“We used them to the Hilt’
“There was an opportunity to use America to build our Bomb and to help Afghanistan regain Freedom. Who’s interest was it? Primary Interest?? People say Pakistan was used by America, I would say No! We used them. And we used them to the Hilt!” boasts a very cool, collected and self confident Hamid Gul, the ISI Chief who was the closest ally of US during the Afghan War.
Then he continues about Afghan effort “We were the conduits.. and we would not let them go beyond a certain point.”
There is always the blame on the US on having trained the Mujahideens. But who was actually DOING it? Were it the US soldiers or the Pakistani soldiers? Continues Gul: “They were the logistics providers for heaven’s sake! CIA-trained Mujahideen is a bloody joke! CIA never trained any Mujahideen. We trained them.. its a pride of Pakistan Army! What I mean by Army is.. ISI is also the Army only.”
While Gul is given to a lot of boasting, there is a fair amount of truth in what he says. HIs predecessor, General Akhtar Abdul Rahman was more instrumental in the Afghan Jehad than Hamid Gul was. But, Gul has seen and trained the Mujahideens from close quarters and helped the transition of the Afghanistan society from a Nationalistic Pashtun dominated normal society to a Jehadis dominated War Zone.
Hamid Gul’s boast is corroborated by Peter Tomsen, George H.W. Bush’s special envoy and ambassador to the Afghan resistance from 1989 to 1992:
So that was the reason. It was a secret organization; [it] had an ability to move money, materiel, weapons of all sorts. He could do this sort of privately.
Yes. There were arms dumped in the country — huge arms dumps. And there were marshaling areas. Each of the mujahideen resistance parties — there were seven in all — they had their own ammunition depots, and they had their own commanders inside the country. …
All run by the ISI?
Everything was run by the ISI. And I would add another point: ISI knew everything that was going on, not only on the frontier on the Pakistani side, but over the frontier inside Afghanistan, certainly in the Pashtun areas, but also beyond. Inside of Pakistan, of course, in the tribal agencies they knew what was happening in every square meter of that area.
So, Americans were indeed “logistics and arm providers”, as Gul suggests. ISI was the “real deal”.
The minorities of Tajiks, Uzbeks, Hazaras and Turkamans ultimately came out of the domination, while the Pashtuns ran right into the waiting hands of Pakistani commanders.
The refugees which came in – most of them Pashtuns – to Pakistan from Afghanistan, were recruited into madrassas, which became an instrument of State Power for Pakistan for its influence in Afghanistan and the covert war with India.
The emergence of Taliban was a direct result of the madrassas along the Pakistani border where the Salafi/Wahabi Islamic theology was ingrained in the poor youth. The madrassas were used to send reinforcements for Taliban in their wars in Afghanistan. In 1997, for example, over 2500 students of these madrassas were sent across to Afghanistan by Maulana Samiul Haq of the Jamiat-Ulema-e-Islam on insistence from Mullah Omar. The next year, 8000 youth were sent across.
JUI has a very strong link to ISI’s top bosses. Maulana Fazalur Rahman was especially close to Hamid Gul and his boss General Akhtar Rahman.
The strong and close relationship between the Jehadis – like Taliban – in Afghanistan; the Jehadis in Pakistan and the ISI was at its peak by the start of the new millenium.
That was when, bigger and more ambitious projects were being targeted beyond the sub continent. Around the mid of 2000, ISI Chief Lt Gen Mahmoud had become particularly religious – said to be “born again Muslim” by his colleagues. In 1999, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (variously referred to as Omar Sheikh or Sheikh Sayed) was released by Indian Government in exchange for the passengers on the hijacked plane IA Flight 814. By summer of 2000, Omar Sheikh was in regular touch via phones with the ISI Chief Lt. Gen Mahmoud.
Between June and September of 2000, over $100,000 was transferred to Mohammad Atta (the lead hijacker of 9-11) by someone in United Arab Emirates. Also, in August of 2001, just a month before the 9-11, another tranche of $100,000 was sent to Mohd. Atta by Omar Sheikh. In 2002, Indian Intelligence gave evidence of the calls to the author of the book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” – Bernard-Henri Levy about the calls between Omar Sheikh and Lt. Gen. Mahmoud. Washington sources confirmed that to be true.   In fact, Indian intelligence actually gave the phone number of Omar Sheikh used to call Lt. Gen Mahmoud before the sending of money to Atta.
The FBI investigators have come across what has been termed as the “most damaging evidence” vis-à-vis the former ISI chief’s connection with Omar Sheikh, the Pakistan-born British national, who was released by the Government of India along with Masood Azhar and Mushtaq Zargar towards the end of 1999 to seek the freedom of passengers of the hijacked plane of Indian Airlines at Kandahar in Afghanistan.
