Strange Tale of US's Taliban Rescue//Hersch
It's REALLY strange, how the SHRUB-MOB actually airlifted hundreds of
upper-level Al Qaeda and Taliban officers, leaders and Pakistani
associates to safety, but simultaneously mass-murdered at LEAST hundreds
of Taliban SOLDIERS in various war crimes atrocities (NEVER MIND the
10,000+ Afghan civilians smart-bombed into mechanically-separated meat),
and ALSO rounded up/imprisoned hundreds more of same, whom the SHRUB-MOB
now refuses to acknowledge as POWs, and whom will apparently have the
"book thrown at them" by such blood-curdling/hair-curling psychopaths as
one Donald Rumsfeld...
And yet at the same time, the SHRUB ADMINISTRATION AIRLIFTED al
Qaeda/Taliban COMMANDEERS to SAFETY!!!
What does this mean? It means that the ShrubMob global gangsters let
their terrorist BUDDIES off the hook, while at the same
timespin-twisting the whole mess to stick these POWs -- basically,
blameless Afghan foot soldiers -- with the major brunt of the ShrubMob's
phony, hot-air, fake-ass "anti-terror" campaign.
This tell us EVERYTHING WE NEED TO KNOW about the arch-traitor globalist
CFR/NWO/Illuminati/4th Reich slime and rot in control of the federal government!
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THE NEW YORKER | ANNALS OF NATIONAL
January 25, 2002
THE GETAWAY - Questions surround
a secret Pakistani airlift
by SEYMOUR M. HERSH
In Afghanistan last November, the Northern Alliance, supported by
American Special Forces troops and emboldened by the highly accurate
American bombing, forced thousands of Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to
retreat inside the northern hill town of Kunduz. Trapped with them were
Pakistani Army officers, intelligence advisers, and volunteers who were
fighting alongside the Taliban. (Pakistan had been the Taliban's
staunchest military and economic supporter in its long-running war
against the Northern Alliance.) Many of the fighters had fled earlier
defeats at Mazar-i-Sharif, to the west; Taloqan, to the east; and
Pul-i-Khumri, to the south. The road to Kabul, a potential point of
retreat, was blocked and was targeted by American bombers. Kunduz
offered safety from the bombs and a chance to negotiate painless
surrender terms, as Afghan tribes often do.
Surrender negotiations began immediately, but the Bush Administration
heatedly--and successfully--opposed them. On November 25th, the Northern
Alliance took Kunduz, capturing some four thousand of the Taliban and Al
Qaeda fighters. The next day, President Bush said, "We're smoking them
out. They're running, and now we're going to bring them to justice."
Even before the siege ended, however, a puzzling series of reports
appeared in the Times and in other publications, quoting Northern
Alliance officials who claimed that Pakistani airplanes had flown into
Kunduz to evacuate the Pakistanis there. American and Pakistani
officials refused to confirm the reports. On November 16th, when
journalists asked Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the reports
of rescue aircraft, he was dismissive. "Well, if we see them, we shoot
them down," he said. Five days later, Rumsfeld declared, "Any idea that
those people should be let loose on any basis at all to leave that
country and to go bring terror to other countries and destabilize other
countries is unacceptable." At a Pentagon news conference on Monday,
November 26th, the day after Kunduz fell, General Richard B. Myers, of
the Air Force, who is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was
asked about the reports. The General did not directly answer the
question but stated, "The runway there is not usable. I mean, there are
segments of it that are usable. They're too short for your standard
transport aircraft. So we're not sure where the reports are coming from."
Pakistani officials also debunked the rescue reports, and continued
insist, as they had throughout the Afghanistan war, that no Pakistani
military personnel were in the country. Anwar Mehmood, the government
spokesman, told newsmen at the time that reports of a Pakistani airlift
were "total rubbish. Hogwash."
In interviews, however, American intelligence officials and high-ranking
military officers said that Pakistanis were indeed flown to safety, in a
series of nighttime airlifts that were approved by the Bush
Administration. The Americans also said that what was supposed to be a
limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control, and, as an
unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and Al Qaeda
fighters managed to join in the exodus. "Dirt got through the screen," a
senior intelligence official told me. Last week, Secretary of Defense
Rumsfeld did not respond to a request for comment.
