ISI and 9-11
Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and
the Pentagon, a delegation led by the head of Pakistan's military
intelligence agency (ISI) Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, was in Washington
for high level talks at the State Department.1
Most U.S. media conveyed the impression that Islamabad had put together
a delegation at Washington's behest, and that the invitation to
the meeting had been transmitted to the Pakistan government "after"
the tragic events of September 11.
But this is not what happened.
Pakistan's chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad "was in the
U.S. when the attacks occurred." 2. According to The New York
Times, "he happened to be here on a regular visit of consultations."
Not a word was mentioned regarding the nature of his "business"
in the U.S. in the week prior to the terrorist attacks. According
to Newsweek, he was "on a visit to Washington at the time of
the attack, and, like most other visitors, is still stuck there,"
unable to return home because of the freeze on international airline
General Ahmad had in fact arrived in the U.S. on the 4th of September,
a full week before the attacks. 5 Bear in mind that the purpose
of his meeting at the State Department on the 13th was only made
public "after" the September 11 terrorist attacks, when
the Bush Administration took the decision to formally seek the "cooperation"
of Pakistan in its "campaign against international terrorism."
The press reports confirm that Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad had two
meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, respectively
on the 12th and 13th. 6 After September 11, he also met Senator
Joseph Biden, chairman of the powerful Committee on Foreign Relations
of the Senate.
Confirmed by several press reports, however, he also had "a
regular visit of consultations" with U.S. officials during
the week prior to September 11, --i.e. meetings with his U.S. counterparts
at the CIA and the Pentagon. 7
What was the nature of these routine "consultations"?
Were they in any way related to the subsequent "post-September
11 consultations" pertaining to Pakistan's decision to cooperate
with Washington, held behind closed doors at the State Department
on September 12 and 13? Was the planning of war being discussed
between Pakistani and U.S .officials?
"The ISI-Osama-Taliban Axis"
On the 9th of September, the leader of the Northern Alliance Commander
Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated. The Northern Alliance had informed
the Bush Administration that the ISI was allegedly implicated in
the assassination: The Northern Alliance had confirmed in an official
a `Pakistani ISI-Osama-Taliban axis' [was responsible] of plotting
the assassination by two Arab suicide bombers.... `We believe that
this is a triangle between Osama bin Laden, ISI, which is the intelligence
section of the Pakistani army, and the Taliban,' 8
More generally, the complicity of the ISI in the "ISI-Osama-Taliban
axis" was a matter of public record, confirmed by congressional
transcripts and numerous intelligence reports.9
The Bush Administration Cooperates with Pakistan's Military-Intelligence
The Bush Administration consciously took the decision in "the
post September 11 consultations" at the State Department to
directly "cooperate" with Pakistan's military intelligence
(ISI) despite its links to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and its
alleged role in the assassination of Commander Masood, which coincidentally
occurred two days before the terrorist attacks.
Meanwhile, the Western media --in the face of mounting evidence--
had remained silent on the insidious role of Pakistan's Military
Intelligence agency (ISI). The assassination of Masood was mentioned,
but its political significance in relation to September 11 and the
subsequent decision to go to war against Afghanistan, was barely
Without discussion or debate, Pakistan had been heralded as a "friend"
and ally of America.
In an utterly twisted logic, the U.S. media had concluded in chorus
U.S. officials had sought cooperation from Pakistan [precisely]
because it is the original backer of the Taliban, the hard-line
Islamic leadership of Afghanistan accused by Washington of harboring
bin Laden. 10
From The Horse's Mouth
Nobody seemed to have noticed the obtrusive and unsubtle falsehoods
behind the Administration's "campaign against international
terrorism", with perhaps the exception of an inquisitive journalist
who questioned Colin Powell at the outset of his State department
briefing on Thursday September 13th:
[Does] the U.S. see Pakistan as an ally or, as the "Patterns
of Global Terrorism" pointed out, a place where terrorist groups
get training. Or is it a mixture?" 11
"Patterns of Global Terrorism" referred by the journalist
is a publication of the U.S. State Department which confirms that
the government of President Pervez Musharraf has links to international
The United States remains concerned about reports of continued Pakistani
support for the Taliban's military operations in Afghanistan. Credible
reporting indicates that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with
materiel, fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers.
