Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam
Chapter 11: Pakistan's Surge Into Central Asia

The Pakistani-Chechen Dimension

"For years, violent Islamist groups were allowed to settle in Britain, using the country as a base to carry out attacks abroad. This was tolerated in the belief that they would not bomb the country where they lived and that, as long as they are here, the security service would be able to infiltrate them. At the same time mosque after mosque was taken over through intimidation by the fundamentalists. Police and others in authority refused pleas from moderate Muslims with the excuse that they did not want to interfere. There was even a name for this amoral accommodation: the 'covenant of security'. We now know that jihadists will indeed blow up their home country and that the security agencies signally failed to infiltrate the terrorist cells while they had the chance. The part played by officials in the growth of terrorism in Britain is a relatively small-scale affair compared to what went on abroad. Successive UK governments had nurtured and promoted extremists for reasons of realpolitik often at a terrible cost to the population of those countries. Mark Curtis, in his book on 'Britain's collusion with radical Islam', charts this liaison. He points out how reactionary and violent Muslim groups were used against secular nationalists at the time of empire and continued afterwards to back UK and Western interests. The price for this is now being paid at home and abroad....Curtis points out that two of the most active Islamist commanders carrying out attacks in Afghanistan, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Jalalludin Haqqani, had particularly close contacts with the UK in the past. Hekmatyar met Margaret Thatcher in Downing Street when he was a favourite of MI6 and the CIA in the war against the Russians. Haqqani, while not the 'Taliban's overall military commander fighting the British' as Curtis says (he runs his own network parallel to the Taliban), was viewed as a highly useful tool in that conflict. The Western use of the Mujaheddin as proxy fighters is well documented. It resulted in the spawning of al-Qa'ida, the spread of international terrorism, and the empowering of ISI, the Pakistani secret police, who became their sponsors. Curtis examines the lesser known by-products of this jihad: the dispatch of Afghan Islamist veterans, with the connivance of Britain and the US, to the wars in the Balkans and the former Soviet republics in central Asia, and ethnic Muslim areas of China. Vast sums of money from the West's great ally, Saudi Arabia, helped fund the Reagan administration's clandestine war in support of repressive military juntas in Latin America while, at the same time, buttressing the aggressive Wahabi faith embraced by many terrorist groups. The use of hardline Islam by the West was particularly prevalent at the time of the Cold War. In many instances, however, the targets for destabilisation were not Communist regimes but leaders who had adopted left-wing policies deemed to pose a threat to Western influence and interests. The UK attempted to combat 'virus of Arab nationalism', after Gamal Abdel Nasser came to power in Egypt and nationalised the Suez Canal, by forging links with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organisation involved in terrorism. The nationalisation of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company by the democratically elected Iranian government of Mohammed Mossadeq led to a British-American organised coup which was facilitated by Ayatollah Seyyed Kashani, one of whose followers was the young Ruhollah Khomeini. In Indonesia, the removal of Ahmed Sukarno in another military coup by the UK-US was carried out with the help of Darul Islam. Its followers went on to massacre socialists and trade unionists. In each of these cases the clandestine backing of Britain and the US strengthened Islamist groups at the expense of secular bodies and moderate Muslims. These groups then went to form terrorist groups whom the West would later have to confront in the 'War on Terror'."
Book Review - Secret Affairs By Mark Curtis
Independent, 30 July 2010

The Pakistani-Chechen Dimension

Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion with Radical Islam - Chapter 11: Pakistan's Surge Into Central Asia
By Mark Curtis, former Research Fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) and former Head of Policy at ActionAid and Christian Aid
Serpent's Tail (Profile Books Ltd), 2012 Edition

"In the early 1990s it was not only Saudi Arabia that bolstered the rise of radical Islamist groups which emerged from the Afghanistan war..... Islamabad undertook a new wave of operations by using Pakistani, Afghan and other Sunni jihadists to promote its foreign policy goals both in Kashmir and across Central Asia - a big push the consequences of which are still with us.

Moreover, Britain armed and trained the Pakistani military at this time while deepening commercial relations. London not only turned a blind eye to the Pakistani push but conducted covert activities of its own, its eyes set on new oil and gas reserves in the Central Asia region. Just as Britain had sponsored Islamic radicals to destabilise the Soviet regime in the past, now Pakistan's backing of these forces was useful to Britain in countering communist governments that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet empire, and to reduce Russian influence in the region. Islamabad's surge in Central Asia coincided with a new jihad in Bosnia from 1992, backed by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran as well as Britain and the US ... These concurrent episodes constituted a second wave in the development of global terrorism after the first wave in Afghanistan the previous decade.

Even after the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, Muslim volunteers for jihad continued to flow into Pakistan and Afghanistan. Throughout the early 1990s Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, trained around 20,000 militant volunteers at a special training school north of Peshawar.... The school's founder was Abdul Sayyaf, the pro-Saudi mujahideen leader during the Afghan war, and its funders were mainly Saudi Arabia and Osama Bin Laden. Pakistan's secret services also continued to run some of the Afghan training camps, and funded training by another mujahideen commander, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, of militants from the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET) groups. It was from this infrastructure of terrorism that the Taliban would soon emerge and which Bin Laden would draw on after arriving back in Afghanistan in 1996...

