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The Strange Facts?!?
by Saima Alvi
06 August 2002 14:20 UTC
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Some interesting points from this impressive article:

* The Taliban was not a creation of Pakistan, although
Pakistan was among several states that contributed to
the genesis and development of this peculiar movement.

*The former KGB General Oleg Kalugin said that it was
Moscow who trained most of the terrorists the US is
now chasing.

*But apart from Mullah Mohammed Omar and some other
leaders who seem to have truly religious backgrounds
(and no other education), the Taliban's military and
intelligence are dominated by Soviet-trained

*Many Taliban "mullahs" have no religious training at
all. They are former communist military and security
agents who have grown up beards and adopted new names
and identities replete with the title "mullah".

*Perhaps because of this immensely influential influx
into the Taliban, their interpretation of Islam is
quite alien for most of the world's Muslims, but
closely resembles the interpretation of Islam that the
communists and Russia have traditionally espoused in
their anti-Islamic propaganda.

*Among those with a rising interest in the Taliban
forces, were all the main players: Russia and its
satellite regimes in Central Asia, the US, Pakistan,
and Saudi Arabia. 

*During the same years, the Taliban received sizable
armed support. It did not come mainly from Pakistan.
Financial succor came from Saudi Arabia. But the most
decisive increase in the Taliban's strength came from


Afghan Myths: An Interview with Anssi Kullberg

*Anssi Kristian Kullberg is presently employed as a
researcher for the Legal and Country Intelligence
Service, Western and Central Asia Desk, at the Finnish
Directorate of Immigration. This interview represents
his personal views only and not those of his employer.
On Black Tuesday, 11th September, he was in
Kyrgyzstan, on his way to the notorious Ferghana
Valley, in a reconstruction of the late Finnish
Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim's intelligence expedition to
Turkistan and China in 1906-1908.

Q: Was the Taliban the creation of Pakistan? Can you
tell us about its formation and how was Russia
involved in it?

A: The Taliban was not a creation of Pakistan,
although Pakistan was among several states that
contributed to the genesis and development of this
peculiar movement. It is true that the Taliban (which
was established only as late as in 1994 as a religious
movement) had a significant influx from Pakistani
madrassas. But the Taliban is not only an extreme
religious movement, but also an ethnic Pashtun one.
The Pashtuns are a bit less than half of Afghanistan's
population, but in Pakistan there are 16 million
resident Pashtuns plus 3 million as refugees. There
are more Pashtuns in Pakistan than in Afghanistan
nowadays. The "Pakistanis" involved in Afghanistan are
in fact Afghans.

The role of the Pakistani Islamist opposition in the
formation and support of the Taliban is widely
recorded. But more important are those who made it a
military power. This is where Russia enters the game,
too. In order to understand the Taliban, we must
recall the background situation in Afghanistan ever
since the events in 1970s.

The Taliban is not monolithic. Even less so is the
Northern Alliance. Neither were the Afghan communists
united. This was made evident by the internal power
struggles following the ousting of King Zahir Shah in
1973. Daoud was overthrown and killed by communists in
1978. But the communists were divided into the Khalq
faction, favored by China, and the Parcham faction,
favored by the Soviet Union. In 1978 it was the Khalq
faction that took over, but their more moderate leader
Nur Mohammed Taraki was overthrown and killed by the
hardliner Khalq communist Hafizullah Amin. In 1979,
the Soviet Spetsnaz murdered Amin and replaced him
with the Parcham follower Babrak Karmal, who was close
to the KGB. Then the Soviet army invaded.

The communist secret service Khad (KhAD), whose
leaders were Karmal and Sayid Mohammed Najibullah, was
actually an Afghan branch of the KGB. It had been
preceded by the communist secret services of Taraki
and Amin (AGSA, KAM), but from 1979 onwards this
organization of terror was instructed and trained by
the KGB. The culture of terror and the horrible
persecution of the civil population continued without
a pause from the communist takeover up until the
overthrowing of Najibullah's regime in 1992 when
Massoud liberated Kabul. Western minds seem to
implicitly suppose that when the Cold War was over,
the communists and the structures they had created
just suddenly disappeared. This is a recurrent fatal
misperception especially of the Americans.

