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Posted at 1:30 PM ET, 07/26/2010

The audacity of Hamid Gul

By Jeff Stein

Everything that is terrifying about Washington’s relationship with Pakistan can be summed up in the Wikileaks documents on Hamid Gul, a former chief of the ISI, Islamabad's intelligence service.

The documents portray Gul as the public face of an underground Pakistani military network that appears to be working to destroy the U.S. effort to create a pro-West Afghanistan.

A hawk-like man with laser black eyes, Gul's animosity toward the United States is well known. But the audacity of his plotting with the Taliban and even al-Qaeda, as represented in the documents, has the ability to shock.

If the documents are to be believed -- and the uncorroborated U.S. intelligence reports must be read with caution -- Gul has taken a direct hand in quarterbacking attacks against U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan.

Gul calls the reports "fiction and nothing else."

In mid-December 2006, one report says, Gul met with “senior members of the Taliban leadership in Nowshara, Pakistan,” during which he said he had dispatched three insurgents to Kabul to carry out attacks with improvised explosive devices during the celebration of Eid, a Muslim holiday.

“Gul instructed two of the individuals to plant IEDs along the roads frequently utilized by Government of Afghanistan and ISAF vehicles,” the intelligence report says. “The third individual is to carry out a suicide attack utilizing a suicide vest against" Afghan government or NATO targets.

“Make the snow warm in Kabul,” he told the bombers, according to the report. “Set Kabul aflame.”

“Gul reportedly has received approximately 50 of these mines in order for them to carry out their operation,” the report said.

In January 2008 Gul also directed the Taliban to kidnap high-level United Nations personnel in Afghanistan to trade for captured Pakistani soldiers, according to another report.

“The (Taliban) group led by (Qari) Naqibullah,” it said, “is working with the coordination of retired Pakistani General Hamid Gul. This group is targeting un vehicles marked with black lettering, which Naqibullah believes is an indicator that the vehicle is carrying high level UN officials or members of the UN intelligence service.”

“Naqibullah,” it added, “has been instructed by Gul to place a higher priority in securing the release of the Pakistani soldiers.”

* * *

While not proven, the allegations that the Taliban would take orders from Gul are not surprising.

After the Red Army left Afghanistan in 1989, he and fellow Islamists in the ISI midwifed the fundamentalists into a fighting force that took Kabul and ruled the country with a puritanical zeal until they were ousted by U.S.-led forces after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

But if another U.S. intelligence report released by Wikileaks is to be believed, Gul has also been working hand-in-glove with al-Qaeda.

On Jan. 5, 2009, the report says, insurgents in the Pakistani tribal zone of South Waziristan met to discuss taking revenge for the death of a Taliban commander killed in a CIA drone attack.

“Also in attendance were three unidentified older Arab males, who were considered important” because they were accompanied by “approximately 20 Arab bodyguards,” said the report, which originated with the U.S. Army’s Task Force Castle engineering group.

“Hamid Gul, a former member of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), was in attendance at the meeting also,” the report said. “Hamid Gul was described as being an older man and a very important person from ISI.”

Gul “encouraged (their) leaders to focus their operation inside of Afghanistan in exchange for the government of Pakistan's security forces turning a blind eye to the presence of (their) commanders and fighters in Pakistan,” the report said.

Gul also had a tip for al-Qaeda and the insurgents: ”The aerial threats in the area were controlled from the airport in Wana,” the largest town in South Waziristan.

* * *

Given Gul’s longtime, vocal animosity for Washington, it’s not inconceivable that he would get his hands dirty with the insurgents at such a primitive tactical level, planning car bombs like a Pakistani Tony Soprano.

Like many journalists, I have sat in his living room in Ralwalpindi, headquarters of the Pakistani army, and heard him bitterly intone against the Americans. When I last visited in August 1997, on the sour bicentenary of Pakistan’s schism with India, the country was flooded with AK-47s, heroin and Afghan refugees. The Americans had used Pakistan like a hammer to beat the Russians, Gul said, and then walked away.

The Taliban were in power in Kabul, but the CIA was conspiring to overthrow them, he charged. The American embassy was trying to infiltrate Pakistani police and army units. He railed against U.S. “meddling” in the country.

Even the FBI had barged into the country, he groused, swooping down in a dusty market town to capture Mir Aimal Kasi, a Pakistani fugitive who had shot and killed CIA employees at their gate in McLean, Va. in Jan. 1993.

Kasi, Gul claimed, “was an agent of the CIA ... He was working inside of Pakistan and outside of Pakistan." He knew that, he said, because he had a dossier on the Kasi clan, which had worked with the ISI to deliver supplies to the mujaheddin.

I asked for proof. It never came. When my taped interview with him was published, he denied ever saying such a thing. (A year later, in a jailhouse letter to me, Kasi said he never worked for the agency and was inspired to fire on its gates by pictures of Iraqi troops strafed by American planes.)

When Gul wasn’t railing against the Americans, he was reportedly conspiring with Kashmiri separatists, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which evidently sponsored the terrorist attack in Mumbai, India.

In late 2008, Washington fingered Gul to the United Nations as one of four former top Pakistani intelligence officers supporting Islamic terrorism.

Gul was also accused by the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of authoring the first assassination attempt upon her after her return to Pakistan.

And so on. None of this is a surprise to U.S. officials, who have had to live with the Pakistani army’s duplicity on Afghanistan since coalition forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.

