Ties With Terror: The Continuity of Western-Al-Qaeda Relations in the Post-Cold War Period

Nafeez Ahmed

Actual Document

An accurate understanding of the history of US relations with the Afghan mujahideen who went on to join al-Qaeda’s international terrorist network is crucial to understanding the anatomy of international terrorism today.

I will attempt here to condense this history in order to capture some of its most striking and significant features. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate as fact a hypothesis that flies entirely in the face of the official narrative – that US relations with the mujahideen did not end with the Cold War, but on the contrary have continued to this day in the post-Cold War era; and that this subtle, hidden relationship contributes directly to the systematic undermining of national security, through the cultivation of the sources of international terrorism. Most importantly, I will show that this conclusion is based on reliable, credible sources from the public record. And further, I must emphasize, I will not delve into any form of theoretical speculation, but will concentrate solely on alerting you to verifiable information that can be subject to further investigation.

I will divide this presentation into the following sections:

1. The Formation of al-Qaeda
2. The Utility of al-Qaeda Beyond Afghanistan
3. Al-Qaeda in the Balkans
4. Al-Qaeda in North Africa
5. Al-Qaeda in the Asia-Pacific
6. Al-Qaeda in the Caucasus
7. Conclusion

In the interests of being both as concise and comprehensive as possible, I will cite a very limited amount of data for each section as necessary to articulate the main substance of my research. For further in-depth understanding of the issues raised here, I recommend referring to my book, The War on Truth.

1. The Formation of al-Qaeda
As early as June 1979, and perhaps earlier, the United States had already commenced a series of covert operations in Afghanistan designed to exploit the potential for social conflict. According to Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Adviser under the Carter Administration, US involvement had begun long before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan on December 27, 1979. (1) Brzezinski’s revelations have been corroborated by former CIA Director Robert Gates in his memoirs From the Shadows, where he writes that US intelligence began sponsoring an Afghan rebellion in Afghanistan six months before Soviet intervention. (2)

According to Jane's Defense Weekly, the ISI operatives in contact with al-Qaeda had received assistance from “American Green Beret commandos and Navy SEALS in various US training establishments.” Over 10,000 mujahideen were “trained in guerilla warfare and armed with sophisticated weapons.” By 1988, Jane's reports that “with US knowledge, Bin Laden created Al Qaeda (The Base): a conglomerate of quasi-independent Islamic terrorist cells in countries spread across at least 26 countries.” But in the meantime, “Washington turned a blind eye to Al-Qaeda.” (3)

2. The Utility of al-Qaeda Beyond Afghanistan
After the departure of Soviet troops from Afghanistan and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the anti-Soviet Afghan factions began competing for power. Although in 1991 the US and the USSR formally agreed to jointly cease aiding any faction in Afghanistan, the US Department of State had remained anxious about who might emerge as the winner of this competition. According to Labeviere, European intelligence sources reveal that the CIA and the Saudis – intent on securing a regime commensurate with their joint regional interests – agreed that they did not want to give up “the assets of such a profitable collaboration,” referring to the Cold War Afghan-US alliance controlled significantly by Osama bin Laden. Accordingly, in 1991, the CIA, Saudi intelligence, and bin Laden held a series of meetings. Although exactly what was agreed upon remains secret, Labeviere reports that the CIA remained determined to maintain its influence in Afghanistan, “the vital route to Central Asia where the great oil companies were preparing the energy eldorado for the coming millenium.” The Saudis were also intent on preserving the bin Laden-Pakistan alliance “at all costs,” which was agreeable for the US in order to ensure a regional stalwart against influence from Shi’ite Iran. (4)

Labeviere’s findings are corroborated by other credible sources. After the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Osama bin Laden “returned for a short period to Saudi Arabia to tend to the family construction business at its Jeddah head office.” (5) Even after 1991 when Saudi security held on to bin Laden’s passport purportedly “to prevent or at least discourage his contact with extremists he had worked with… during the Afghan jihad,” he had considerable influence in Saudi circles: “After Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait he lobbied the Saudi royal family to organize civil defense in the kingdom and to raise a force from among the Afghan war veterans to fight Iraq.” (6)

The Saudi regime turned down his offer, instead accepting the influx of 300,000 US soldiers. According to Gerald Posner – a leading investigative journalist who contributes regularly to NBC’s TODAY Show – this was the key point at which bin Laden decided to become an enemy of the Saudi regime. But in April 1991, according to a classified US intelligence report, then head of Saudi intelligence services Prince Turki al-Faisal struck a secret deal with bin Laden – despite his being under house arrest for his opposition to the presence of US soldiers. Under the deal, although the regime would publicly disown him, bin Laden was permitted to leave Saudi Arabia with his funding and supporters. Moreover, the regime would continue to fund his activities on condition that he does not target the Saudi kingdom itself. (7) Posner’s account of a secret arrangement between bin Laden and Saudi intelligence known to US intelligence confirms the general tenor of Labeviere’s findings. Citing European intelligence sources, however, Labeviere, goes further in suggesting that the CIA was integrally involved in the 1991 Saudi-bin Laden agreement. Even by Posner’s account though, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion of at least tacit US connivance in the agreement since US intelligence was clearly aware of the deal but did nothing about it.