According to Professor Azmat Hayat Khan of the
University of Peshawar, when Ahmad Shah Massoud's
mujaheddin liberated Kabul in 1992, and Najibullah
gave up power, the communist generals of the army and
of Khad agreed to prolong the Afghan civil war in
order to discredit President Burhanuddin Rabbani's
mujahid government and prevent Afghanistan from
stabilizing. The Uzbek communist General Abdurrashid
Dostum continued the rebellion against Rabbani and
Massoud in Mazar-i-Sharif, massively backed by the
Soviet Union and later by Russia and Uzbekistan.
Another rebellious general was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.
Most of the ethnic Pashtun Khalq army generals as well
as those of the Khad defected to Hekmatyar's troops. A
decisive role was the one played by General Shahnawaz
Tanai, the communist commander of the artillery, who
defected to Hekmatyar's side as early as in 1990.
Later in 1995, when Hekmatyar's rebellion was losing 
strength, Tanai defected to the Taliban. So did many
other communist army and Khad officers.

It was Tanai's defection that provided the Taliban
with Soviet artillery, Soviet air force, Soviet
intelligence and Soviet technical and military
knowledge. The American Anthony Arnold argued already
then that Tanai's moves were a KGB-inspired
provocation. The former KGB General Oleg Kalugin said
that it was Moscow who trained most of the terrorists
the US is now chasing.

As regards the Taliban, it was nothing special when
they took over Kandahar in 1994. Kandahar was a
Pashtun city and the strict interpretation of Islam
the Taliban propounds is not so much based on the
Qur'an but on the narrow-minded social norms of an
agrarian Pashtun village. Mullah Omar is often
described as having the background of a relatively
simple-minded rustic mullah, although he was also
politically active in Mohammed Nabi Mohammadi's
Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islami (Revolutionary Islamic
Movement), which later opposed the Taliban.

But apart from Mullah Mohammed Omar and some other
leaders who seem to have truly religious backgrounds
(and no other education), the Taliban's military and
intelligence are dominated by Soviet-trained

Besides Tanai, there is for example the late first
Taliban military commander and one of its founders,
"Mullah Borjan", whose real name was Turan
Abdurrahman, a prominent communist military officer.
Many Taliban "mullahs" have no religious training at
all. They are former communist military and security
agents who have grown up beards and adopted new names
and identities replete with the title "mullah". The
Taliban artillery commander was the former Soviet
Army's Afghan military intelligence officer Shah
Sawar. The Taliban intelligence service chief Mohammed
Akbar used to head a department of the Khad. And the
Taliban air force commander Mohammed Gilani was a
communist general, too. Perhaps because of this
immensely influential influx into the Taliban, their
interpretation of Islam is quite alien for most of the
world's Muslims, but closely resembles the
interpretation of Islam that the communists and Russia
have traditionally espoused in their anti-Islamic

The decisive strengthening of the Taliban took place
in 1995-1996, when it was seen as a "stabilizing"
force in Afghanistan. This was a great fallacy based
on the Taliban's success in Kandahar, which was indeed
their "home field". Anywhere else the Taliban did not
bring about stability, but quite the opposite. Among
those with a rising interest in the Taliban forces,
were all the main players: Russia and its satellite
regimes in Central Asia, the US, Pakistan, and Saudi
Arabia. At the initiative of the Turkmen dictator
Saparmurat Niyazov, the Russian energy giant Gazprom,
headed by the then Russian Prime Minister Viktor
Chernomyrdin, and the US firm Unocal, contracted to
lay a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan,
circumventing Iran and crossing the Afghan territory
that the Taliban had supposedly "stabilized". For
Pakistan, it has been a traditional national interest
to secure energy supplies from Central Asia, since it
is sandwiched between two vehemently hostile great
powers, India and Iran. For Russia, this was seen as a
way to control Central Asian energy resources and to
extend its influence towards the Indian Ocean. Two
Saudi Arabian oil companies were also involved.

