The Pakistanis are double dealing when it comes to the US, NATO, and claims that they're doing all they can to stop terrorists from operating within their territory.
The former commander said that he was supported by the Pakistani military for 15 years as a fighter, leader and trainer of insurgents until he quit a few years ago. Well known in militant circles but accustomed to a covert existence, he gave an interview to The New York Times on the condition that his name, location and other personal details not be revealed.Some Pakistanis will say that these kinds of linkages were severed and these groups are no longer operating with the sanction of the government, but that's highly suspect.
Militant groups, like Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen and Hizbul Mujahedeen, are run by religious leaders, with the Pakistani military providing training, strategic planning and protection. That system was still functioning, he said.
The former commander’s account belies years of assurances by Pakistan to American officials since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that it has ceased supporting militant groups in its territory. The United States has given Pakistan more than $20 billion in aid over the past decade for its help with counterterrorism operations. Still, the former commander said, Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment has not abandoned its policy of supporting the militant groups as tools in Pakistan’s dispute with India over the border territory of Kashmir and in Afghanistan to drive out American and NATO forces.
“There are two bodies running these affairs: mullahs and retired generals,” he said. He named a number of former military officials involved in the program, including former chiefs of the intelligence service and other former generals. “These people have a very big role still,” he said.
Maj. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam Abbasi, a former intelligence officer who was convicted of attempting a coup against the government of Benazir Bhutto in 1995 and who is now dead, was one of the most active supporters of the militant groups in the years after Sept. 11, the former commander said.
He said he saw General Abbasi several times: once at a meeting of Taliban and Pakistani militant leaders in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province as they planned how to confront the American military in Afghanistan; and twice in Mir Ali, which became the center for foreign militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, including members of Al Qaeda.
There were about 60 people at the Taliban meeting in late 2001, soon after the Taliban government fell, the former commander said. Pakistani militant leaders were present, as were the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, and Muhammad Haqqani, a member of the Haqqani network.
Several retired officials of Pakistan’s premier spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, were also there, he said, including a man known as Colonel Imam but who was actually Brig. Sultan Amir, a well-known trainer and mentor of militants, and General Abbasi. The militant groups divided Afghanistan into separate areas of operations and discussed how to “trip up America,” he said.
The Pakistani military still supports the Afghan Taliban in their fight to force out American and NATO forces from Afghanistan, he said, adding that he thought they would be successful.