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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

9/11 Commission Memoranda on Extremism in Pakistan

In light of recent developments in Pakistan, it's useful and interesting to take a look at some of the interviews conducted in Pakistan by the 9/11 Commission, which spoke with State Department hands, Pakistani officials at various levels and local journalists.

What immediately grabs you about these accounts is the breathtaking state of denial among Pakistani officials. One wonders what they think now.

10/25/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with Retired Lt. Gen. Syed Iftikhar Hussain Shah, Governor of the Northwest Frontier Province

"[T]he Governor strongly disputed the coalition perception of the situation. He flatly stated that terrorist groups could not have a base in the NWFP; it was 'impossible.' Madrassas were in cities, not the countryside. Weapons would have to be used for training, making noise that would give them away. That would be reported. Most of the population was not with the jihadis. These people were probably being harbored in Afghanistan."

10/26/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with U.S. State Department Country Team, Islamabad

"Asked what the current government wants to accomplish, beyond the defense and foreign policy sphere, emphasis was placed on economic stability, controlling corruption, sustaining some kind of democratic transition, and developing moderate Islam."

10/27/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with Ashraf Naser, Chief Secretary of Balochistan

"We told him that we had concerns about Balochistan, that many informed officials in both Afghanistan and Pakistan had told us that it is unsafe, insecure and that extremists are gaining the upper hand there. Naser disagreed vehemently with this characterization. 'Why don't you come to Quetta with me? He invited. Foreign journalists roam freely
there. I don't see a problem.' [...]

"Naser said that the U.S. had more or less brought the 9/11 attacks on itself. You left Afghanistan unattended, we told you that was a mistake. We knew what was happening
there. But the Pakistanis could not control the Taliban in Afghanistan.

"He asserted that the recent sectarian killings in Balochistan were part of an Afghan plot to destabilize the region. The suicide bombers were part of Taliban groups trained in Afghanistan, he said. These suicide bombers were Baloch from south of Quetta, they were trained by Indians in Afghanistan. 'The Northern Alliance is openly contemptuous of us.'"

10/27/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with Secretary Tasneem Noorani, Pakistani Ministry of Interior

"He indicated that he and the entire Ministry were in shock by the 9-11 attacks and were struck by the scale and scope of the attacks. They couldn't image that the attacks could be connected with Pakistan. The initial reaction was a total blank. They didn't know how to react.

"Only after the US began discussing Usama bin Laden did the Ministry become aware of UBL and that the region, Pakistan and Afghanistan, was somehow involved. UBL was not known in Pakistan. He is an eccentric Saudi and was not understood by most people. [...]

"The Secretary seemed completely surprised by evidence that KSM had been active in Karachi and that he celebrated the 9-11 attacks in there and was actually interviewed by a journalist in Karachi about the attack. This information was a surprise to the Secretary. He asked for proof. He didn't believe any accounts of journalists in this regard."

The U.S. consul in Karachi didn't fare much better before the Commission's questioning.

10/20/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with Douglas C. Rohn, Consul General, U.S. Consulate, Karachi

"The Consul did not have a very informed understanding of the type and sophistication of the threat in Karachi or the region. He had no estimate of the al Qai' da presence, though he recognized that they have long operated in the region. His insights into the terrorist threat, from his few months on the job, were very basic and didn't provide any new information ... 'we've been attacked here in Karachi, the bad guys are out there, I'm trying to keep American safe.'"

It wasn't all bad, however. There were a few people who seemed to know what they were talking about.

10/25/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with Arlene Ferrill, Consul General, U.S. Consulate, Peshawar

"CG Ferrill commented on the NWFP government that arose out of the parliamentary elections in the fall of 2002. Eveyone had been surprised, including the victors, by the success of the six-party Islamic coalition, led by the JI (Qazi Hussain Ahmed) and JUI(Fezlur Rahman), Their rhetorical agenda calls for restoration of Sharia law and stresses anti-American themes. [Comment: An Islamic coalition also won power at the same time in Balochistan.] The popular climate in the NWFP is anti-American. In that sense, not much has changed in Peshawar since 9111. Though openly wearing guns has stopped in Peshawar, it continues in the tribal areas - as does the availability of a wide variety of arms in nearby bazaars."

10/27/2003: 9/11 Commission Memorandum For The Record, interview with journalist Ahmed Rashid

"[Prior to 9/11], the US had a policy on terrorism, focused only on what they wanted with Bin Laden. But the Americans did not present Pakistan, then under sanctions, either with carrots or with sticks. Clinton had snubbed Pakistan with the way he had handled his visit, favoring India, in March 2000. To present carrots and/or sticks would have required a real geopolitical strategy toward Pakistan, not just toward terrorism."

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.


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