During the same years, the Taliban received sizable
armed support. It did not come mainly from Pakistan.
Financial succor came from Saudi Arabia. But the most
decisive increase in the Taliban's strength came from
Russia: the defections of the Khalq and Khad generals
directly into the Taliban's leadership, vast amounts
of Russian weaponry in several mysteriously "captured"
stashes, including a very suspicious "hijacking" and
escape of a Russian jet loaded with weapons that ended
up in the hands of the Taliban's ex-communist leaders.
With these new weapons, the Taliban marched on Herat
in 1995, and finally managed to capture Kabul in 1996.
Najibullah was hanged, but Najibullah's hanging by his
former Taliban-turned protégés seems to have
camouflaged the actual developments in the Afghan
power struggle.

Russia had an interest to cut the strong ties between
Massoud's mujaheddin and the Tajik opposition that
Russia had crushed since it attacked Tajikistan in
1992 and backed the communists into power there. The
old provocateur Hekmatyar was by then defeated and had
finally given up his fight - after losing his men and
arms by Tanai's defection to the Taliban - and
accepted a seat in the government in compensation.
Since Hekmatyar was finished, a new Pashtun force was
needed in those years. Taliban was a rising force that
various external players tried to exploit by
infiltration, support and manipulation.

When the Cold War was declared over by the West, it
did not stop elsewhere. After 1989 the West really
lost interest in Afghanistan and until some months
before his death Massoud was trying to appeal to it in
vain. The West was uninterested, but others were.
Pakistan, of course, was interested in the goings on
in its unstable neighbor. Saudi Arabia was financing
and supporting dangerous Sunni fundamentalist groups,
and later the Taliban. The Saudis also provided them
with their own Saudi fanatics that had become
troublesome at home. Iran was supporting its own
agents within Afghan Shia groups. And the Soviet Union
and later Russia continued to provide massive armed
support to the last communist dictator of Afghanistan,
Najibullah, and later to the notorious General Dostum.

The Russian principle was "divide and rule", with the
basic idea of keeping the West out and assuring that
the region would not strengthen so that the Soviet
empire could return once it has regained its military
might. Because of this stratagem, Russia has supported
the Tajiks of the Northern Alliance through Tajikistan
- only sufficiently to form a buffer zone against the
Taliban, but without being able to gain substantial
victories or to intervene in Tajikistan. Moreover,
Russia has been arming and supporting the Uzbeks under
the command of Dostum and General Malik who later
defected to the Taliban's side. This support has been
directed through Uzbekistan and still continues -
ironically, with the West's full blessing. Less known
has been the Russian support directed through
Turkmenistan to the Taliban, and to the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan that is said to threaten
Karimov's rule there.

Q: What was and is the role of the CIA in all this?
Was Pakistan's ISI the CIA's long arm? Was bin Laden a
CIA agent?

A: A chronic feature of American intelligence policy
seems to be historical amnesia and inability to see
the complex nature of conflicts and local
relationships. This was also manifested during the
Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. British intelligence
and part of the Pakistani intelligence community
clashed with the US already during the Cold War
period, because they wanted to support Ahmad Shah
Massoud, the "Lion of Panjshir". It was Massoud and
his mujaheddin who finally, after getting Stingers
from the British, managed to make the war too
expensive for the Soviets, forcing them to retreat in

Meanwhile, the CIA was incompetent enough to be
dependent on the Pakistani intelligence services that,
especially in Zia ul-Haq's period, favored Gulbuddin
Hekmatyar, a pompous figure who claimed to have
extensive contacts throughout the Islamic world. He
indeed had some contacts, including with Osama bin
Laden, but he was considered to be a KGB provocateur
by Massoud and many others, and was never of any help
in the Afghan independence struggle.