The FBI investigators are reported to have conceded that India’s inputs proved to be “vital”. A highly-placed intelligence source told EXCELSIOR that the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) provided the critical lead, which was vigorously pursued by the FBI investigators in Pakistan for more than 10 days until the cat was out of the bag.
The critical lead, the source elaborated, was the cellphone number of Omar Sheikh. In the initial stages, America’s intelligence establishment was found having certain reservations on India’s inputs. The scenario changed after the RAW made available Omar Sheikh’s cellphone number-0300 94587772.
The FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the “link” between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, sensational information surfaced with regard to the transfer of 100,000 dollars to Mohammed Atta, one of the Kamikaze pilots who flew his Boeing into the World Trade Centre. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta.
Between September 4 through 13 Lt. Gen Mahmoud had the following schedule/agenda:
4 September: Ahmad arrives in the US on an official visit.
4-9 September: He meets his US counterparts including CIA Head George Tenet.
9 September: Assassination of General Massood, leader of the Northern Alliance. Official statement by Northern Alliance points to involvement of the ISI-Osama-Taliban axis.
11 September: Terrorist Attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon. At the time of the attacks, Lt General Ahmad was at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees Sen Bob Graham and Rep Porter Goss. Also present at the meeting were Sen. John Kyl and the Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., Maleeha Lodhi.
12-13 September: Meetings between Lt. General Ahmad and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Agreement on Pakistan’s collaboration negotiated between Ahmad and Armitage. Meeting between General Ahmad and Secretary of State Colin Powell
13 September: Ahmad meets Senator Joseph Biden (now Vice President), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Afghanistan and its Historical Baggage
To understand the forces at work today from and around Afghanistan, one has to go back into the history to completely understand the historical context.
For 40 years – from 1933 to 1973, King Mohammad Zahir Shah ruled over Afghanistan. In 1973, the King’s cousin and former Prime Minister, Mohammad Daoud Khan overthrew the King and put an end to the monarchy in a coup and became the ruler of Afghanistan. He also further strengthened the issue of Pakhtunistan or Pashtunistan. Pashtuns were the largest tribe in Afghanistan.
Pashtun unity throughout history has been fragmented. Everyone from Aurangzeb to the British to the Pakistanis planned to subjugate and dominate the Pashtuns through some devious mechanism or the other.
It is a little known fact that after Independence and Partition of Pakistan, the only Government to oppose the entry of Pakistan in to the United Nations was Afghanistan. In July of 1949, the Afghan Government even rescinded all the agreements they had with the British Government with respect to the Durand line. For many years, it is suggested that the Afghan Government even encouraged secessionist movement in Pakistan for the Pashtuns of NWFP.
It was Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto who turned the tide on the Pashtuns. He not only cracked down on the Baloch and Pashtun Nationalists, he also came up with the idea of supporting an Islamist movement in Afghanistan against the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA) Government, which was backed by the Soviets.
In April 1978, the Afghan Army overthrew the Daoud Army and executed Daoud and his family. This time Nur Muhammad Taraki a Secretary General of PDPA took over. Taraki wanted to modernize the country. His reforms included changing of Civil and Marriage Laws and trying to uproot Feudalism (which even Pakistan has struggled with). Between 1978 and 1979, over 27,000 prisoners – mainly Mullahs and Headmen – were executed in Pul-e-Charkhi prison.
This was the time when the Islamic rebellion started against the Communist Government of Taraki (and then his nemesis Hafizullah Amin) backed by the Soviets.
Islamic Jehad in Afghanistan
The real story of Soviet expulsion from Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Communists in that country was written by a bright young man who could speak several languages; Persian (Farsi), Pashto, Urdu and Hindi along with French and Arabic. His name was Ahmad Shah Massoud.
As early as 1972, he became involved in sazman-i jawanan-i musulman (“organization of Muslim youth”), which was the student branch of the Jamiat Islami (“Islamic Society”). The organization was led by Burhanuddin Rabbani. In July 1975, an upcoming Jamiat member Gulbuddin Hekmatyar organized an uprising against Daoud Khan. Ahmad Massoud led the fight in Panjshir. Gulbudin and Massoud lost. The people did not help them. In 1976, Rabbani and Hekmatyar parted ways as Hekmatyar became more fundamentalist. Massoud joined Rabbani.
It is said that the new star crowd puller in Pakistan and the heart-throb of many an Islamist in that country – Zaid Zaman Hamid – was close to Ahmad Massoud and was instrumental in coming together with the Pakistani Government, specially ISI (through a Pakistani Air Force officer M. M. Alam.