Pakistan's leader, General Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999
coup, had risked his standing with the religious fundamentalists--and
perhaps his life--by endorsing the American attack on Afghanistan and
the American support of the Northern Alliance. At the time of Kunduz,
his decision looked like an especially dangerous one. The initial
American aim in Afghanistan had been not to eliminate the Taliban's
presence there entirely but to undermine the regime and Al Qaeda while
leaving intact so-called moderate Taliban elements that would play a
role in a new postwar government. This would insure that Pakistan would
not end up with a regime on its border dominated by the Northern
Alliance. By mid-November, it was clear that the Northern Alliance would
quickly sweep through Afghanistan. There were fears that once the
Northern Alliance took Kunduz, there would be wholesale killings of the
defeated fighters, especially the foreigners.
Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the
humiliation of losing hundreds--and perhaps thousands--of Pakistani Army
men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival.
"Clearly, there is a great willingness to help Musharraf," an American
intelligence official told me. A C.I.A. analyst said that it was his
understanding that the decision to permit the airlift was made by the
White House and was indeed driven by a desire to protect the Pakistani
leader. The airlift "made sense at the time," the C.I.A. analyst said.
"Many of the people they spirited away were the Taliban leadership"--who
Pakistan hoped could play a role in a postwar Afghan government.
According to this person, "Musharraf wanted to have these people to put
another card on the table" in future political negotiations. "We were
supposed to have access to them," he said, but "it didn't happen," and
the rescued Taliban remain unavailable to American intelligence.
According to a former high-level American defense official, the airlift
was approved because of representations by the Pakistanis that "there
were guys-- intelligence agents and underground guys--who needed to get out."
Once under way, a senior American defense adviser said, the airlift
became chaotic. "Everyone brought their friends with them," he said,
referring to the Afghans with whom the Pakistanis had worked, and whom
they had trained or had used to run intelligence operations. "You're not
going to leave them behind to get their throats cut." Recalling the
last-minute American evacuation at the end of the Vietnam War, in 1975,
the adviser added, "When we came out of Saigon, we brought our boys with
us." He meant South Vietnamese nationals. " 'How many does that
helicopter hold? Ten? We're bringing fourteen.' "
The Bush Administration may have done more than simply acquiesce in
rescue effort: at the height of the standoff, according to both a C.I.A.
official and a military analyst who has worked with the Delta Force, the
American commando unit that was destroying Taliban units on the ground,
the Administration ordered the United States Central Command to set up a
special air corridor to help insure the safety of the Pakistani rescue
flights from Kunduz to the northwest corner of Pakistan, about two
hundred miles away. The order left some members of the Delta Force
deeply frustrated. "These guys did Desert Storm and Mogadishu," the
military analyst said. "They see things in black-and-white. 'Unhappy' is
not the word. They're supposed to be killing people." The airlift also
angered the Northern Alliance, whose leadership, according to Reuel
Gerecht, a former Near East operative for the C.I.A., had sought
unsuccessfully for years to "get people to pay attention to the
Pakistani element" among the Taliban. The Northern Alliance was eager to
capture "mainline Pakistani military and intelligence officers" at
Kunduz, Gerecht said. "When the rescue flights started, it touched a raw nerve."
Just as Pakistan has supported the Taliban in Afghanistan, Pakistan's
arch-rival India has supported the Northern Alliance. Operatives in
India's main external intelligence unit--known as RAW, for Research and
Analysis Wing--reported extensively on the Pakistani airlift out of
Kunduz. (The Taliban and Al Qaeda have declared the elimination of
India's presence in the contested territory of Kashmir as a major goal.)