Pakistan has not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals
from moving into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. Islamabad
also failed to take effective steps to curb the activities of certain
madrassas, or religious schools, that serve as recruiting grounds
for terrorism. 12
Behind Closed Doors at the State Department
The Bush Administration had sought the "cooperation" of
those, who were directly supporting and abetting the terrorists.
Absurd, but at the same time consistent with Washington's broader
strategic and economic objectives in Central Asia.
The meeting behind closed doors at the State Department on September
13 between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Lt. General
Mahmoud Ahmad was shrouded in secrecy. Remember President Bush was
not even involved in these crucial negotiations:
"Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage handed over [to
ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad] a list of specific steps Washington wanted
Pakistan to take".13 "After a telephone conversation between
[Secretary of State Colin] Powell and Pakistani President Pervez
Musharraf, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Pakistan
had promised to cooperate." 14 President George W. Bush later
confirmed (also on the morning of September 13th) that the Pakistan
government had accepted "to cooperate and to participate as
we hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable, despicable
act on America''. 15
Former Iran-Contragate Officials Call the Shots
Bear in mind that Richard Armitage had served as Assistant Secretary
of Defense for International Security under the Reagan Administration.
"He worked closely with Oliver North and was involved in the
Iran-contra arms smuggling scandal." 16
In many regards, the pattern of Bush Junior appointments replicate
the Iran-Contragate team of the Reagan and Bush senior administrations:
The same kind of appointments are being made in foreign policy.
Bush has been choosing people from the most dubious part of the
Republican stable of the 1980s, those engaged in the Iran-Contra
affair... Armitage served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for
International Security Affairs in the Reagan years, but a 1989 appointment
in the elder Bush administration was withdrawn before hearings because
of controversy over Iran-Contra and other scandals. 17
Armitage was one of the main architects behind U.S. covert support
to the Mujahedin and the "militant Islamic base, both during
the Afghan-Soviet war as well as in its aftermath. U.S. covert support
was financed by the Golden Crescent drug trade.
This pattern has not been fundamentally altered. It still constitutes
an integral part of U.S. foreign policy by the Bush Administration
and the basis of CIA covert operations.
Pakistan's Chief Spy on Mission to Afghanistan
On September 13th, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf confirmed
that he would send chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad to meet the
Taliban and negotiate the extradition of Osama bin Laden. This decision
was at Washington's behest, most probably agreed upon during the
meeting between Dick Armitage and General Mahmoud at the State Department.
Pakistan's chief spy is rapidly whisked back from Washington to
At American urging, Ahmed traveled ... to Kandahar, Afghanistan.
There he delivered the bluntest of demands. Turn over bin Laden
without conditions, he told Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, or face
certain war with the United States and its allies. 18
Mahmoud's meetings on two separate missions with the Taliban were
reported as a "failure." Yet this "failure"
to extradite Osama was part of Washington's design, providing a
pretext for a military intervention which was already in the pipeline.
If Osama had been extradited, the main justification for waging
a war "against international terrorism" would no longer
hold. And the evidence suggests that this war had been planned well
in advance of September 11, in response to broad strategic and economic
Meanwhile, senior Pentagon and State Department officials had been
rushed to Islamabad to put the finishing touches on America's war
plans. And on Sunday prior to the onslaught of the bombing of major
cities in Afghanistan by the U.S. Air Force (October 7th), Lt. General
Mahmoud Ahmad was sacked from his position as head of the ISI in
what was described as a routine "reshuffling."
"The Missing Link"
In the days following Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad's dismissal, a report
published in the Times of India, which went virtually unnoticed
by the Western media, revealed the links between Pakistan's Chief
spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad and the presumed "ring leader"
of the WTC attacks Mohamed Atta. In many regards, the Times of India
report constitutes "the missing link" to an understanding
of who was behind the terrorist attacks of September 11:
While the Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations claimed that
former ISI director-general Lt-Gen Mahmoud Ahmad sought retirement
after being superseded on Monday [8 October], the day the U.S. started
bombing Afghanistan], the truth is more shocking. Top sources confirmed
here on Tuesday [October 9], that the general lost his job because
of the "evidence" India produced to show his links to
one of the suicide bombers that wrecked the World Trade Centre.
