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In part 4 of this series, Pakistan analyst Khawar Mehdi tells Pepe Escobar about the repercussions of Musharraf’s crucial policy switch after 9/11, abandoning the Taliban and embracing the Bush-declared “war on terror.” Mehdi recalls the visit by a Pakistani delegation to Afghanistan that allegedly asked Taliban emir Mulah Omar to hand over Osama bin Laden. Mehdi argues that the true story was that the head of the delegation, Pakistani ISI chief Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed, convinced the Taliban to implement a new Pakistani plan, advising the Taliban to retreat instead of facing overwhelming US military power. Mehdi also discusses how Musharraf’s radical U-turn has been extremely confusing for the Pakistani armed forces and for the ISI – which had nurtured the Taliban since the mid-1990s.

Story Transcript

The revamped war on terror exposed Pt 4
Pepe Escobar talks to Khawar Mehdi

PEPE ESCOBAR, SENIOR ANALYST: Khawar, let’s go back to 9/11, which is still an unresolved situation in terms of Afghanistan/Pakistan. What happened within the Pakistani military when the Taliban in Afghanistan decided to retreat, reorganize, and not fight the Americans?

KHAWAR MEHDI, PAKISTAN ANALYST: Well, you cannot separate Pakistan army from the retreat of Taliban and reorganized. My understanding is that Pakistan, if not as institution, but definitely some very influential Pakistan military element, is involved of their retreat of Kabul and their reorganization. So we can start from utter confusion, which engulfed Pakistan army when the threat from United States came, “with us or against us,” which is the Bush doctrine that either you are with us or you are with the enemies. And Musharraf took a decision about [inaudible,] joining America. There are definitely very strong and influential high-level officials who didn’t agree with Bush, who didn’t agree with Musharraf. So at that time General Mahmud is a very known chief of ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence.] So what Pakistan did was Pakistan did take some time from the United States before Kabul was attacked or before the United States started their attack and sent a very strong delegation under the leadership of General Mahmud to talk with Mullah Omar if he is ready to hand over bin Laden. Mullah Omar did not agree. And this delegation ended up with a complete failure. This is the official side of it. But insider stories tell us that the head of delegation who went there as a Pakistani official to convince Mullah Omar rather strengthen him not to do, not to hand over bin Laden, this is what we are told, as some precise information with very credible sources, that what happened in Kabul, that this delegation, at least General Mahmud, went to Kabul, where they had a meeting in the Intercontinental in which one guy who was there, not in an official capacity, tells me that after all negotiation, then at the last moment, at the last point, someone asked to Mahmud, “What is the solution?” He said—it is about bin Laden—”At least he is a Muslim.” [inaudible] speaks volumes. And from after that meeting, we saw Taliban following a certain tactic or certain tragedy, retreating from all areas. So my interpretation of that meeting is it was rather a plan given to Taliban from their mentors in Pakistan army, who are very, very, you know, technically sound planners and definitely good fighters.

ESCOBAR: In terms of let’s protect our strategic depth, which is the official military doctrine in Pakistan for the past [inaudible]

MEHDI: Sure. This is one of the point where Pakistan army values and taking all those risks of American worth against Pakistan. This is one of it. But there is definitely a serious Muslim sentiment which has made roots inside individuals of Pakistan army officials. There are some very hardliners. Some retired officers, like General Hamid Gul, like General Zahir Ul Islam Abbasi, like Colonel Imam, Khalid Khawaja, who was a former squadron leader. They all are taken away from the ideology. Colonel Imam, who was once ISI trainer for Afghan mujahideen, and then he was appointed as consul general in [inaudible,] told me personally that “I started as a Pakistani soldier to train these people, and then I carried away with this ideology.” So these are all aspects which simply tell us the real composition of our Pakistan army. I think after the 9/11 and the decision by Musharraf to take U-turn was very puzzling and was very confusing for whole of the military and some of the very influential and committed officials, like General Aziz, like General Mahmud, and like some other, well, definitely, went on other side, they went another way, and they helped Taliban to learn how to fight against bigger forces or a bigger force like America.

ESCOBAR: And the same thing could be said about the ISI, huh? We can also say that ISI has been running rings around American intelligence for the past seven years as well.

MEHDI: Sure. We see that maybe this is not an official policy to support insurgency in Afghanistan. Definitely there are individuals in ISI and other sections of Pakistan army where people in their personal capacity helping out Taliban.

ESCOBAR: So, to sum it all up, the Bush administration is in fact alienating the most important institution in Pakistan, which is the army?

MEHDI: Well, they can try for that. They did eliminate Iraqi army. What happened? There was a vacuum. If America’s capable of fill up that vacuum which was left behind after the destruction of Pakistan army, they are welcome. But I am sure they are not capable of it. And then there are higher risks involved, which is about weapon of mass destruction, which is completely subject of Pakistan army. No one has no idea how to handle that area. So threat and risk are much higher than common people know.


Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.

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Khawar Mehdi, born in Rawalpindi, is a Pakistani journalist and political analyst. Even before 9/11 he had advised numerous journalists, academics and researchers from North America and Europe working in the tribal areas of Pakistan and in Afghanistan. In 2004 he was imprisoned and tortured by President Pervez Musharraf's regime while investigating the presence of Taliban training camps inside Pakistan. He was released thanks to an international media campaign - after a personal intervention by Musharraf. Mehdi has unparalleled access to sources in Pakistan's FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas). He has been living in Virginia since 2005, working as an analyst/consultant.