RAW has excellent access to the Northern Alliance and a highly
sophisticated ability to intercept electronic communications. An Indian
military adviser boasted that when the airlift began "we knew within
minutes." In interviews in New Delhi, Indian national-security and
intelligence officials repeatedly declared that the airlift had rescued
not only members of the Pakistani military but Pakistani citizens who
had volunteered to fight against the Northern Alliance, as well as
non-Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda. Brajesh Mishra, India's
national-security adviser, said his government had concluded that five
thousand Pakistanis and Taliban--he called it "a ballpark figure"--had
According to RAW's senior analyst for Pakistani and Afghan issues, the
most extensive rescue efforts took place on three nights at the time of
the fall of Kunduz. Indian intelligence had concluded that eight
thousand or more men were trapped inside the city in the last days of
the siege, roughly half of whom were Pakistanis. (Afghans, Uzbeks,
Chechens, and various Arab mercenaries accounted for the rest.) At least
five flights were specifically "confirmed" by India's informants, the
RAW analyst told me, and many more were believed to have taken place.
In the Indian assessment, thirtythree hundred prisoners surrendered
Northern Alliance tribal faction headed by General Abdul Rashid Dostum.
A few hundred Taliban were also turned over to other tribal leaders.
That left between four and five thousand men unaccounted for. "Where are
the balance?" the intelligence officer asked. According to him, two
Pakistani Army generals were on the flights.
None of the American intelligence officials I spoke with were able to
say with certainty how many Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters were flown to
safety, or may have escaped from Kunduz by other means.
India, wary of antagonizing the Bush Administration, chose not to
denounce the airlift at the time. But there was a great deal of anger
within the Indian government. "We had all the information, but we did
not go public," the Indian military adviser told me. "Why should we
embarrass you? We should be sensible." A RAW official said that India
had intelligence that Musharraf's message to the Americans had been that
he didn't want to see body bags coming back to Pakistan. Brajesh Mishra
told me that diplomatic notes protesting the airlift were sent to
Britain and the United States. Neither responded, he said.
Mishra also said that Indian intelligence was convinced that many of
airlifted fighters would soon be infiltrated into Kashmir. There was a
precedent for this. In the past, the Pakistani Army's Inter-Services
Intelligence agency (I.S.I.) had trained fighters in Afghanistan and
then funnelled them into Kashmir. One of India's most senior
intelligence officials also told me, "Musharraf can't afford to keep the
Taliban in Pakistan. They're dangerous to his own regime. Our reading is
that the fighters can go only to Kashmir."
Kashmir, on India's northern border, is a predominantly Muslim territory
that has been fiercely disputed since Partition, in 1947. Both India and
Pakistan have waged war to support their claim. Pakistanis believe that
Kashmir should have become part of their country in the first place, and
that India reneged on the promise of a plebiscite to determine its
future. India argues that a claim to the territory on religious grounds
is a threat to India's status as a secular, multi-ethnic nation. Kashmir
is now divided along a carefully drawn line of control, but cross-border
incursions--many of them bloody--occur daily.
Three weeks after the airlift, on December 13th, a suicide squad of
heavily armed Muslim terrorists drove past a barrier at the Indian
Parliament, in New Delhi, and rushed the main building. At one point,
the terrorists were only a few feet from the steps to the office of
India's Vice-President, Krishan Kant. Nine people were killed in the
shoot-out, in addition to the terrorists, and many others were injured.
The country's politicians and the press felt that a far greater tragedy
had only narrowly been averted.
In India, the Parliament assault was regarded as comparable to September
11th. Indian intelligence quickly concluded that the attack had been
organized by operatives from two long-standing Kashmiri terrorist
organizations that were believed to be heavily supported by the I.S.I.
Brajesh Mishra told me that if the attack on the Parliament had resulted
in a more significant number of casualties "there would have been
mayhem." India deployed hundreds of thousands of troops along its border
with Pakistan, and publicly demanded that Musharraf take steps to cut
off Pakistani support for the groups said to be involved. "Nobody in
India wants war, but other options are not ruled out," Mishra said.
The crisis escalated, with military men on both sides declaring that
they were prepared to face nuclear war, if necessary. Last week, Colin
Powell, the Secretary of State, travelled to the region and urged both
sides to withdraw their troops, cool the rhetoric, and begin
constructive talks about Kashmir.