The Two Mujahideens
Pakistanis kept their eggs in two baskets – the Jamiat-i islami (“islamic society”) of Burhanuddin Rabbani and Hezb-i islami (“islamic party”), of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Rabbani was a “gradualist” while Hekmatyar was the “radicalist”. Rabbani thought that Islamization of the Afghan society should be gradual and slow, Hekmatyar had no time for all that.
The main fighter – Ahmad Shah Massoud – the person, who REALLY defeated the Soviets – not Rabbani or Hekmatyar or Mullah Omar – had fought his first unsuccessful battle along with Hekmatyar and then went along with his mentor, Rabbani. Massoud was the real game changer.
Until Bhutto was there, both the parties had bases on Pakistani soil. While the internecine rivalry continued, both these factions worked from Pakistan. When Zia Ul Haq came along, the tide shifted to Hekmatyar within ISI. According to CIA Terrorism Analyst Peter Bergen in his book “Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden” (Peter L Bergen, Rachel Klayman) on page 252, Notes:
I arrive at this figure by taking both Bearden’s and Yousaf’s estimates that 20 percent of CIA funding went to Hekmatyar and applying it to the $3 billiion figure that the CIA spent on funding the Afghan resistance.Yousaf and Adkin, op. cit.,p105, and interview by author, Karachi, Pakistan, August 6, 1993; Bearden interview by author, Washington D.C. September 2000. Both Bearden and Yousaf have reasons for downplaying how much money the deeply anti-American Hekmatyar received, so the $600 million figure is the most conservative estimate possible. Some commentators, for instance Mary Ann Weaver, say that Hekmatyar received 50 percent of U.S. aid, in which case his share would rise to $1.5 billion.
Hamid Gul as ISI Chief had been the master mind of a coup attempt against Najibullah’s Afghan regime using Hekmatyar’s forces. The Americans and the Pakistanis wanted a conventional and formal victory and take over of Afghanistan. The Americans wanted to finish off the Russians in style and have them run back from Afghanistan “clinging to their helicopters” to finally avenge Vietnam. Pakistanis had come up with a configuration that would help them install an Islamist regime which would do their bidding. That coup attempt was a big loss for both, Hamid Gul and for Hekmatyar. Hamid Gul lost his job.
In October 1990, a shura (National Commanders’ Shura – NCS) was held with Abdul Haq (of Hizb-i-Islami faction led by Mohammad Yunus Khalis – different from Hekmatyar’s organization of the same name) and Ahmad Shah Massoud in attendance. Hekmatyar boycotted it while the new ISI Director Asad Durrani attended although he wasn’t invited. (information from How We Missed the Story: Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban and the Hijacking of Afghanistan By Roy Gutman)
According to many, NCS was the ideal core organization that could have taken control of Afghanistan after its transition. But internal opposition (Rabbani against Massoud now) and from ISI (who saw this as undermining their authority) made it a failure.
The first battle victory was in Khost on April 11, 1991where the fight was led by Jalaludin Haqqani (of Hizb-i-Islami faction led by Mohammad Yunus Khalis). The victory however was claimed by Hekmatyar’s cadres and so a myth was in place for ISI to promote.
End of Najibullah, Afghanistan and Soviet Union
Between 1991 and 1992, with dissolution of Soviet Union in December 1991 and emergence of Boris Yeltsin as the first President of Russian Federation, all direct assistance to Najibullah was cut off. The Army, Air Forces and the pro-government militias deserted the Afghan Government.
In early 1992, the Northern Aliance was formed with Abdul Rashid Dostum (a pro-Soviet fighter and Militia commander); Sayed Jafar Naderi (Ismaili Afghan Warlord, who came to Afghanistan after living in the US – was member of a hippie motor bike gang, played heavy metal and was a Hockey team captain); and Ahmad Shah Massoud. These Northern Allies got Mazar-i-Sharif on March 21, Kunduz in April 17, April 20, 21, and 22 they got Jalalabad, Kandahar and Gardez respectively.
Entry of Kabul
Massoud’s Jamiat Islami entered the capital from North and seized major buildings and installations of interest – Presidential Palace, Prime Minister’s office, Kabul International Airport, the Defense Ministry and other important government offices. Hezbi Islami – Hekmatyar’s faction could only get control of Ministry of Interior offices and got to the gates of Ministry of Justice. They were quickly thrown back by heavy bombing by Afghan Air Force. Many of these fighters were killed or arrested and most just fled and deserted.
By April 30, 1992 Kabul was under Jamiat Islami control (Ahmad Shah Massoud)
Afghan Civil War and Consolidation by Pakistan
From 1992 through to 1996 forms the most crucial period in Afghanistan’s recent history and for the fate of South Asia and the world in general. These were the years when US basically abandoned that area and Pakistan did its best to consolidate its power in the area.
