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The Taliban File Part III

Pakistan Provided Millions of Dollars, Arms,
and "Buses Full of Adolescent Mujahid"
to the Taliban in the 1990's

Edited by Sajit Gandhi
(202) 994-7239
gandhi@gwu.edu

March 19, 2004

Above: CIA poster on "Afghanistan's Key Players," circa 2001 (full image)

Washington, DC - Pakistan provided millions of dollars, arms, and "buses full of adolescent mujahid," to the Taliban in the 1990's, according to declassified State Department documents obtained by the National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act, and posted today on the Web.

This third installment of The Taliban File, edited by Archive research associate Sajit Gandhi, includes:

  • An August 27, 1997 cable in which U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Thomas Simons comments on Pakistan's claim that its total aid to the Taliban through the end of 1996 had been only 20 million rupees (approximately one-half million dollars). Simons notes that this amount "did not include access to Pak wheat and POL (Note 1), or the trucks and buses full of adolescent mujahid crossing the frontier shouting 'Allahu Akbar,' and going into the line with a day or two of weapons training." "That," Simons' noted, "was Pakistan's real aid." (Document 4)
  • An October 30, 1997 United Nations cable in which former United Nations Special Mission for Afghanistan (UNSMA) charge Norbert Hull candidly discusses his meetings with Pakistan Foreign Ministry official Iftikhar Murshed. Murshed indicated to Hull that Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif "bluntly demanded that the Taliban make a gesture of goodwill," despite Mullah Rabbani's claim that Afghan interim President Barnahuddin Rabbani was politically irrelevant. (Document 5)
  • A March 9, 1998 cable on a meeting between the U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission Alan Eastham and a source who appears to be Pakistan Foreign Ministry official Iftikhar Murshed, who for the first time admitted that Pakistan provided arms supplies to the Taliban. (Document 6)
  • A July 1, 1998 cable indicating that the Pakistani Prime Minister had recently signed off on a 300 million rupee (approximately 6.5 million dollars) payment to Taliban officials and military commanders, despite the potential that Pakistan-due to sanctions imposed after its May 1998 nuclear tests-could potentially default on its own international loans. (Document 8)
  • A July 2, 1998 cable that not only confirms the planned Pakistani 300 million rupee (approximately 6.5 million dollars) payment, but also indicates that even though certain Taliban officials thought it might be easier to "force bin Laden out" of Afghanistan rather than trying to control him, Supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar's commitment to Osama bin Laden (UBL) precluded this from happening. This cable also shows U.S. concern over repressive Taliban edicts discriminating against women. (Document 9)

Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
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Document 1
U.S. Department of State Report, "Pakistan-Afghanistan Relations," circa January 1996, Confidential, 4 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.

In this summary, the Department of State reports on Afghanistan-Pakistan relations, including the impact each state has on the stability of the other. The report discusses the effects of arms and narco-trafficking--lawlessness, creation of an arms culture, and bombings and assassinations in the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP)-- foreign interference in Afghanistan from India, Iran, Pakistan, and Russia, and concludes with U.S. views and policy interests vis-à-vis Afghanistan. According to the State Department summary Pakistan does "not have a well-conceived end-game for their policy of supporting the Taliban and opposing [Afghan interim President Barnahuddin] Rabbani."

Document 2
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Pakistan [Excised] On Afghanistan, HUA, Bin Laden," February 27, 1997, Confidential, 1 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.

This cable reports former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley's visit to Pakistan for non-official meetings with Pakistanis. While there, Oakley reviewed the situation in Afghanistan, including the possible long-term dangers that Taliban military success could create. His interlocutors discuss the possibility of a "Pushtoon nationalist/Islamic radical blowback," concern over the presence of Harkut ul-Ansar (HUA) camps and fighters inside Afghanistan with the approval of the Taliban and UBL, and Pakistani leverage over the Taliban. According to the source, Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has not only advocated that Pakistan recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government, but also indicates that the ISI has warded off Pak Foreign Ministry "attempts to close certain Madrassas (religious schools) in the tribal agencies and near the Afghan border, which have been the spawning grounds for Taliban hard-liners."

Document 3
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: Straight Talk with [Excised]," August 12, 1997, Confidential, 11pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.
In U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Thomas Simons' meeting with a source who appears to be Shamshad Ahmad, Pakistani envoy to the United Nations, the two men discuss overall Pakistani policy towards the Taliban. Showing excitement over the replacement of UNSMA head Norbert Holl, Ahmad tells Simons that Pakistan wants to "promote inter-Afghan dialogue," and ensure greater United Nations success in bringing peace to Afghanistan. Simons warns Ahmad, after Pakistani recognition of the Taliban in May, that any impression of Pakistan's preference for Holl's replacement Lakdar Brahimi will only fuel rumors that Pakistan is pro-Taliban.
Document 4
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: [Excised] Briefs the Ambassador on his Activities. Pleads for Greater Activism by U.N." August 27, 1997, Confidential, 5 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.

The cable discusses an unidentified source's activities in support of a peaceful resolution for Afghanistan, including meetings in Tehran with Iranian officials, in Dubai with Tajik Yunus Qanuni, and in Kandahar with Taliban ministers Mullah Hassan and Mullah Jalil, whom he advised to improve their image in the international community. U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Thomas Simons, while offering his own analysis of the various parties involved in Afghanistan, comments on Pakistan's claim that its total aid to the Taliban through the end of 1996 had been only 20 million rupees (one-half million dollars), indicating that that amount "did not include access to Pak wheat and POL(I), or the trucks and buses full of adolescent mujahid crossing the frontier shouting "Allahu Akbar," and going into the line with a day or two of weapons training." "That," Simons noted, "was Pakistan's real aid."