Under prodding from the Bush Administration, Musharraf has taken action
against his country's fundamentalist terror organizations. In the last
month, the government has made more than a thousand arrests, seized bank
accounts, and ordered the I.S.I. to stop all support for terrorist
groups operating inside Kashmir. In a televised address to the nation on
January 12th, Musharraf called for an end to terrorism, but he also went
beyond the most recent dispute with India and outlined a far-reaching
vision of Pakistan as a modern state. "The day of reckoning has come,"
he said. "Do we want Pakistan to become a theocratic state? Do we
believe that religious education alone is enough for governance? Or do
we want Pakistan to emerge as a progressive and dynamic Islamic welfare
state?" The fundamentalists, he added, "did nothing except contribute to
bloodshed in Afghanistan. I ask of them whether they know anything other
than disruption and sowing seeds of hatred. Does Islam preach this?"
"Musharraf has not done as much as the Indians want," a Bush
Administration official who is deeply involved in South Asian issues
said. "But he's done more than I'd thought he'd do. He had to do
something, because the Indians are so wound up." The official also said,
however, that Musharraf could not last in office if he conceded the
issue of Kashmir to India, and would not want to do so in any case. "He
is not a fundamentalist but a Pakistani nationalist--he genuinely
believes that Kashmir 'should be ours.' At the end of the day, Musharraf
would come out ahead if he could get rid of the Pakistani and Kashmiri
terrorists--if he can survive it. They have eaten the vitals out of
Pakistan." In his address, Musharraf was unyielding on that subject.
"Kashmir runs in our blood," he said. "No Pakistani can afford to sever
links with Kashmir. . . . We will never budge an inch from our
principled stand on Kashmir."
Milton Bearden, a former C.I.A. station chief in Pakistan who helped
the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the late nineteen-eighties
and worked closely with the I.S.I., believes that the Indian government
is cynically using the Parliament bombing to rally public support for
the conflict with Pakistan. "The Indians are just playing brinkmanship
now--moving troops up to the border," he said. "Until September 11th,
they thought they'd won this thing--they had Pakistan on the ropes."
Because of its nuclear program, he said, "Pakistan was isolated and
sanctioned by the United States, with only China left as an ally. Never
mind that the only country in South Asia that always did what we asked
was Pakistan." As for Musharraf, Bearden said, "What can he do? Does he
really have the Army behind him? Yes, but maybe by only forty-eight to
fifty-two per cent." Bearden went on, "Musharraf is not going to be a
Kemal Atatrk"--the founder of the secular Turkish state--"but as long as
he can look over his shoulder and see that Rich Armitage"--the United
States Deputy Secretary of State--"and Don Rumsfeld are with him he
might be able to stop the extremism."
A senior Pakistani diplomat depicted India as suffering from
"jilted-lover syndrome"--referring to the enormous amount of American
attention and financial aid that the Musharraf government has received
since September 11th. "The situation is bloody explosive," the diplomat
said, and argued that Musharraf has not been given enough credit from
the Indian leadership for the "sweeping changes" that have taken place
in Pakistan. "Short of saying it is now a secular Pakistan, he's
redefined and changed the politics of the regime," the diplomat said.
"He has de-legitimized religious fundamentalism." The diplomat told me
that the critical question for Pakistan, India, and the rest of South
Asia is "Will the Americans stay involved for the long haul, or will
attention shift to Somalia or Iraq? I don't know."
Inevitably, any conversation about tension between India and Pakistan
turns to the issue of nuclear weapons. Both countries have warheads and
the means to deliver them. (India's capabilities, conventional and
nuclear, are far greater--between sixty and ninety warheads--while
Pakistan is thought to have between thirty and fifty.) A retired C.I.A.
officer who served as station chief in South Asia told me that what he
found disturbing was the "imperfect intelligence" each country has as to
what the other side's intentions are. "Couple that with the fact that
these guys have a propensity to believe the worst of each other, and
have nuclear weapons, and you end up saying, 'My God, get me the hell
out of here.' " Milton Bearden agreed that the I.S.I. and RAW are
"equally bad" at assessing each other.