When in June 1992, Burhanuddin Rabbani became the President of Afghanistan, only the second time in its history had Afghanistan been ruled by a Tajik! The fighting between Hekmatyar and Massoud went on, while many factions within Massoud’s allies also revolted and fought.
Several negotiations, cease-fires, and break downs happened in the coming years. This was the time that another force which would change the equation of Afghanistan and Pakistan was taking shape in Pakistan. The Taliban.
Emergence of Taliban And Al Qaeda
As the Afghan Civil War raged and the Afghans came into Pakistan’s border areas as refugees, Pakistani ISI and Army saw easy pickings in them. Madrassas were set up which promoted Pan-Islamic theology and a distinctly hagiographical Islamic view of history. These were also going to be the recruiting and training grounds for future warriors for Jehad across the world. Afghanistan and India were the two main targets, while US became the principal Satan as this Islamic Jehad strengthened.
Darul Uloom Haqqania, a madrassa in the small town of Akora Khattak became the graduating school for the leadership of Taliban.
All these schools were being financed by Osama Bin laden, wealthy Arabs and various charities, Islamic banks around the world. Osama was looking for a place to call home. Sudanese Government had made him unwelcome in that country, which he called home after the Afghan war. So, Pakistan and Afghanistan, if under amenable forces would be ideal for him.
This environment along with the irritating and mind-boggling internecine fighting in various factions of Afghanistan created a need for a “stabilizing force”. Pakistan wanted to control that country and start unleashing its terror dreams in India, which could only go full stream once Afghanistan was less shaky. As Khalistani insurgency and terrorism was defeated by India by early 1990s, and the Kashmiri was activated in early 1992 as another front against India in using Terrorism as a state policy.
The Salafi ideology was to create a pan-Islamic world. And it became the basis of the future direction of all the protagonists involved – ISI / Pakistani Army, Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Jehadis. They came together in one dream of an Islamic world ruled by Shariat and administered as Mohammad would have wanted to.
Pan-Islamism, Global Jehad and the rise of Taliban
The conflict in Bosnia was going on where Christian and Islamic groups were fighting. In 1994-5, Al Qaeda took charge of most of the terrorist cells there.
Islam’s pan-religious nature was always at logger-heads with World peace since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire and the Treaty of Sèvres (1920), where Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt were broken off from the Empire. The main concept of a Pan-Islamic movement was launched by Ottoman emperor Abdul Hamid II (1876-1909) for fighting against the attacks from the Western countries. This was in late 19th century. Ironically, the first Pan-Islamic movement became the allies of Indian Independence movement as Indian leaders (including Gandhi) supported it. Little did they realize that the monster of pan-religiosity fed by them at that time for an expedient cause would one day threaten not just their own country (Independent India) but the entire world!
Rapes, Murders and Killings in Afghanistan were increasing and Taliban fighters decided to oust these fighting factions out of Afghanistan. Also, according to Ahmad Rashid, a Pakistani analyst, the “Afghanistan Transit Trade” mafia from Pakistan and their allies in Pakistan Establishment financed the Talibani fighters.
Taliban started its first main advance in Oct-Nov 1994 when they took Kandahar and the surrounding areas. In next 3 months, they took over almost 33% of all the Afghan provinces. They had marched into Kabul in September 1994.
As the Osama and his Al Qaeda group of ideologues (including Osama’s mentor Ayman Zawahiri) had helped create the militias of Taliban in the madrassas in Pakistan’s border region, Taliban areas became a ready bases for a Global Jehad.
This was when the beginnings of 9-11 took shape. Safe, unobtrusive region, friendly allies in Pakistan and ISI, financing network spanning the globe which collected money from the very wallets whose owners were the targets – all happening in a Politically Correct world. Political Correctness was a weakness in Europe and an America ruled by Bill Clinton’s democrats. This, would be upstaged by the brashness of Bush’s Republicans as the educated and masses simmered during the last uneventful years of Clinton where Al Qaeda and Taliban hatched the biggest plans of them all – the bombing of the World Trade Centers – along with their mentors, the Pakistani ISI.
End of the Lion of Panjshir and Unleashing of Jehad
In April 2001, Ahmad Shah Massoud was in Brussels giving a speech in his address to the European Parliament, where he clearly talked about the Al Qaeda and Taliban connection and that a major terrorist attack – not outside, but in the US – was imminent.
“If I die, take it as a signal”, he told his CIA operative friend. On September 9, 2001, Massoud, the Lion of Panjshir was killed in a suicide attach by two Tunisians posing as Morrocan journalists from Belgium. By then it was too late to save the US from the plane attacks two days later!!