Instead of fighting the Soviet occupants, Hekmatyar
preferred to fight other Afghans, and to conspire with
suspicious Arab circles imported by his contact bin
Laden to Peshawar. The Stingers that the CIA had
provided to Hekmatyar, were not used to liberate
Afghanistan. Instead, Hekmatyar sold them to Iran, and
they were later used against the Americans in a
well-known incident.

When the Soviet troops moved out, Hekmatyar pursued a
bloody rebellion against the legal Afghan government,
devastating the country along with another rebel
general, Dostum. (Though they were not aligned.) In
1993, Hekmatyar supported the KGB general and
spymaster Haidar Aliyev's coup in Azerbaijan and, in
1994, Hekmatyar was involved in supporting pro-Russian
Lezghin terrorists in the Caucasus. Hekmatyar is still
active. He lives in Teheran, and has recently finally
revealed his true colors by siding with the Taliban.

As far as I know, Osama bin Laden was never a CIA
agent. However, there are relatively plausible claims
that he was close to Saudi intelligence, especially to
the recently fired intelligence chief Prince Turki bin
Faizal, until they broke up. Osama first appeared in
the Afghan War theater either in 1979, or, at the
latest in 1984. But at the beginning he was first and
foremost a businessman. He served the interests of
those who wished to construct roads accessible for
tanks to cross through Afghanistan to the Indian
Ocean. This might also explain his characteristic
opportunism - quite atypical for a self-proclaimed
warrior of faith.

International jihadists surely want to portray him as
a religious fighter or Muslim hero, but this is not
the true picture, but, mostly, a myth created by the
Western media. This is where Arab, Pakistani and
Indonesian teenagers learn that Osama is a fighter in
a universal struggle of Islam against its oppressors.

But bin Laden never fought the Soviets to liberate
Afghanistan. For most of this period, he was not even
in Afghanistan. He was managing an office in Peshawar,
and the only credible claim about him being in a
battle has been made by the former CIA official Milton
Bearden concerning a minor skirmish that took place in
spring 1987.

Bin Laden's first significant contact in Peshawar was
the Palestinian Professor Abdullah Azzam, whom bin
Laden has later described as his mentor. Azzam was an
Arab idealist, who wanted to concentrate on the
liberation of Afghanistan, and who wanted to support
Massoud, whom he correctly regarded as being the right
person to uphold. Bin Laden disagreed. He wanted to
support the disloyal Islamist fanatic Hekmatyar. As a
result, Azzam and his son were blown up in a car bomb
in 1989, and consequently, bin Laden took over his
organization and transformed it into Al-Qaida (the
Base). Already before these events, he started to
transform the agency by flooding it with his Arab
contacts from the Middle East. These Arabs were not
interested in liberating Afghanistan as much as in
hiding from the law enforcement agencies of their own
countries, most of all Egypt's.

When Russia attacked Tajikistan, bin Laden and his
folks were by no means interested in liberating
Tajikistan from a new communist yoke. Instead, bin
Laden left Afghanistan and dispersed his terrorist
network, directing it to act against the West. It is
bizarre that a man claiming to be an Islamic
fundamentalist supported the invasion by the Arab
socialist (and thereby atheist) Iraq against Kuwait
and Saudi Arabia, both with conservative Islamic

Al-Qaida's supported all causes and activities against
the West: the US, Turkey, Israel, and any pro-Western
Muslim regime like Pakistan. Robbers on the island of
Jolo in the Philippines qualified for Al-Qaida's
support although they hardly knew anything about the
Qur'an. They were immediately they were portrayed as
"Islamic fighters". Even the strictly atheist
anti-Turkish terrorist organization PKK has been
welcomed. At the same time they definitely have not
supported Muslims advocating Turkish-modeled moderate
independence, like the Chechens, the original Tajik
opposition or the Azeri government under President
Abulfaz Elchibey.

