
[2]   The US, despite being preoccupied with the Cuban problem provided material aid and support to India. Two useful references for the interested are "The China-India border war (1962)" by Lt. Cdr, J. B. Calvin U.S.M.C. http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/report/1984/CJB.htm and Maxwell, Neville, India's China War (London, 1970)
 
[3]   Irfan Khan: “Balance Sheet of a Dictatorship, Dawn, August 23, 2008 and “Nawaz Sharif met Osama three times: former ISI official, Daily Times, Thursday June 23, 2005
 
[4]   It is a sobering thought that Foreign Policy in conjunction with The Fund for Peace lists Pakistan at No.10 on its Failed States Index. I see no reason to dispute the ranking given the dimensions used to rank countries.
 
[5]   Testimony of Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to the US House of Representatives, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia -  March 11, 2010. (pdf)
 
[6]   Prepared Testimony by Ashley J. Tellis, Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to the United States Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, Lessons from the Mumbai Terrorist Attacks, Part II, January 28, 2009.
 
[7]   See also "The diaspora effect" by Shiraz Maher Prospect magazine, issue 142, January 2008 and  “Born in the UK: Young Muslims in Britain” written by Hugh Barnes and published in 2006 by the Foreign Policy Centre (UK). Also highly informative on Islamic radicalism and terrorism is: “Britain hub of terror” by Gordon Thomas, published by Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin on September 21, 2006. http://g2.wnd.
 
[8]   God will destroy America says Hamid Gul”  Daily Times (Pakistan) August 30, 2003 and a currently unavailable interview on the website run by one of the usual suspects in the anti-American media, Robert Fisk. Robert-Fisk.com  September 14, 2001.
 
Terrorism for Novices: Introduction can be found here.
Terrorism for Novices: Part One can be found here.
 
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor John W. Miller is a former senior intelligence officer with NATO and allied forces, with considerable experience in Russian (Soviet) affairs and counterterrorism.

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