Why was Massoud’s death a signal? – the Al Qaeda knew that the ONLY ally in the area for the US, which could be used to strike at Al Qaeda and Taliban with instant injection of arms and money was Massoud. The retaliation by US, with Massoud there, would have been INSTANT! Instead, if they could get him out, it would help them buy time and fight the war on their OWN terms as Pakistan’s ISI played truant!
Their plan succeeded to the Hilt!
Go here for the rest of the parts of the movie Path to 9/11.
Mistakes and Masochism by the United States
There have been several instances of complete irresponsibility and masochism by the US when it came to dealing with Jehad and its main protagonists – Pakistan’s ISI / Army / Establishment, Jehadis and the Taliban as well as the other players supporting them.
Some of those actions are worth recounting here:
– Free reign to Pakistan on building the Nuclear Plant after stolen designs from NATO (in Holland) and then imports by AQ Khan’s network from around the world including Houston, Texas and Germany. All while Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush kept giving their approval to the Pressler Bill for aid to Pakistan and certifying that it was did not have any Nuclear Ambitions.
– Looking the other way when China virtually gave the designs, Do-it-Yourself kits, and parts (including Uranium) to Pakistan.
– Looking the other way when AQ Khan’s network was proliferating the weapons to Libya, Iran and North Korea (and possibly even in Saudi Arabia).
– Completely abandoned the only useful allies whose OBJECTIVES matched those of US – Massoud and Indians.
– Gave China a free reign in the economic area so that they could come to dictate their relationship with US while intervening in areas like North Korea, Iran and Pakistan. This intervention of China in these areas will, in the ultimate analysis, be critical block for US to do something useful against the Jehadis.
– Help Taliban in their initial years and be neutral in the latter ones and even go to the extent of saying that while Al Qaeda has designs on US, Taliban does not. Such distinction is intellectual and an attempt to fool ones own self!
– Repeat the same mistake that was made in the first Afghan war against the Soviets of backing just the Pakistani controlled factions completely and ignoring others – better quality ones – like Ahmad Shah Massoud. All this was done KNOWING the uselessness of the support of the so-called ally. It was Musharraf this time like it were the Hamid Guls last time!
Despite the 9-11 and the need to look at terrorism as a connected and global phenomenon which started from the minds but manifested as bombs and bullets into the innocents, the US response was fragmented and parochial. As the Jehadi activity against the other countries grew – Spain, London and India – the Jehadis grew stronger.
Unfortunately, the main targets in the common parlance were the forward foot warriors – the Jehadis, Taliban and the Al Qaeda fighters. The main master minds – the Pakistani establishment and the Islamic Ideologues remained free to do their own. Musharraf had boasted in a call from a hotel in China to his deputy in Islamabad at the height of Kargil “The necks of the Jehadis is in our hands, we will use as and how we want”.
While the 9-11 mascot – Osama Bin Laden remained free and more jehadi strikes kept going on by trainees in camps all over Pakistan – including Punjab and Kashmir against India and the other countries, US thought it fit to concentrate on the Western border region.
Meanwhile, the equations in Pakistan were changing rapidly. Musharraf who was welcomed when he ousted Nawaz Sharif – who was somehow given asylum in Saudi Arabia, became the most hated leader in Pakistan as the 2000s ended. The tables turned.
Using this chaos, the Americans increased their presence and soft power in the Pakistan. Afghanistan control by US has remained shaky and limited but there nevertheless. As US tried to push the screws on the Jehadis in the border areas of Pakistan using drones and the covert attacks, the Taliban and their sympathizers in Pakistani establishment and the vast pool of retired Defense personnel found it critical to now go in for the end game – takeover of Pakistan itself.
The prize really lay in Pakistan and not Afghanistan. Afghanistan was the refuge and the planning base camp, Pakistan is where the final war against the infidels can be fought from! If Pakistanis – the establishment, its ideologues, its intellectuals, and its public – can be splintered into multiple camps to create confusion and chaos where the ability of common man on the street to distinguish between the normal and the evil is blurred, then it is easy for the ones with devious plans to keep moving without much opposition.
Islamic Dichotomy and its Use
Islam has an issue. And let’s face it. There is a dichotomy between Sufi Islam and the Other Islam, of which (from Sunni standpoint) the Wahabi and Salafi strain rules. Wahabism / Salafi Islam has been very closely linked to the popular Islam.
The lack of introspection by the Islamic Ummah as a whole into the causes of Jehad as they emanate from the very verses of Quran and the Hadiths, while brandishing a few “nice looking” verses to counter and stop any discussion on the ones which are at the HEART OF JEHAD, has created a stalemate.