As concerning Pakistan's intelligence service, the
ISI, I think it would be gross underestimation of a
potential regional great power and its British
colonial traditions of military and intelligence to
describe it just as an arm of the CIA or of the
Islamists. These are widespread myths. The ISI is
neither the hero nor the villain of this story. I
think the ISI is interested simply in the national
interest of Pakistan, which consists of four main
elements: security against the hostile strong
neighbors India and Iran, security against the
instability and uncontrolled forces ravaging
Afghanistan and infiltrating Pakistan through the
large Pashtun population, the conflict over Kashmir,
and Pakistan's own international status.

Afghanistan is an historical buffer zone in the
ancient Great Game of Central Eurasia. It is the
gateway through which Pakistan's enemies can attack or
destabilize it, and it is equally the buffer that
stops these enemies. Pakistan's is interested in
regional stability while its enemies seek to use any
instability against it. There is a great divide within
Pakistan between Pakistani nationalists and
internationalist Islamists. Pakistan is relatively
democratic compared with its neighbors - even
including India, considering its treatment of
minorities and the Kashmir issue. It, thus, has the
problems of a democracy. Pakistan has quite free and
critical press, local administration and intellectual
opposition, the Islamists included. It is not, and has
never been, an Islamist dictatorship like Saudi

Q: Can you chart the relationship between the ISI and
the Taliban?

A: The policy of the ISI was strongly correlated with
developments in Pakistan's leadership. The main divide
concerning the ISI's Afghanistan policies did not
concern  religious issues as it did the ethnic
question related to the political and military
aspirations of the Pashtun people in both Pakistan and
Afghanistan. Actually one of the greatest dangers to
Pakistan's national existence would be the emergence
of the idea of Greater Pashtunistan, splitting
Pakistan in two.

This was an idea favored and agitated by the
pro-Soviet Pashtuns - many of whom are now influential
in the Taliban. The Pakistani researcher Musa Khan
Jalalzai noticed this and described these people as
"enemies of Pakistani interests".

India and Iran would like to split Pakistan and
destroy it, and Russian geopolitics is still based on
a "final thrust to the South". Iran and India equally
fear that Baluchistan, Kashmir and Punjab would
finally be united under Pakistani rule. Incorporating
Pashtunistan, Pakistan has the potential to become a
South Asian superpower with plausible expansionist
chances. Yet this has never really been an aspiration
of Pakistan. Like Turkey under Ataturk, Pakistan under
such leaders as Ayub Khan and now Pervez Musharraf has
been introverted in its nationalism and based on
constitutional and national ideas similar to those of
present day Turkey and France.

During the military dictatorship of Zia ul-Haq the
policy turned more Islamist, and during this period
the ISI strongly supported Hekmatyar. Hekmatyar proved
disloyal and finally defected to Iran. During Benazir
Bhutto's government, support has shifted to the
Taliban. This was decided by the Interior Minister
Nasirullah Babar. It is history's irony that the first
female prime minister of Pakistan helped to strengthen
the misogynist Taliban regime. The ISI started to get
disillusioned and disappointed with the Taliban during
the thoroughly corrupt "democracy" continued under
Nawaz Sharif. There have been rumors that the ISI
wished to influence the Taliban and to empower "a
third force" among the more moderate Taliban leaders
to take over it. It is in connection with this that
Shahnawaz Tanai actually defected to Pakistan, and the
ISI was dealing with the former communists who were so
powerful within the Taliban.

Luckily for Western interests, General Pervez
Musharraf took over. This takeover was the best event
in Pakistani history as far as the West is concerned,
although it was sadly ignored in the West during the
Clinton administration. Musharraf was portrayed as a
military dictator and a supporter of the causes of the
Taliban and of an alliance with China (all sins of his
predecessors). Musharraf is profoundly pro-Western,
secular in mind and pragmatic in foreign policy. He in
fact tried to form constructive relationships with all
the neighboring countries (Iran, India and
Afghanistan). His peace initiatives in Kashmir were
stalled by Indian arrogance, and the West turned a
cold shoulder to its old ally, which has been a source
of great bitterness in Pakistan, especially since the
West has been very inconsistent in choosing when to
support Pakistan and when not to. But during the
Musharraf reign, human rights and the position of
women in Pakistan have improved considerably.