The US authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact
that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan
by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen. Mahmoud. Senior government
sources have confirmed that India contributed significantly to establishing
the link between the money transfer and the role played by the dismissed
ISI chief. While they did not provide details, they said that Indian
inputs, including Sheikh's mobile phone number, helped the FBI in
tracing and establishing the link.
A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous
repercussions. The U.S. cannot but suspect whether or not there
were other senior Pakistani Army commanders who were in the know
of things. Evidence of a larger conspiracy could shake U.S. confidence
in Pakistan's ability to participate in the anti-terrorism coalition.
According to FBI files, Mohamed Atta was "the lead hijacker
of the first jet airliner to slam into the World Trade Center and,
apparently, the lead conspirator" 20
The Times of India article was based on an official intelligence
report of the Delhi government that had been transmitted through
official channels to Washington. Agence France Press (AFP) confirms
in this regard that:
A highly-placed government source told AFP that the "damning
link" between the General and the transfer of funds to Atta
was part of evidence which India has officially sent to the U.S.
`The evidence we have supplied to the U.S. is of a much wider range
and depth than just one piece of paper linking a rogue general to
some misplaced act of terrorism,' the source said. 21
Pakistan's Military-Intelligence Agency behind September 11?
The revelation of the Times of India article has several implications.
The report not only points to the links between ISI Chief General
Ahmad and terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta, it also indicates that
other ISI officials might have had contacts with the terrorists.
Moreover, it suggests that the September 11 attacks were not an
act of "individual terrorism" organised by a separate
Al Qaeda cell, but rather they were part of coordinated military-intelligence
operation, emanating from Pakistan's ISI.
The Times of India report also sheds light on the nature of General
Ahmad's "business activities" in the U.S. during the week
prior to September 11, raising the distinct possibility of ISI contacts
with Mohamed Atta in the U.S. in the week "prior" to the
attacks on the WTC, precisely at the time when General Mahmoud and
his delegation were on a so-called "regular visit of consultations"
with U.S. officials. Remember, Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad arrived
in the U.S. on the 4th of September.
U.S. Approved Appointee
In assessing the alleged links between the terrorists and the ISI,
it should be understood that Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad as head of
the ISI was a "U.S. approved appointee". As head of the
ISI since 1999, he was in liaison with his U.S. counterparts in
the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and the Pentagon.
Also bear in mind that Pakistan's ISI remained throughout the entire
post Cold War era until the present, the launch pad for CIA covert
operations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans 22
In other words, General Mahmoud Ahmad as head of the ISI was serving
US foreign policy interests. His dismissal on the orders of Washington
was not the result of a fundamental political disagreement. Without
US support channeled through the Pakistani ISI, the Taliban would
not have been able to form a government in 1996. Jane Defense Weekly
confirms in this regard that "half of Taliban manpower and
equipment originate[d] in Pakistan under the ISI," which in
turn was supported by the U.S.23 Moreover, the assassination of
the leader of the Northern Alliance General Ahmad Shah Masood --in
which the ISI is alleged to have been implicated-- was not in contradiction
with U.S. foreign policy objectives. Since the late 1980s, the U.S.
had consistently sought to side-track and weaken Masood who was
perceived as a nationalist reformer, by providing support to both
to the Taliban and the Hezb-I-Islami group led by Gulbuddin Hektmayar
Corroborated by Congressional Transcripts
Corroborated by the House of Representatives Internaitonal Relations
Committee, U.S. support funneled through the ISI to the Taliban
and Osama bin Laden has been a consistent policy of the U.S. Administration
since the end of the Cold War:
...[T]he United States has been part and parcel to supporting the
Taliban all along, and still is let me add... You have a military
government [of President Musharraf] in Pakistan now that is arming
the Taliban to the teeth....Let me note; that [U.S.] aid has always
gone to Taliban areas... We have been supporting the Taliban, because
all our aid goes to the Taliban areas. And when people from the
outside try to put aid into areas not controlled by the Taliban,
they are thwarted by our own State Department... At that same moment,
Pakistan initiated a major resupply effort, which eventually saw
the defeat, and caused the defeat, of almost all of the anti-Taliban
forces in Afghanistan. 24
Cover-up and Complicity
The existence of an "ISI-Osama-Taliban axis" is a matter
of public record. The links between the ISI and agencies of the
U.S. government including the CIA are also a matter of public record.