In absence of an honest discussion of the “culprit verses” and passages by actively stalling discussion on those, while concentrating ONLY on the verses which paint a “business as usual” picture, the world is given a regular monotonous lecture on the “Islam is peace” blanket statement.
If you bring the terrorism issue, it is claimed that these are not Muslims and what they practice is not Islam. All the while when these terrorists throughout history from Mohammad Ghori to Aurangzeb to the current crop have kept bringing up the EXACT SAME references from Quran and Hadiths!
If the History keeps repeating itself AD NAUSEUM with EXACTLY the same results, isn’t it at least worth something to even sit down and take a look at why it keeps happening so?
The infiltration of the enemies by Al Qaeda has interestingly not been just physically or by arms, but also ideologically. Conversion and Hate Sermons form an important part of the War Strategy of the Jehad. It is important to remember that some of the most damage has been done by the Neo-converts in US and Europe – who, in their zeal to prove their new religious identity take to Jehad in the right earnest. The best way to stop any “guilt-pangs” and complete numbing of one’s brain and mind at the questions that crop up after conversion, is to be so anti of your old religion, that you can at least live “sanefully”. Going the extra mile in Jehad is the best answer for the Converts.
Hate Sermons are Universal. There would be very few mosques or Ulemas in the world who do not have the same narrative of Victimization and of Aggression against the West, Jews and other religions (like the Hindus).
The Narrative of Victimization is CRITICAL to the progress of Jehad. Why? Because the most potent of all verses in Quran for Terrorists of all hues is the “Sword Verse” At Tawba 5 (9:05):
But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.
When the intellectuals and the moderates are approached with this verse and others which have similar message, the arguments are two-fold:
1. It is taken “out of context”
2. The “complete” context implies that the prescription of this verse should be applied against only those Non-Muslims (or world at large) who VICTIMIZE the Muslims, when and by the Muslims who have been VICTIMIZED.
Of course, if you can invent your own Victimization at the drop of a hat, you, even as a moderate, don’t have any compunctions in taking up arms or killing the others IF you swear completely by the Quran as your guide. It is a given then. That is why fanaticism of the masses has become such an issue. Its the WALMARTIZATON of Jehad… and Victimization is the CORE TECHNOLOGY COMPONENT in that factory!
Now, if a Pan-Islamic dominance is your aim, message of Victimization becomes the best message to give to the masses to, both, play with the moderates and add onto your ranks of Jehadis.
“Its a fight of minds” vs “War on Terror” Paradigms
Most pacifists and the “progressives” the world over unequivocally declare that it is a Battle of the Minds. It is the minds which have to be won of the Muslims who feel “besieged”. If that is not done, then the current environment will keep creating more and more Jehadis.
That is true. But the “Kid Glove” approach to Islamic Ummah’s problems of Victimization actually end up REINFORCING Jehadi ranks as opposed to reducing them. Surely, there is a lot of strife in many Muslim societies, but lets ask HONESTLY and CLEARLY;
1. Are these issues BECAUSE of Non-Muslims entirely or even created by any Non-Muslims?
2. Even if there were issues due to Non-Muslims, are Muslims the ONLY ones facing those?
3. If the issues in any society are structural and systemic, and thus encountered by the entire society as a whole (probably, the minorities face the brunt as opposed to the majority), then are ONLY the Muslims to be extended a “Natural Right” of Violent Retaliation?
Asking these questions is CRITICAL for those who follow the “Peace with Muslims” approach. Blanket and blind “engagement for peace” approach has actually played into the hands of the Jehadis.
“You are with us or Against us” and we kill those against
The War on Terror proponents, on the other hand, don’t want to see any human beings.
They want to simply “bomb the heck out of” every one in a Muslim area. That is a very sure way to create Victims and “Victimization Case Studies”! The fight does not have to be blanket and carpet bombing with little appreciation of the human existence.
We can see issues with theology and the practice – including its manifestation of the ideology, but individual should be respected. The way to fight the ideology is to look for competing ideologies and seed them.
The way to counter the Earth-centric science of Dark Ages was to keep challenging it UNEQUIVOCALLY and DIRECTLY through logical and well-reasoned Intellectual challenge. Minds, when, they are presented an argument in a clear and well-reasoned way.. does change.
Only the arguments which are weak and dubious or mischievous need preliminary brain-washing or “With me or Against Me” engagement style.
War vs Ideology or both?
As US President Obama increased the troops level in Afghanistan by 30,000 there were disapprovals. Some said they were not enough, and others termed it useless because its a “fight of the mindsets”.
The problem is that both the sides are Parochial and Ideological in their prescriptions.