Constructive relations with whomever rules Afghanistan
have been Realpolitik for Pakistan. Although
Musharraf, immediately after seizing power, started to
undermine the support for the Taliban, he could not
remove the recognition given to the Taliban
government, as there was no other Afghan government -
the Rabbani government having been ousted and
categorically hostile to Pakistan, partly for
legitimate reasons. Pakistan has been trying ever
since to construct new anti-Taliban alliances, as well
as trying to find intra-Taliban frictions to exploit.
But the West should be very careful and measured in
its pressure on Pakistan. The Taliban is really not
under Pakistan's thumb, and never was.

I think the ISI first saw the Taliban as a potential
instrument. Then it saw it as a threat that had to be
infiltrated and controlled. Then they saw it as a
burden. Surely the ISI wished to control and contain
the Taliban, but their success has been rather
doubtful (as has been others'). Many analysts have
paid attention to the fact that Afghan as well as
non-Afghan adventurers like bin Laden, have always
been very talented at exploiting the surrounding
states as well as both superpowers.

Another distorted myth is propagated by India. It is
that the Kashmiri secessionism is terrorism and a
Pakistani creation. This is very far from reality.
More than 80% of Kashmiris would probably prefer
independence, but at the same time they reject the
Islamist model. There are several small but
media-visible Islamist groups operating in Kashmir, or
at least proclaiming the Kashmiri cause. But these
people are not really interested in Kashmiri
independence. They are interested in jihad. Such
Islamists appear wherever there is a war (during
Bosnia's struggle for independence and in the Albanian
civil war, in Chechnya, Kashmir and so on). Their
"help" is usually just an added burden to the ones
they purport to help, since they are seldom fighting
for any liberation. These "professional" jihadists
also seem to be more common in internet cafes and
among Arab diasporas in the West than in places where
Muslim nations face real oppression.

We must remember that Musharraf cannot possibly
surrender to India in the Kashmir dispute. This would
not only be political suicide, but it would not end
the Kashmir conflict - quite the contrary. It would
mean importing the Kashmiri conflict into Pakistan,
and against Pakistan. What happened in Afghanistan,
with millions of refugees flooding to Pakistan, should
not happen with Kashmir. This would be an outright
catastrophe for both Pakistan and India, let alone the
Kashmiri people. Therefore it is the most crucial
interest of the West to prevent India from escalating
the Kashmir conflict and turning Kashmir into another
weapon against Pakistan's stability.

Q: The "Arab" fighters in Afghanistan - are they a
state with a state, or the long arm for covert
operations (e.g., the assassination of Massoud) for
the Taliban? Who is the dog and who is the tail?

A: The dog and tail can get very entangled here.
Everybody is exploiting everybody, and finally all
organizations and states are tools which consist of
individuals and used by them. The Arabs in Afghanistan
are indeed Arabs. There are also lots of "Pakistani"
volunteers on the Taliban side, but these are mainly
Pashtuns, that is, Afghans.

The mentioning of Chechens, Uighurs and so on is more
designed to satisfy the propaganda purposes of Russia
and China. There are less than one million Chechens
and they have a very harsh war going on in Chechnya.
Chechens who choose to go to Afghanistan instead must
be quite unpatriotic.

The Arabs form the hard core of Al-Qaida. They are the
Egyptian, Syrian, Iraqi etc. professional
revolutionaries and terrorists who have gathered
around the figurehead of Osama bin Laden. Many of
these share the same old background in
Marxist-inspired revolutionary movements in the Middle
East. Ideology and facade have changed when green
replaced red, but their methods as well as foreign
contacts have mainly remained the same. This is why
they are much more interested in attacking the West
and pro-Western Muslim regimes than in supporting any
true national liberation movements. Even if they try
to infiltrate and influence conflict outcomes in the
Balkans, the Caucasus, East Turkistan and Kashmir,
they are set against the nationalist and secular - and
usually pro-Western - policies of the legitimate
leadership of these secessionist movements. So the
people whom Al-Qaida may support and try to infiltrate
are usually exiled or otherwise opposition forces
acting in fact against the idea of independence. This
has been the case in Chechnya, Dagestan, Bosnia,
Kashmir and so on.