According to a former CIA analyst cited by Labeviere in his Dollars for Terror: “The policy of guiding the evolution of Islam and of helping them against our adversaries worked marvelously well in Afghanistan against the Red Army. The same doctrines can still be used to destabilize what remains of Russian power, and especially to counter the Chinese influence in Central Asia.” (8)

In other words, the CIA had always seen vast potential to use the terrorist network established by bin Laden during the Cold War in an international framework in the post-Cold War era against the Russian and Chinese power, i.e. in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and Central Asia.

3. Al-Qaeda in the Balkans
Successive US administrations have used al-Qaeda to pursue strategic interests in the Balkans. A further examination of this issue, however, reveals that the US-al-Qaeda alliance in the Balkans has been instrumental in facilitating successive terrorist attacks against US targets. Nevertheless, the alliance continues to this day. As the London Spectator noted:

America’s role in backing the Mujahideen a second time in the early and mid-1990’s is seldom mentioned… From 1992 to 1995, the Pentagon assisted with the movement of thousands of Mujahideen and other Islamic elements from Central Asia into Europe, to fight alongside Bosnian Muslims against the Serbs… If Western intervention in Afghanistan created the Mujahideen, Western intervention in Bosnia appears to have globalised it. (9)

This secret US-backed conduit between Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Bosnian Muslims was also used to fly in al-Qaeda mujahideen forces connected to Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, Algeria, Chechnya, Yemen, Sudan, and elsewhere. The US played a very direct role in facilitating this influx. According to one authoritative report from London’s International Media Corporation affiliated to Washington DC’s International Strategic Studies Association: “The Mujahideen landing at Ploce are reported to have been mujahideen accompanied by US Special Forces equipped with high-tech communications equipment.” Intelligence sources indicated that “the mission of the US troops was to establish a command, control, communications and intelligence network to coordinate and support Bosnian Muslim offensives – in concert with Mujahideen and Bosnian Croat forces.” The US military, in other words, was actively coordinating on the ground with several thousand members of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network in Bosnia. (10)

According to Yossef Bodansky, Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, most reliable intelligence estimates indicate that the number of al-Qaeda affiliated mujahideen operating in Bosnia at this time was more than 10,000. (11)

The policy of connecting with al-Qaeda in the Balkans continued in relation to the Kosovo conflict. As early as 1998, the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization connected to al-Qaeda. (12) Other US intelligence reports prove that not only is the KLA funded from afar by al-Qaeda, numerous KLA fighters have trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan and Albania, and numerous al-Qaeda mujihadeen have joined the ranks of the KLA. The reports substantiate a “link” between bin Laden and the KLA, “including a common staging area in Tropoje, Albania, a center for Islamic terrorists.” KLA-sponsored border crossings into Kosovo from Albania of hundreds of foreign fighters include “veterans of the militant group Islamic Jihad from Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan,” carrying forged Macedonian Albanian passports. (13)

As Ralf Mutschke, Assistant Director of Interpol’s Criminal Intelligence Directorate, testified before Congress in December 2000: “In 1998, the US State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Osama bin Laden.” Mutschke also confirmed that Osama bin Laden sent one of his top military commanders to Kosovo to lead “an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict.” (14)

While much of the KLA’s funds came from Osama bin Laden as reported by Mutschke, and while KLA fighters were trained in al-Qaeda camps, US and British military intelligence personnel actively mingled with the al-Qaeda backed KLA, providing them further extensive training and assistance. The Sunday Times reported that since March 1999: “American intelligence agents have admitted they helped to train the Kosovo Liberation Army before NATO’s bombing of Yugoslavia.” CIA officers were “developing ties with the KLA and giving American military training manuals and field advice on fighting the Yugoslav army and Serbian police” under the cover of ceasefire monitors. The US military gave KLA commanders – including no doubt Osama’s own military commander in Kosovo – “satellite telephones and global positioning systems.” KLA commanders also “had the mobile phone number of General Wesley Clark, the NATO commander.” (15) The Herald also disclosed that:

Both the UK and the US set up clandestine camps inside Albania to teach the KLA effective guerilla tactics… Despite government denials on both sides of the Atlantic, SAS (British Special Forces) and US Delta Force instructors were used to train Kosovar Volunteers in weapons handling, demolition and ambush techniques, and basic organization. (16)

The same has been noted by Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional anti-terrorism task force, who also notes that the KLA and its Albanian mafia allies constitute a vital arm of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network within the US, providing broad financial and logistical support for operations. “The role of the Albanian Mafia, which is tightly connected to the KLA, is laundering money, providing technology, safe houses, and other support to terrorists within this country…

This isn’t to say that the Albanians themselves would carry out the actual terrorist operations. But there are undoubtedly “sleeper” agents within the Albanian networks, and they can rely upon those networks to provide them with support. In any case, a serious investigation of the Albanian mob isn’t going to happen, because they’re “our boys” – they’re protected.

The KLA/Albanian mafia network camouflages the “blonde-haired, blue-eyed Bosnians and Albanians who are bin Laden operatives. After the last attack we’re all looking for Arab suspects, but it’s not going to be that easy.” (17)

End Part I