What is to be fought with arms CANNOT be fought with minds and what is to be fought with minds CANNOT be fought with arms. You CANNOT have just ONE way to fight.
When the enemy is on the battlefield, you cannot say that “I need to rush into my room and write a book on why you should be peaceful”!! When you face a bullet or a bomb, you have to be prepared to defend and attack. To sermonize at that point is suicidal.
Interestingly for me and ironically, many analysts and commentators who are spiritually inclined have repeated the narrative that we just read above. Their view is simplistic and incomplete and naive at best.
Unfortunately, they are countered by the right wingers who want “action”. They are also equally naive! Bombing desert and mountains and the entire cities will unleash a war and movements in an inter-connected world that will be impossible to win!
What should be done?
Ideology should be fought with Ideology and Armed Battles should be fought with Arms.
Which ideology is used as a counter to the historical narrative of Islam is critical going forward. It is NOT enough to let the Ulemas and the Mullahs define Islam. Or even the moderates.
While the Mullahs have a damning rhetoric, the moderates have an Escapist rhetoric. The latter encourages and strengthens the former!
Revisiting Sufism; Spirituality is not Blind Adherence
And Sufism has for a large part also been beset by such escapism. All Sufism is not conducive to peace as a rule. One must not look at Spirituality in an ideological manner but through ruthless and relentless investigation. As MA Khan (an ex-Muslim) explains in his article (with more information and details in his book) ,
Moinuddin Chisti of Ajmer came with Muhammad Ghauri’s army (Journey to India), which treacherously defeated the humane and benevolent king Prithviraj Chauhan. Nizamuddin Auliya participated in a Jihad war alongside Nasriruddin Qibacha in Multan. Sheikh Shah Jalal, the great Sufi saint of Bangladesh, fought in a Jihadi war against Hindu king Ghor Govinda of Sylhet.
And all of these Sufi saints have claimed their role as decisive in winning those bloody wars.
(Emphasis and links added)
It is important to understand that Sufis remained instrumental in conversion of the masses to Islam working often in tandem with the Muslim warriors. I know the common narrative in popular spiritual and liberal press is very different from the one that MA Khan presents. But Khan’s assertion does on some objective investigation and simple questioning sans any prejudgments, may seem not just plausible but even ACCURATE!
Spiritual living and thinking does not mean that one abandons even basic and necessary rigor in reasoning. Instead Spiritual mind has to be extra alert to various Illusionary and Vicarious ideologies to find the direction to the Infinite through relentless questioning until one gets to the final stage. Belief in miracles and in pratices where stress is reduced (and confused with “peace”) can serve as a great narrative for Pop Spirituality, but it is no difference from Blind Religiosity or Materialistic Science!
So, is there no “strain” that can be worked with within Islam. Does it really have to be “Either with us or Against us” situation? In all the Sufi works there is one Narrative that I have found to be one that can connect Universally and is presented in normal worldly terms instead of Esoteric Spiritual semantics. It is clear and precise and for that reason has run into issues with Traditional Muslims.
That is the Universal Sufism of Hazrat Inayat Khan.
The three goals of Universal Sufism from Hazrat Inayat Khan are:
1. To realize and spread the knowledge of Unity, the religion of Love, and Wisdom, so that the biases and prejudices of faiths and beliefs may, of themselves, fall away, the human heart overflow with love, and all hatred caused by distinctions and differences be rooted out.
2. To discover the light and power latent in Humanity, the secret of all Religion, the power of Mysticism, and the essence of Philosophy, without interfering with customs and beliefs.
3. To help to bring the world’s two opposite poles, East and West, close together by the interchange of thought and ideals; that the Universal Family may form of itself, and people meet with people beyond the narrow national and racial boundaries.
And there are ’10 Thoughts” (or principles), which are simple, Universal and self explanatory:
– There is one God the Eternal, the Only Being, None exists save God
– There is one master the Guiding Spirit of all souls, who constantly leads all followers toward the Light.
– There is one Holy Book the sacred manuscript of nature, the only scripture that can enlighten the reader.
– There is one Religion the unswerving progress in the right direction, toward the Ideal, which fulfills the life’s purpose of every soul
– There is one Law, the Law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience together with a sense of awakened justice
– There is one Family, the human family, which unites the children of Earth indiscriminately in the parenthood of God
– There is one Moral Principle the love which springs forth from a willing heart, surrendered in service to God and humanity, and which blooms in deeds of beneficence
– There is one Object of Praise, the beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects, from the seen to the unseen
– There is one Truth the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom
– There is one Path the effacement of the limited self in the unlimited, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all Perfection
The Armed Battles
In the Afghanistan – Pakistan region, two things are critical for fighting the war on the ground: Securing of Afghanistan against Taliban and Securing of Pakistani Nukes and Dismantling of jehadi network.
