Pakistan… it’s complicated.


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As a follow up to my post on CIA Jawbreaker team efforts in Tora Bora, led by CIA’s Gary Berntsen, I have just re-read his on-the-scene accounts leading up to his eventual departure from the battlefield.

In recognizing the three brave American soldiers who were killed by a misguided bomb in that earlier post I failed to include the first American killed in Afghanistan. I refer to first tour, 32 year old CIA officer, Mike Spann. Mike, a former Marine, was killed during the Nov 25, 2001 prisoner uprising at Qala-I Jangi Fortress where he was interrogating the American Taliban, 21 year old John Walker Lynn from Marin County, CA.
Lynn had “crossed the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban. He said “My heart became attached to the Taliban” later explaining, “I wanted to help them one way of another.”
In reading Jawbreaker Gary confirms that it is difficult to establish relationships with allies that in some cases cannot be fully trusted. He also points out support from Pakistan that indirectly led to intel on bin Laden yet, at the same time, addresses their support of the very Taliban we were fighting back in 2001.
i.e. Page 241. On the night of Nov 23rd Northern Alliance sources claimed that two Pakistani planes landed in Kunduz under the cover of darkness to extract key Pakistani advisors to the Taliban and several high ranking Taliban officials. I have no way to confirm this but wasn’t surprised. Pakistani’s interservice intelligence directorate  (ISID) had helped create the Taliban and had been a close ally of their government  for years. I assumed from the beginning of the conflict that ISID advisors were supporting the Taliban with expertise and material and, no doubt, sending a steady stream of intelligence back to Islamabad. We also knew  that thousands of Pakistanis, some from prominent families, had taken up arms to defend the Taliban.
Gilbert note: It is important  to point out that the Taliban and Al Qaeda fought side-by-side in this conflict.
Pg 56 At  a dinner with Northern Alliance leaders Gary mentions remarks from the Northern Alliance Chief of Intel, an Engineer named Ared.
Engineer Aref next spoke about General Pervez Musharef of Pakistan. He stated categorically that the Pakistanis still provided crucial support to the Taliban. And he did not believe that the U.N. Security Council Sanctions of Oct. 15, 1999, had much of an effect on the Taliban.
Let’s flip the coin and see a positive comment about Pakistan support.
Pages 24,25. On the morning of Aug 15, a CIA officer in Karachi, Pakistan, noticed a small article in a side column of a Karachi newspaper. It said that on Aug 8, 1998 ( the day after the bombings of U.S.Embassies in Africa), an Arab traveling on a false Pakistani passport was arrested at Karachi’s International Airport.
Note: CIA censors redacted this account of Al-Qaeda terrorist Saddiq’s arrest in Pakistan).
I watched five Pakistani Security Agents escort a scrawny pathetic looking figure onto the aircraft.
Saddiq Odeh was shackled, wearing handcuffs attached to a belt fastened around his waist, and what looked like 20 feet of tape wrapped around his head and eyes.
I had to resist the impulse to clobber him. Instead I watched him take a seat at the back of the jet, between several Pakistani security agents. Then the plane took off.  REDACTED.
The significance of Saddiq Odeh’s confession was profound. It  meant that Lebanese Hezbollah was no longer the only terrorist group connecting large scale bombings o U.S. targets. Osama bin Laden had graduated into the group. I quickly drafted a detailed report  that was sent  to president Clinton.
Reading further. “Odeh’s knees almost gave out. The FBI wanted immediate custody  of Saddiq. But I didn’t doubt that the Kenyans would get him to talk.
Two Kenyans replaced the Pakistani escorts and Saddiq Odeh was placed in a car and whisked off. He would have a very bad time, and would share everything he knew about Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization
Gilbert note.  I wonder if the Kenyans have their own form of water boarding? I have included the above text to confirm Gary’s involvement with counterterrorism, including bin Laden, as well as the Kenyan’s interrogation which yielded information on bin Laden from their new guest.
Let’s go back for a moment to Aug 14,1998 where one week after the embassy bombings “an Egyptian named Mustapha  REDACTED entered the Embassy of a close ally of the U.S. and said he had information to sell regarding the US Embassy attacks. The friendly government alerted the CIA.
“Although part of his information about the planned attack was confirmed, but part of it was  proven to be false.” On Aug 15th Mustaph REDACTED went to the friendly government’s Embassy in Dar es Salaam for a follow-up visit, only to be shown the door. I stood waiting outside with an Arab speaking FBI agent named Joseph.