Pakistan's ISI has been used by successive U.S. adminstrations as
"a go-between." Pakistan's military-intelligence apparatus,
constitutes the core institutional support to both Osama's Al Qaeda
and the Taliban. Without this institutional support, there would
be no Taliban government in Kabul. In turn, without the unbending
support of the U.S. government. there would be no powerful military-intelligence
apparatus in Pakistan.
Senior officials in the State Department were fully cognizant of
General Mahmoud Ahmad's role. In the wake of September 11, the Bush
Administration consciously sought the "cooperation" of
the ISI which had been supporting and abetting Osama bin Laden and
In other words, the Bush Administration's relations with Pakistan's
ISI --including its "consultations" with General Mahmoud
Ahmad in the week prior to September 11-- raise the issue of "cover-up"
as well as "complicity". While Ahmad was talking to U.S.
officials at the CIA and the Pentagon, the ISI allegedly had contacts
with the September 11 terrorists.
According to the Indian government intelligence report (referred
to in the Times of India), the perpetrators of the September 11
attacks had links to Pakistan's ISI, which in turn has links to
agencies of the US government. What this suggests is that key individuals
within the US military-intelligence establishment might have known
about ISI contacts with the September 11 terrorist "ring-leader"
Mohamed Atta and failed to act.
Whether this amounts to the outright complicity of the Bush Administration
remains to be firmly established.
What is crystal clear, however, is that this war is not a "campaign
against international terrorism." It is a war of conquest with
devastating consequences for the future of humanity. And the American
people have been consciously and deliberately misled by their government.
Ultimately the truth must prevail. The falsehoods behind America's
war against the people of Afghanistan must be unveiled.
1. The Guardian, 15 September 2001.
2. Reuters, 13 September 2001.
3. The New York Times, 13 September 2001.
4. Newsweek, 14 September 2001.
5. The Daily Telegraph. London, 14 September 2001,
6. The New York Times, September 13th 2001 confirms the meeting
on September 12th
7. The New York Times, 13 September 2001.
8. The Northern Alliance's statement was released on 14 September
2001, quoted in Reuters 15 September 2001.
9. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, "Osamagate",
Centre for Research on Globalisation (CRG), at globalresearch.ca,
10. Reuters 13 September 2001.
11. Journalist's question to Secretary of State Colin Powell, State
Department Briefing, 13 September 2001.
12. U.S. State Department, "Patterns of Global Terrorism,"
State Department, Washington 2000.
13. Reuters, 13 September 2001
15. Presidential Papers, Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With
New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York Governor George
Pataki and an Exchange With Reporters, 13 September 2001.
16. The Guardian, 15 September 2001.
17. United Press International, Face-off: Bush's foreign policy
warriors,by Peter Roff and James Chapin, UPI, 18 July 2001.
18. The Washington Post, 23 September 2001.
19. The Times of India, Delhi, 9 October 2001
20. The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No 7, October 2001.
21. AFP, 10 October 2001
22. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin
Laden, Centre for Research on Globalisation, 12 September 2001
23. Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, 3 September 1998.
24. U.S. House of Representatives: Statement by Rep. Dana Rohrbacher,
Hearing of The House International Relations Committee on "Global
Terrorism And South Asia", Washington, July 12, 2000.
Michel Chossudovsky is a Professor of Economics at the University
of Ottawa, Canada. He is also the editor of the Montreal-based Centre
for Research on Globalisation (CRG), an independent research and
media group of progressive writers, scholars and activists committed
to curbing the tide of "globalisation" and "disarming"
the New World Order.