In absence of any ally like Ahmad Shah Massoud, the only choice for US is to increase the foothold that they have in Afghanistan to an extent that they can undertake operations against the real targets. It is tough to think right now, but before they leave the country, US forces need to make sure that the Government on the ground is strong enough to withstand the belligerance of Iran on the one side and Pakistan on the other. For both want a piece of the pie!
India, on the other hand, well remembers the unleashing of terror in Kashmir and other parts when the warriors from Afghanistan camps and remnants of the Afghan war poured into over the border. The same would happen again, if any Jehadi / Al Qaeda oriented forces are let to gain foothold / strong-hold in Afghanistan.
Once the basic Government and forces are in place in Afghanistan, outside help and financing the right allies and war lords will be critical to hold fort.
The downside would be another base camp for Global Jehad.
The only way to secure Pakistan is to secure democracy there. The only way to secure democracy there is to downgrade the power of ISI and Army such that Civilian Establishment controls the Army and not the other way around. The first and tentative step was Kerry-Lugar Bill.
All one needs to do to know who one has to “fight’ ideologically and otherwise is to look at its opponents. And the situation seems bad. The ideologues like Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul have caught the popular imagination.
As Seymour Hersh says in his article:
Officials and journalists said that soldiers and middle-level officers were increasingly attracted to the preaching of Zaid Hamid, who joined the mujahideen and fought for nine years in Afghanistan. On CDs and on television, Hamid exhorts soldiers to think of themselves as Muslims first and Pakistanis second.
The Hagiographic view from the Jehadis and their apologists seems to give a narrative that serves their purpose. Let us look at what the history REALLY tells? Here are some conclusions:
1. Mujahideens of Afghanistan were not JUST the Taliban. In fact there were many factions. Some were brave but many were not. In fact the ones that Pakistanis backed most during the Soviet War (Hekmatyar) were the beneficiaries of a PR effort and grabbing of power by sleight and machinations as opposed to bravery.
2. Taliban grew OUT of the ruins of Soviet War and was not responsible for the victory.
3. While one can say that the Mujahideens like Ahmad Shah Massoud or Jalaluddin Haqqani won important and indeed decisive victories, it cannot be said with a Generality that Afghans have “never lost”. One faction defeated the other and in some cases the winners were not always the Afghans.
4. Securing Afghanistan in a way to eliminate Pakistani influence is the key. Pakistan has, for many decades now, controlled it for the sheer reason of suppressing the Pashtun Nationalism in the border regions. It is imperative that Pashtun Nationalism gets it expression within modern Afghanistan and not spill over into Pakistan to keep the Pakistanis at bay, while making it sure that Pakistanis do not pre-empt any more Afghan unity given their past ghosts of Pashtun nationalism. This is imperative to the peace on the Durand Line!
Finally, The Pakistani ISI and Afghanistan centric Jehadi groups (including Al Qaeda) have been too closely inter-linked. While it served everyone’s (Afghans, Arab Jehadis & financiers and even Pakistani Masters) purpose in those days to put Islamic ends first, now those very same narratives have come to haunt Pakistan. The Jehadis are ostensibly unhappy that in a time when US has pushed them to a corner in Iraq and from Afghanistan to Pakistan (where again they are putting the screws), Pakistani ISI (or most of them) have nationalistic tendencies over and above the Islamic requirements. That is why there is a substantial group within the ISI and Army who do seem to side by Jehadi mindset of Islam over Pakistan. It is in THIS context that current turmoil in Pakistan should be viewed at.
Although the commentators in Pakistan, like Zaid Hamid and Hamid Gul, are at pains to distinguish between the Afghan Taliban and the Pakistani Taliban – because they somehow do not want to let go of their “Strategic Depth Investments” even though it is clear that the current climate has unleashed a force within that set up that has and is taking a whole new life.
Islam has been at logger heads with the world and within its many factions (Shia/Ahmediyyas etc), but this is probably one of those incredible moment when it is at loggerheads with itself. Moderates of One Group are the Extremists of Another. While Hamid Gul is an extremist in his own country… it may well turn out that given his “love for Pakistan” he may ultimately be a victim of the Extremists of the group he helped create… because he is a moderate in THAT setup!
Reference Links:DEFENDING THE ARSENAL
5. Spring 2000: ISI Director Said to Become Fundamentalist Muslim
6. Summer 2000: Saeed Sheikh Frequently Calls ISI Director
7. FBI, CIA benefit from RAW’s inputs
8. Part 2: A real smoking gun
9. Global Research
10. Universal Sufism
11. Kashmir: Propagation of Islam and Terror of the Sufis