Document 5
United Nations Special Mission to Afghanistan (Islamabad) Cable, "Present Pakistani Initiatives in Afghanistan," October 30, 1997, Unclassified, 3 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.

In this UN cable, former head of the United Nations Special Mission for Afghanistan (UNSFMA) Norbert Hull, candidly reports on his meeting with Pakistan Foreign Ministry official Iftikhar Murshed. Murshed discusses the details of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's phone call and subsequent meeting with Taliban official Mullah Rabbani, in which Sharif "bluntly demanded that the Taliban make a gesture of goodwill," towards other factions and meet with Afghan interim president Barnahuddin Rabbani. Murshed also gave his impression of the G8 meeting focusing on Afghanistan, the Afghan UN seat, and potential oil embargoes, labeling the meeting "a non-event."

Document 6
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: [Excised] Describes Pakistan's Current Thinking," March 9, 1998, Confidential, 9 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.
In a meeting between the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad's Deputy Chief of Mission Alan Eastham and a source who appears to be Pakistan Foreign Ministry official Iftikhar Murshed, the officials review U.S. concerns about Osama bin Laden's recent fatwa, the six plus two process for a peaceful resolution to the Afghan civil war, a proposed meeting of Ulema (religious scholars) comprised of both Taliban and members of what would come to be known as the Northern Alliance, border security and protection of its 40 "jeepable" border crossing points, and outside players in Afghanistan. Murshed asserted that Iran was exerting strong influence in the North, and said that the Government of Pakistan "had not provided arms and ammunition to the Taliban since three or four months." According to the cable's comments this seems to be the first time that Murshed or any Pakistani official admitted that Pakistan provided arms supplies to the Taliban.  
Document 7
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: [Excised] Criticizes GOP's Afghan Policy; Says It Is Letting Policy Drift," June 16, 1998, Confidential, 2 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.
Pakistan's Afghan policy and Pakistan's trouble controlling the border areas were the subjects of embassy talks with a source who appears to be former Pakistani Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar. Babar, hinting at the lack of Pakistani interest in controlling its border with Afghanistan, suggested that ties between Pakistani and Afghan Pashtuns are strengthening, which could have negative consequences for Afghanistan. Babar also discussed the ISI's involvement in Afghanistan, indicating that he "personally supported the deployment of ISI officers operating out of the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, and from Herat, Kandahar, and the Jalalabad Consulates." In this way, he said, not only can the ISI provide the Taliban with advice, the Government of Pakistan (GOP) also possesses the ability to monitor what the ISI is doing.
Document 8
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Bad News on Pak Afghan Policy: GOP Support for the Taliban Appears to be Getting Stronger," July 1, 1998, Confidential, 2 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.

This cable, sourced by journalist Ahmed Rashid (Note 2) and UN political adviser Arnie Schifferdecker, shows Pakistan's growing support for the Taliban during the late 1990's. According to Rashid, and confirmed by other sources, the Pakistani government recently agreed to provide the Taliban 300 million rupees (approximately 6.5 million dollars) in financial support. The money, which was to be delivered at a rate of 50 million rupees (approximately one million dollars) a month, was earmarked to pay the salaries of Taliban officials and commanders. Schifferdecker noted that his source, Pakistan's Afghan desk officer Ayyaz Wazir confirmed the amount of aid, but declared that it was for "humanitarian assistance."

This discourse occurs in the wake of India and Pakistan's May 1998 nuclear tests. The Embassy comment notes that some observers see increased regional tension between India and Pakistan as the catalyst for increased Pakistani funding for the Taliban, while others think the increased financial constraints on Pakistan in the aftermath of the tests will force the Government of Pakistan (GOP) to limit its support to the Taliban.

Document 9
U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, "Afghanistan: In July 2 Meeting, [Excised] Defends Discriminatory Edicts on Women and Girls, and Controls on NGO's," July 2, 1998, Confidential, 9 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive.
This cable discusses a meeting between U.S. Embassy official Joe Novak and a source who appears to be Taliban official Abdul Mujahid. The cable notes that U.S. officials urged the Taliban to withdraw edicts that discriminate against women and that impose new controls on non-governmental organizations (NGO's).

The Taliban official (Mujahid) responded by indicating his personal discomfort with the new Taliban edicts against women, despite defending the Taliban position. He then went on to confirm that the GOP has committed to giving the Taliban 300 million rupees (approximately 6.5 million dollars) "for humanitarian activities." When embassy official Novak rejoined that there were reports that the money was "earmarked to pay the salaries of Taliban officials and military commanders," and not humanitarian activities, Mujahid just smiled.

Mujahid also stated that the Taliban kept tight control of Osama bin Laden and that while it might be easier to force bin Laden out of the country, this would be implausible because of Supreme Taliban leader Mullah Omar's commitment to him.


Notes

1. The abbreviation POL stands for Petroleum, Oil, and Lubricants.

2. Ahmed Rashid covered Afghanistan-Pakistan relations for the Far Eastern Economic Review, and is the author of Taliban: Militant Oil, Islam, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia.

 

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