And this has been the case in Afghanistan as well.
Osama bin Laden and his Arabs never contributed to the
actual Afghan national liberation struggle. Instead
they acted against it by infiltrating Afghan circles
and turning them against each other. Their jihad is
not intended to defend the Muslims against infidel
oppressors, but to cause chaos and destruction, in
which they apparently hope to overthrow Muslim regimes
and replace them with the utopia of Salafi rule. It is
not hard to see how this set of mind was inherited
from the communist utopian terrorist movements that
preceded the present Islamist ones. They had the same
structures, the same cadres, the same leaders, the
same sponsors and the same methods.

The Arabs in Afghanistan have feathered their nests,
though. Osama bin Laden and his closest associates
have all married daughters of Afghan elders - from
different factions and tribes - and their sons and
daughters have, in turn, married the off-spring of
eminent Afghan leaders. This is how they secured their
foothold in Afghan social networks - something neither
the West nor Pakistan succeeded to do. When issues are
reduced to family relationships, it is not to be
expected that the Afghans would hand over the Arabs to
the West or to Pakistan. Al-Qaida is not only
fortifying itself physically, but also socially. At
the same time their cells and countless collaborating
agencies - some of whom are clearly non-Islamist, and
some of which are government agencies of certain
hostile states - are hoping to escalate this "war
against terrorism" and to exploit it for their own

Q: Do you believe that the USA had long standing
designs to conquer Afghanistan and used the September
11 atrocities as a pretext?

A: I would rather say that somebody else had long
standing designs for a major conflict in which it was
necessary to get the US involved. Those who wiped out
Mr. Massoud a couple of days before the terror strikes
in the US probably knew that the terrorists will be
hunted in Afghanistan.

It is clear that the US, among many others, has long
desired to overthrow the Taliban, and I see nothing
wrong with it. Afghanistan was the easiest target,
because the Taliban was not internationally recognized
(except by three countries at the beginning of the
war), and because there was nobody strong enough to
really side with the Taliban. There was no special
need to demonize them, as they seemed to have done a
good job demonizing themselves. The West was more
concerned with the blowing up a couple of Buddha
statues than with the thousands of victims of the
Taliban's tyranny and of the civil war that continued
to rage in Afghanistan all this time totally ignored
by the Western media until the US got involved again.
The US can, of course, be blamed for hypocrisy, as
always, but the truth is that getting the US involved
has greatly helped those in Afghanistan who had hoped
for decades to overthrow the Taliban.

It is also quite surprising that even Musharraf's
Pakistan seems to have actually benefited from the
present course of affairs, since terrorism has given
Musharraf the pretext of openly siding with the West,
and abandoning all remnants of Pakistan's tolerance of
the Taliban.

Still I would be inclined against any conspiratorial
depiction of the recent events that would blame the US
for all that happened. The US had to react, and
Afghanistan was a logical target. In this sense, the
US did what the terrorists wanted. But they did so in
a much more moderate way, and after much longer
preparations than their enemies had probably hoped
for. One reason is that in the Bush administration
there seems to be significantly more foreign political
expertise than in the Clinton administration that
hastily bombed a couple of targets, including a
factory in Sudan, but always failed to respond to the
real challenge.

In the long run, the threat posed by terrorism will
not be defeated by military operations and not in
Afghanistan. What can be done there is just the
removal of the Taliban regime and helping to construct
a stable and recognized Afghan government. It is
important to give security guarantees to Pakistan and
to support the development that is transforming
Pakistan into a strong and relatively stable
pro-Western Muslim country that can play a similar
role in Central and Southern Asia as Turkey does in
the West and Middle East. At best, this could even
encourage a Musharraf to rise in Iran, which would
yield ultimate benefits to Western interests in Asia.

