May 8, 2009
Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s controversial Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, claimed the United States was supplying arms and cash to Pakistan’s Taliban movement in a recent interview with al-Sharq al-Awsat (April 25).
Gul also claimed ISI support for the Taliban ended in 1989, but says he maintains social relations with Afghan al-Qaeda elements: “They are old friends… But it is not true at all to say that Pakistani intelligence officials are now supporting the Taliban movement and that this is their policy. This is incorrect.” One of Hamid Gul’s “old friends” is the leader of the Haqqani Network, best known for its suicide attacks on U.S., Coalition and diplomatic targets. “Jalalludin Haqqani is a personal friend of mine. When I sent my two sons to Afghanistan to wage jihad against the Soviet forces they fought alongside Jalalludin Haqqani’s men. He is a very, very good man.”
Gul described four types of fighters active in the tribal regions of Pakistan:
• Fighters who are dedicated to avenging Pakistani military operations, especially the 2007 assault on Islamabad’s Lal Masjid (Red Mosque)
• “Criminal elements” that fled Pakistan’s cities and have taken refuge in the tribal regions. These are not provided any support by the other mujahideen.
• U.S. Intelligence has established 50 mujahideen units in the tribal areas. These are formed from local and foreign elements and supported by Indian intelligence agencies.
• Mujahideen who want to fight in Afghanistan but are forced instead to defend themselves from attacks by Pakistan’s military. “This is what the Americans want. They want to see these mujahideen fighting against the Pakistani army and not crossing the borders to fight the Americans and the international forces.” The former ISI chief maintains the United States is supplying the Pakistani Taliban with arms, equipment and money to fight the Pakistani army. The Americans “want the national Pakistani youths to fight against the Pakistani army and they have succeeded in this.” Gul adds that volunteers from the Punjab region are now joining the tribal mujahideen in Afghanistan.
According to Gul, the Pakistani Taliban movement remains loosely organized. “Each tribe is fighting in its region and no tribe crosses to the region of the other tribe. Each tribe has its command structure.” The Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed to improve cooperation, but does not yet control all the various Taliban groups in the region.
Regarding the possibility of al-Qaeda procuring weapons of mass destruction, Gul describes this as “sheer U.S. propaganda” designed to destroy Pakistan’s status as a nuclear power, saying, “The Pakistani nuclear program is the main goal of the Americans.”
Gul predicts that the American presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region will not be long-lived: “If the Americans are wise, they will leave Afghanistan within one year. If they are not wise, Pakistan will witness a revolution as a result of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. They will be defeated in Afghanistan and they will have to leave Afghanistan in 2010 or 2011.”
This article first appeared in the May 8, 2009 issue of the Jamestown Foundation’s Terrorism Monitor