In New Delhi, I got a sense of how dangerous the situation is, in a
conversation with an Indian diplomat who has worked at the highest
levels of his country's government. He told me that he believes India
could begin a war with Pakistan and not face a possible nuclear
retaliation. He explained, "When Pakistan went nuclear, we called their
bluff." He was referring to a tense moment in 1990, when India moved its
Army en masse along the Pakistani border and then sat back while the
United States mediated a withdrawal. "We found, through intelligence,
that there was a lot of bluster." He and others in India concluded that
Pakistan was not willing to begin a nuclear confrontation. "We've found
there is a lot of strategic space between a low-intensity war waged with
Pakistan and the nuclear threshold," the diplomat said. "Therefore, we
are utilizing military options without worrying about the nuclear
threshold." If that turned out to be a miscalculation and Pakistan
initiated the use of nuclear weapons, he said, then India would respond
in force. "And Pakistan would cease to exist."
The Bush Administration official involved in South Asian issues
acknowledged that there are some people in India who seem willing to
gamble that "you can have war but not use nuclear weapons." He added,
"Both nations need to sit down and work out the red lines"--the points
of no return. "They've never done that."
An American intelligence official told me that the Musharraf regime
added to the precariousness of the military standoff with India by
reducing the amount of time it would take for Pakistan to execute a
nuclear strike. Pakistan keeps control over its nuclear arsenal in part
by storing its warheads separately from its missile- and
aircraft-delivery systems. In recent weeks, he said, the time it takes
to get the warheads in the air has been cut to just three hours--"and
that's too close. Both sides have their nukes in place and ready to roll."
Even before the airlift from Kunduz, the Indians were enraged by the
Bush Administration's decision to make Pakistan its chief ally in the
Afghanistan war. "Musharraf has two-timed you," a recently retired
senior member of India's diplomatic service told me in New Delhi earlier
this month. "What have you gained? Have you captured Osama bin Laden?"
He said that although India would do nothing to upset the American
campaign in Afghanistan, "We will turn the heat on Musharraf. He'll go
back to terrorism as long as the heat is off." (Milt Bearden scoffed at
that characterization. "Musharraf doesn't have time to two-time
anybody," he said. "He wakes up every morning and has to head out with
his bayonet, trying to find the land mines.")
Some C.I.A. analysts believe that bin Laden eluded American capture
inside Afghanistan with help from elements of the Pakistani intelligence
service. "The game against bin Laden is not over," one analyst told me
in early January. He speculated that bin Laden could be on his way to
Somalia, "his best single place to hide." Al Qaeda is known to have an
extensive infrastructure there. The analyst said that he had concluded
that "he's out. We've been looking for bombing targets for weeks and
weeks there but can't identify them."
Last week, Donald Rumsfeld told journalists that he believed bin Laden
was still in Afghanistan. Two days later, in Pakistan, Musharraf
announced that he thought bin Laden was probably dead--of kidney disease.
A senior C.I.A. official, when asked for comment, cautioned that there
were a variety of competing assessments inside the agency as to bin
Laden's whereabouts. "We really don't know," he said. "We'll get him,
but anybody who tells you we know where he is is full of it."
India's grievances--over the Pakistani airlift, the continuing terrorism
in Kashmir, and Musharraf's new status with Washington--however
heartfelt, may mean little when it comes to effecting a dramatic change
of American policy in South Asia. India's democracy and its tradition of
civilian control over the military make it less of a foreign-policy
priority than Pakistan. The Bush Administration has put its prestige,
and American aid money, behind Musharraf, in the gamble--thus far
successful--that he will continue to move Pakistan, and its nuclear
arsenal, away from fundamentalism. The goal is to stop nuclear terrorism
as well as political terrorism. It's a tall order, and missteps are
inevitable. Nonetheless, the White House remains optimistic. An
Administration official told me that, given the complications of today's
politics, he still believed that Musharraf was the best Pakistani leader
the Indians could hope for, whether they recognize it or not. "After
him, they could only get something worse."