South Asia Analysis Group
(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and, Convenor, Advisory Committee, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Chennai Chapter. E-Mail: )
THE GUILTY MEN OF 9/11
by B. Raman
The "Time" magazine of the US (August 31, 2003) has carried a commentary on a book written by Gerald Posner titled "Why America Slept".
2.The commentary says: "Most of his new book is a lean, lucid retelling of how the CIA, FBI and U.S. leaders missed a decade's worth of clues and opportunities that if heeded, Posner argues, might have forestalled the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Posner is an old hand at revisiting conspiracy theories. He wrote controversial assessments dismissing those surrounding the J.F.K. and Martin Luther King Jr. assassinations. And the Berkeley-educated lawyer is adept at marshaling an unwieldy mass of information—most of his sources are other books and news stories—into a pattern made tidy and linear by hindsight. His indictment of U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement agencies covers well-trodden ground, though sometimes the might-have-beens and could-have-seens are stretched thin. The stuff that is going to spark hot debate is Chapter 19, an account—based on Zubaydah's claims as told to Posner by "two government sources" who are unnamed but "in a position to know"—of what two countries (Pakistan and Saudi Arabia) allied to the U.S. did to build up al-Qaeda and what they knew before that September day."
3. The reference is to Abu Zubaidah, then projected by the US intelligence agencies as the No.3 to Osama bin Laden in the Al Qaeda. He was arrested by the Pakistani authorities, at the instance of the US intelligence, from the house of an office-bearer of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), a member of bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF), at Faislabad in Pakistani Punjab on March 28 last year and flown by the FBI to the US naval base on the Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia for interrogation. It is not known where he is kept presently.
4. The book, according to the commentary, refers to a 1996 meeting in Pakistan between bin Laden and Mushaf Ali Mir, a high-ranking officer of the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) who subsequently became the Chief of the Air Staff in November 2000 and died in a mysterious plane crash in February last. The book, according to the "Time", cites Abu Zubaidah as having claimed that he was present at the meeting during which "bin Laden struck a deal with Mir, then in the military but tied closely to Islamists in Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), to get protection, arms and supplies for al-Qaeda. Zubaydah told interrogators bin Laden said the arrangement was blessed by the Saudis."
5. The mention of Mushaf Ali Mir by Abu Zubaidah as the ISI's contact man with bin Laden is surprising for the following reasons. First, the Pakistani Army, which always controls the ISI, never associates officers of the Air Force and the Navy with its sensitive covert operations. Second, it generally does not allow officers of the Air Force and the Navy to head the ISI or to occupy sensitive positions in it.
6. Since 1988, when the Pakistan Army used bin Laden and his tribal hordes for brutally suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit, the contacts with bin Laden had always been handled by senior officers of the Army. Amongst those who had handled bin Laden (in the order of importance) are Gen. Mohammad Aziz, a Kashmiri from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (POK) belonging to the Sudan tribe, who is now Chairman, the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, Director-General of the ISI from October,1999, to October 2001, when he was reportedly removed under US pressure because of his links with the Al Qaeda, and Lt.Gen.Ehsanul Haq, the present DG of the ISI since October,2001, who was before that the Corps Commander at Peshawar, the capital of the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP).
7. Gen. Aziz was Deputy-Director-General of the ISI as a Major-General till November,1998, when Musharraf appointed him as his Chief of the General Staff (CGS) after his promotion as a Lt.General. Since Musharraf did not trust Lt.Gen. Ziauddin, whom Nawaz Sharif, the then Prime Minister, had appointed as the DG of the ISI, he ordered the transfer of all files relating to the Taliban, the Al Qaeda and terrorist operations in India from the ISI to the office of the CGS. Aziz continued handling these operations.
8.There were four phases in the ISI's relations with bin Laden. In the first phase before 1990, the ISI did not feel the need to keep the relations secret from the USA's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The two were operating him jointly. In fact, it was the CIA which brought him from Saudi Arabia initially for making use of his civil engineering skills for the construct