Washington's Pakistani Allies: Killers and Drug Dealers

by Rahul Bedi
Sydney Morning Herald
September 27, 2001

Pakistan's shadowy intelligence service, one of the main sources of information for the US-led alliance against the Taliban regime, is widely associated with political assassinations, narcotics and the smuggling of nuclear and missile components - and backing fundamentalist Islamic movements.

Locally referred to as Pakistan's "secret army" and the "invisible government", the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was founded soon after independence in 1948. Today it dominates the country's domestic and foreign policies. It is also responsible for manipulating the volatile religious elements, ethnic groups and political parties that are disliked by the army.

Trained by the CIA and the French SDECE, the ISI "ran" the mujahideen in their decade-long fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Brigadier Mohammed Yousaf, who headed the ISI's Afghan bureau for four years until 1987, says in his book The Bear Trap that the agency funnelled US money and weapons to the mujahideen.

In the early 1990s the ISI provided logistic and military support for the Taliban, and helped them to seize power in Kabul five years ago.

Thereafter, it maintained a formidable presence across Afghanistan, helping the Taliban to consolidate their hold. The tactics used included bribery and raids that wiped out villages of different ethnic tribes. It is the knowledge gained of the Taliban into which the US is tapping as it plans punitive raids.

Intelligence sources said that the ISI-CIA collaboration in the 1980s assisted Osama bin Laden, as well as Mir Aimal Kansi, who assassinated two CIA officers outside their office in Langley, Virginia, in 1993, and Ramzi Yousef, who was involved in the failed bomb attack on the World Trade Centre in New York five years later.

Opium cultivation and heroin production in Pakistan's northern tribal belt and adjoining Afghanistan were a vital offshoot of the ISI-CIA co-operation. It succeeded in turning some of the Soviet troops into addicts.

Heroin sales in Europe and the US, carried out through an elaborate web of deception, transport networks, couriers and pay-offs, offset the cost of the decade-long war in Afghanistan.

In the 1970s the ISI established a division to procure nuclear and missile technology for the military from abroad, especially China and North Korea. It also smuggled in crucial nuclear components and know-how from Europe.


2001 Sydney Morning Herald

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