But then, terrorism must be fought by other means.

This means that Western intelligence must rise to the
level of the Cold War to face challenges by terrorist
organizations as well as by colluding governments. The
West must also resist Huntington's vision coming true,
since this is exactly what the terrorists want: a
clash of civilizations. And we must keep in mind that
there are also many others who would like to see a
worldwide conflagration between the West and Islam.

Q: What is the geostrategic and geopolitical
importance of Afghanistan?

A: Afghanistan is not so significant in itself, if we
only consider economic interests. Of more importance
are some countries situated near Afghanistan,
especially those in Central Asia and Azerbaijan.
Afghanistan is also a traditional buffer zone, since
its landscape is hard to penetrate for tanks and
modern armies. It has prevented the expansion of the
Eurasian Heartland Empire towards Eurasia's southern
rim lands for centuries. It has protected the areas
included in Pakistan and India today, but on the other
hand, turning Afghanistan into a politically or
militarily active area was used to destabilize
Pakistan, or Central Asia, in order to alter the
status quo, whatever it was.

Regarding oil, Afghanistan again forms a bridge or a
barrier. As long as Iran is regarded as a hostile
country by the US, Afghanistan forms an oil transport
route from Central Asia to Pakistan. As long as there
is war in Afghanistan, it remains a barrier preventing
the countries of the Caspian Sea from benefiting from
their oil. Wars in the Caucasus have exactly the same
outcome. While this is the case, only Russia and
perhaps China will have access to and hegemony over
the energy resources in the vast Eurasian heart-land.

I think this is the main geopolitical importance of
both Afghanistan and the Caucasus. It is the question
of Russia monopolizing the geopolitical heartland,
first and foremost. Considering the colossal weight of
geopolitics and geopolitical thought in present
Russian security thinking, these implications cannot
be overestimated.

Q: Can Turkey be drawn into the conflict and, if yes,
what effect will this have on Iran, Central Asia, and

A: It seems Turkey has been drawn into it already. Or
rather, Turkey has volunteered to be drawn into it.
Iran and Russia, of course, share a very hostile
attitude towards any expansion of Turkish influence in
Central Asia and the Caucasus. Turkey and Pakistan, on
the other hand, may finally find each other after a
long period of mutual hostility. They both share a
similar geopolitical importance as potential guardians
of the West. They are among the most important rim
land nations, to borrow a phrase from classical
geopolitics. This means that they are also the most
important barriers on the way of a heartland empire to
aspire to sole Eurasian hegemony.

Turkey has sought to advocate its interests in Central
Asia, where most of the Turkistani nations are
ethnically Turkic (that is, Uzbeks, Turkmens, Kazakhs,
Kyrgyz and Uighurs, while Tajiks are Persian). At the
beginning of the 1990's Turkey tried to play the
ethnic and linguistic cards and the Central Asians
were quite enthusiastic to embrace "the Turkish model"
- that is, a Western orientation and secular state.
But the Central Asian states are still dominated by
communist nomenclatures with strong ties with Moscow.

Turkey's economic problems and generally overly
cautious foreign policy have greatly undermined its
capacity to advocate its own and Western interests in
Central Asia. Moreover, the Central Asian dictators
have interpreted the "Turkish model" in most peculiar
ways, being often closer to the Chinese model than the
Turkish one.

I think Turkey is again trying to prove how
pro-Western it is and how loyal it is to NATO. The
West has usually been much less loyal to Turkey. When
it comes to NATO's influence in Central Eurasia, once
Afghanistan is pacified and US presence probably
strengthened through Uzbekistan (though it is one of
the notoriously disloyal allies of any Western
interest, much resembling the role played by Saudi
Arabia), it is time to come to Georgia's rescue again.
The West had better not be too late in coming to the
aid of Georgia and Azerbaijan, which are both under
serious Russian pressure right now. If the Baku-Ceyhan
pipeline can be completed, then it could be time for a
major reform in Iran as well.


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