The first reaction Pakistan’s leadership to the Wikileaks reports was telling.

"These reports reflect nothing more than single-source comments and rumors, which abound on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, the Pakistani ambassador said in a prepared statement, “and are often proved wrong after deeper examination."

Gul's first reaction was to call the allegations “absolute nonsense.”

“I have had no hand in it,” he told The New York Times, adding, “American intelligence is pulling cotton wool over your eyes.”

The ex-general had a more measured response later.

“Report of my physical involvement with al-Qaeda or Taliban in planning attacks on American forces is completely baseless,” Gul told The Wall Street Journal. “I am not against America, but I am opposed to what the American forces are doing in Afghanistan.”

By Jeff Stein  | July 26, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy, Intelligence  
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Next: Wikileaks documents: N. Korea sold missiles to al-Qaeda, Taliban


The history of US involvement in other countries' affairs is replete with failures:from Korea to Vietnam,from Cuba to Iran, and now Iraq and Afghanistan.
Is the world then to understand that the successive US administrations are naive or downright foolish in their judgment of the existing world order?
How else does one explain the Americans'deep slumber till its woken up by a Whistle blower?

Posted by: HarryRakhraj | July 26, 2010 2:35 PM | Report abuse

I am not surprise by the audacity of Hamid Gul, not by his hostility toward the U.S. which is endemic in Pakistan anyway. Let's not forget that they had paid in full for a squadron of F-16 fighter jets, but we refused to deliver them until Pervez Musharaff agree to capitulate to our demands. When Musharraf was ousted Pakistan was broke because - as the Pak Dawn newspaper put: "The U.S. aid to Musharraf was lining some pockets in Pakistan, but nothing went to the people." When Asif Zardari became president, he went to China for loans to keep Pakistan afloat, but he was rebuffed. He then tried the IMF, but no help either. Pakistan was then forced to become the U.S. bedfellow against the wish of its population for financial aid that was critical on this global meltdown. And to add insult to injury, the U.S. has hired Indians to reconstruct Afghanistan - not Pakistani companies. Isn't then a surprise if many Pakistanis hate us?

Then came the U.S. Predator drone air strikes inside Pakistan, and the civilian deaths from them that turned even friends into enemies. It was shown in an angry exchange in which the leader of the opposition, former prime minister Nawaz Shariff, told the then U.S. envoy in Pakistan John Negreponte: "We want to work with you against the Taliban. But we want you to stop bombing our villages," on quote. We have created a lot of enemies in Pakistan, and the Wikileaks just confirmed that.

As for the Wikileaks revelation about the Pakistan ISI supporting the Taliban, it is not a revelation at all. The U.S.-Pakistani relationship is a cursed one for all Pakistanis. But Pakistan is financially broke and in need of the U.S. $ billions in aid. And it can get only from the U.S. for the money. But behind the scenes the ISI makes sure that Pakistan doesn't sell out its national interests in Afghanistan at wholesale prices to the U.S. and India. And Pakistan knows that Indian re-construction involvement in Afghanistan is actually a Trojan Horse of Indian and U.S. Intelligence Services operations to catch the ISI and break its links with the Taliban.

Actually, I believe that the Wikileaks were deliberately made by the U.S. to embarrass Pakistan and force
it to rein in the ISI. It won't happen! The ISI is there to make sure that when the U.S. loses the war, any Indian presence in Afghanistan will be scrubbed out, and if the U.S. want to have any influence on the post-U.S. regime in Afghanistan, it will have to buy it with $ billions aid to Pakistan. This is the course of the Afghan war, and the Wikileaks is just a flyer that won't affect or change anything. Nikos Retsos, retired professor

Posted by: Nikos_Retsos | July 26, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

[1] Hamid Gul accused the Mossad of committing the 9/11 attack, and claimed that no Jews were killed in that incident because they had been warned to stay home that day.

[2] We wonders what connection he has to the A.Q. Khan nuke-selling network.

The real outrage lies not in who he is and what he does, but that western governments and news sources treat him as anything other than an amoral, careerist war criminal.

Posted by: haberoded | July 26, 2010 3:41 PM | Report abuse

The Republican administrations have been the biggest supporters of Pakistan and its military starting from Nixon and Kissinger to Bush and Cheney. The blind support Pakistan got through all this time from various US administrations has led to this sorry state. The ISI supporting the taliban is nothing new or unknown to the US government. It is such an open secret that everyone knows it in the subcontinent. Is the US government so naive that it believes by feeding a few billion to a snake it won't bite it? Its the nature of the beast.

Posted by: shobha1 | July 26, 2010 4:42 PM | Report abuse

The way I figure it, if Taliban rule is good for Afghanistan, then it must be also good for Pakistan. Otherwise Pakistan is in contradiction with their own policy, how can it be good for one and not the other. So for the benefit of the people of Pakistan a foreign country has to back the Taliban and extremists in Pakistan, as Pakistan does in Afghanistan. Which is what Pakistan has accused RAW of inside Pakistan. Fight fire with fire, a terrorist MAD doctrine. Since 2008 Pakistan has been set on fire, no world cup cricket for you, that is why they went into the SWAT and SW. They blame Musharraf for the responsibility in the leaks, which they also say are lies, which is a contradiction itself, but Kayani was director of the ISI.

Posted by: tcmsols1 | July 26, 2010 4:48 PM | Report abuse

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