Note to reader. CIA censors redacted the investigation of Mustapha REDACTED that later led to this arrest.
[Name of person witheld]
Gilbert note. Fighting these gorilla battles includes unspecified payments to various groups and individuals. Some our outright bribes while other payments might be for food and equipment.  As we debate the current budget one line item that we do not have access to are these buckets of US dollars.
One reference to American money for covert activities that we don’t hear about is found on page 106 where it states: “one last thing, ” I added.” Who has the keys to the cash box?” His aide George removed a cord with a key on it from around his head. “It’s all yours, chief. Eight million bucks.”
“Let’s go count the cash.”
When we ran into Strom (the SAD officer from the previous Jawbreaker), who was organizing weapons, I slapped him on the shouder. “You’re the keeper of the cash now, ” I said. “Come with us.”
George leads to a RubberMaid trunk the size of a small table  filled with eight million dollars. REDACTED.
Page 125. In a discussion with providing resources to the Northern Alliance we get a peek at their perception of America and our struggle to support their efforts.
Exchange between Gary and Majid. “It’s the fault of the U.S. that we suffered such a horrible civil war. You and the Pakistanis armed Gulbuddin Hekmatyr. As a result thousands of Afghans died”.
Gary responds: How dare you blame the people of the U.S. for your past” I shot back.” “We helped drive out the Soviets. If it wasn’t for this U.S. you’d be speaking Russian now.”
[Majid’s] face turned red and he shouted: “Thousands of our people died, because the U.S. did not keep its word and abandoned us the moment the Soviets left.”
I said, “I didn’t have time to fight over who’s to blame for your country’s history, ” and I stormed out.
There is an interesting quote/ headline for Chapter 3 which reads: “You make promises and abandon us. I will never understand your country.”..an aide to General Ahmad Shah Massoud of the Afghan Northern Alliance, Feb 2000.
Gilbert word Loyalty? From the start it was clear that men leading this new Afghan force did not have the same desire we did to pursue and destroy al Qaeda. And many of their foot soldiers were followers of local religious leader Maulawi Younus Khalis, who had instructed them to allow al Qaeda to escape.
Another phrase that comes to mind is risk taking.
President Obama and the entire team did a remarkable job in taking out bin Laden.
Page 63.  Let me take you back to another time when Gary and the Northern Alliance had been planning to kidnap a senior al-Qaeda member…”The aborted Mission to the Panshir continued to leave a sick, empty feeling inside me. As leaders of CTC, Cofer and Hank had shown a willingness to plan and execute risky missions. But neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bill Clinton had the will to wage a real fight against terrorists who were killing U.S. citizens.
As we point fingers trying to see if Pakistan is or was our ally in the fight to rid the world  of bin Laden and the Taliban, Gary points out that “Pakistan had already deployed 4,000 soldiers from their Frontier Force to block the mountain passes in an attempt to keep Osama from escaping into their country. Mind you we are talking about 2001, a decade ago.
I personally am shocked that General Petraeus has been seen in photo clips at an event with Pakistani officers in clips taken in Jan/Feb 2010 at their West Point  facility within a few hundred yards of where bin Laden was living. Where was his (and Pakistani) security to check out the neighborhood?
While we do have a relationship with Pakistan, someone high up in their government, in my humble opinion, was fully aware who their next door neighbor was. Reading of his surrounding himself with hundreds of fighters during his travels in Afghanistan, he apparently did not have any guards at his own enclave.
That is simply beyond comprehension.
In his conclusion Gary points to six important factors that contributed to their success:
1. Intelligence driven warfare
2. Partnership with the Northern Alliance
3. Technology…SOFLAMS, Spectre A-130 gunships, Predator drones, etc
4. Ability of team leaders to make quick decisions on the ground
5. “The Muslim Americans on his team. Hamid, Amir, Bilal, Adam Khan and others who contributed enormously to our success in Afghanistan because of their language skills and familiarity with the native culture.” Gilbert note. Gary speaks Farci which was very useful in his interface.
6. Leadership. General Tommy Franks, Vice Admiral Bert Calland, Chief  CTC Cofer Black (and others whose names are REDACTED.
As always your comments are welcome.
To make sure that I have not mis-stated facts I would suggest following my old saying from president Reagan. “Trust, but verify.”
Buy the Jawbreaker book or, at a minimum, get a copy from your local library if they have a copy on the shelves.


About Larry Gilbert