Sponsoring Terrorism in Afghanistan; the early days..

Ikram Sehgal is supposed to be “close to the khaki establishment” (others regard him as closer to Uncle Sam, how would I know?).
 I have no idea what he is trying to say here and why, but the first half has some (well known, but not widely known) tidbits about recent AfPak history. Published in Pakistan Today


Army and the ISI

By Ikram Sehgal

The son of Late Brig Mohammad Ahmad (later DG IB and author
of “My Chief”, a biography of Field Marshal Ayub Khan) and one of my closest
friends since childhood, Col (Retd) Salman Ahmad has fought more battles than
anyone else in Pakistan Army’s history. Starting with Bedian with I E Bengal in
the 1965 war, this unsung hero participated extensively in counter guerilla
operations in former East Pakistan during 1971. His SSG Company supported our
(44 Punjab now 4 Sindh) counter-insurgency operations in Balochistan in 1973.
Subsequently in 1973 he trained Afghan dissidents in Peshawar under command of
Brig (later Maj Gen and Governor) Nasirullah Khan Babar, then Inspector General
Frontier Corps (FC) and later PPP stalwart. Ahmad Shah Masoud, Haji Din
Mohammad (presently Karzai’s Advisor), Engineer Ayub (former Minister) and a
whole host of Afghan dissidents belonging to Gulbaddin Hekmatyar, Burhanuddin Rabbani,
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf etc factions were among his students.

This clandestine outreach strategy was commissioned by none
other the than President of Pakistan, late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. The next time
the PPP start fulminating about Ziaul Haq’s intervention in Afghanistan, they
should kindly get their facts right. Neither the Army nor the ISI started our
Afghan adventurism, this was a deliberate state policy crafted by PPP’s
founder. Those who sow the wind will reap the whirlwind, Indira Gandhi suffered
the Sikh backlash of Sanjay Gandhi’s ill-advised sponsorship of Bhindranewala,
Ms Benazir paid the price for her father’s interference in Afghanistan. Bilawal
Bhutto Zardari needs a tutorial on his grandfather’s “vision thing”.

After commanding 2 Commando in 1982-83, Salman transferred
to the ISI to take charge of training and operations for Afghan Mujahideen from
1983 to 1985. Codenamed “Col Faizan”, from 1985 to 1990 he ran all ISI/CIA
operations in the south of Afghanistan (including the area around Kandahar and
Herat). He took Sandy Gall, Carlotta’s father, deep into Soviet-occupied
Afghanistan to film the BBC documentary “Allah Against the Gunships” depicting
the Mujahideen fighting Soviet helicopter gunships with small arms (this before
the Stingers arrived).

Late Col Sultan Amir Tarar (codenamed Col Imam) operated
mostly in the north, the common perception that he discovered Mullah Umar is
not true. As Ms Benazir’s Interior Minister in her second term as PM, Gen Babar
tasked Sultan Amir, Consul General Kandahar in 1994-1995, to get Mullah Umar’s
help in recovering the Pakistani trucks hijacked by bandits on the road to
Herat west of Kandahar. Mullah Umar rode the momentum of this success, uniting
all Mujahideen factions and Afghan Army defectors under Taliban aegis in the
Kandahar area and eventually taking control of most of Afghanistan. Initially
with the Taliban, Mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf later defected to the
Northern Alliance, he was the one who invited Bin Laden back to Afghanistan. Having
switched sides, five years later Bin Laden misused his Taliban sanctuary to
commit 9/11, the most despicable of atrocities in modern history.

Col Sultan Amir’s brutal murder by late TTP Chief Hakimullah
Mehsud was shown on YouTube. Earlier former ISI official Sqn Ldr (Retd) Khalid
Khawaja was executed allegedly because of the telephonic misinformation fed to
the Taliban by Hamid Mir that he was working for the CIA, Khalid Khawaja’s
family members accused him of murder. Eye scans aside, “voice recognition” is
the most authentic identification in bio-metrics today.

The faulty post-Afghan war policies were crafted by
arm-chair strategists in the (then) ISI hierarchy having no experience
whatsoever of the Afghan War. Having an ingrained inferiority complex for not
having heard a shot being fired in anger, these “GT Road warriors” who rise to
high rank invariably resent obtaining counsel from field veterans. Protesting
this, Salman reverted to the Army in 1990, retiring two years later. He
repeated “I told you so” with great anguish over the years while Afghanistan
went from bad to worse (and Pakistan spiralling downwards from worse to
possibly “horrifying” post-2014).

The wrong perception of ISI being “a state within a state”
developed during the Afghan War when it was given a free hand, first under Lt
Gen (later Gen) Akhtar Abdul Rahman and then Lt Gen Hamid Gul, to partner CIA
in organizing the Mujahideen battling the Soviets. This perception of
intelligence agencies is similar all over the world because of the nature of
their business, their personnel are seemingly untouchable. Most ISI personnel
are on deputation from the Army mostly with a very small percentage from the
Navy and Air Force, the regular cadre of ISI officers are mostly in the junior
ranks. Officers and men from the Pakistan Army (mostly from the SSG) like
Salman and Sultan Amir joined ISI in droves to help the Afghans wage their
“fight for freedom”. Giving the ultimate sacrifice in the “Jehad”, many of our
unsung heroes lie buried in unmarked graves in Afghanistan, lamented only by
their immediate family and friends.

The DG ISI in Mian Nawaz Sharif’s last tenure, Lt Gen
Ziauddin, distanced himself from the Army in support of the then PM, when push
came to shove on Oct 12, 1999 the ISI rank and file abandoned their own boss in
support of the Army Chief. A not so well known fact, only Lt Gen Zahirul Islam
has served an earlier ISI tenure before he became its DG, no other Head of ISI
has been in the ISI in any rank in its entire history.

A motivated canard “floated” by vested interest is that the
Army and the ISI hierarchy are somehow at odds. Almost the entire ISI hierarchy being from the army, the Army and the ISI remain in
sync. This baseless mischief is totally wrong, a pathetic attempt to invent a
“truth” from a blatant lie. The detractors contradict themselves by
simultaneously accusing the ISI of engineering army take-overs (the so-called
“hidden hands”).

When the ill-intentioned motivated become desperate, they
resort to such blatant misinformation. The Army and the ISI have always been on
the same page, and will always remain so.
Brown Pundits