During the 1990s, some groups operating in Kashmir with ISI support turned to terrorism in places such as Tajikistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and the Philippines. The HUA [Harkat-ul-Ansar] expanded its focus from Afghanistan and Kashmir and participated in the Bosnian war from 1992, kidnapping US and British nationals in New Delhi in 1994, and was involved in kidnapping Westerners in Kashmir the following year. The HUA also set up a network of activists in the US and began to raise funds from members of the Muslim community in Britain. By now, the Pakistani military and intelligence community also had its sights set on another target well beyond Kashmir - Central Asia.

The Pakistani strategy to 'recover' Kashmir was part of a broader campaign to exert influence over the Central Asian Silk Road to China, which would benefit the country economically and enable it to act as a strategic power between Iran and China. It soon involved covert operations in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to Pakistan's north, and the Russian republic of Chechnya to its west. By 1994, the military under Benazir Bhutto's government was training hundreds of Chechens, Uzbeks and Tajiks at camps in Afghanistan in techniques of guerilla warfare, the aim being to export Islamist revolution in the region and reduce Russian influence.

There is simply no British criticism of this Pakistani surge in the public record, in sharp contrast to regular condemnations of Ayatollah Rafsanjani's Iran, an official enemy, for its sponsorship of terrorism at this time. Islamabad's Islamist adventures were useful in hastening the break-up of the Soviet Union and countering its successors, both the communist governments that arose in the Commonwealth of Independent States, declared in December 1991, and Russia itself. The main prize being fought over was the huge oil and gas reserves of the region - notably in the Caspian Basin and its surrounding countries of Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, and Kazakhstan - which the British oil company BP later stated were on a scale of those in Britain's North Sea 'and thus of significant global interest'. The area was seen by the regional powers, and Britain and the US, as a resource-rich new frontier ripe for exploitation by foreign companies. This great power competition was a re-run of the nineteenth-century Great Game and, from the British perspective, and extension of the Afghan War to counter Moscow's influence in the region. Islamist forces were, one again, useful as the shock troops to help secure the prize.....

.... By the end of the decade, BP would have a major stake in big oil projects in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, while another British company, Monument, had a predominant position in Tukmenistan. BP would thank the Foreign Office for 'securing [its] commercial positions in these countries'.

Pakistan's new push into Central Asia beyond Kashmir began in Tajikistan in late 1990. Cross-border raids from Afghanistan of the kind promoted by the CIA and MI6 in the mid-1980s were carried out by hundreds of Pakistani-trained mujahideen forces under Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, both of whom continued to received CIA aid up to 1992, along with money from Saudi Arabia. Their principal aim was to promote unrest against the still communist government, the Tajik Supreme Soviet, in the dying days of the Soviet Union. After the Tajik regime proclaimed independence in 1991, and maintained itself in power following the collapse of the Soviet Union later that year, a civil war ensued between a coalition of Islamic and secular factions against the communist government; by the time a peace accord was signed in 1997, 20,000 people had been killed, 600,000 were displaced and the economy wrecked.

In the mid-1990s, Pakistan's ISI [Inter Services Intelligence] was also supporting Islamist insurgents in the Adolat (Justice) movement in Uzbekistan, which also received funds from Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states....

Chechnya was another territory subject to Pakistani-sponsored attack. In 1994 al-Qaida had begun sending fighters into Chechnya from bases in Afghanistan. In April that year the ISI began training a young Chechen warlord, Shamil Basayev, and other Chechen militants, at a camp in Afghanistan run by Hekmatyar. After graduating, Basayev and the other Chechens were sent to another camp in Pakistan to undergo training in guerilla tactics, where Basayev met several ISI generals. Basayev's jihad began in earnest in 1995 when a battalion of Afghan mujahideen stationed in Pakistan were sent into combat in Chechnya. The ISI retained tactical control over these forces and helped turn what began in the early 1990s as an anti-Soviet struggle for self-determination into an Islamic jihad. In 1996, the ISI and Bin Laden decided to fund and arm hundreds more militants to be sent to Chechnya. By 1998, several hundred Chechens were being trained by ISI-sponsored camps in Afghanistan, while others were being trained by the ISI in Pakistan in 'sophisticated terrorism and urban warfare'.

Alongside these operations by Britain's key ally, there was one country in which Britain played a very direct destabilising role alongside Islamist forces: Azerbaijan, a country which was emerging from Soviet control and possessed much of the Caspian region's untapped oil and gas resources. British policy-makers set themselves the goal of getting a large slice of the cake. In the early 1990s, in order to curry Azeri government favour and secure a massive oil deal, the British government helped funnel arms to the Azeris and promoted two coups to establish a pro-Western business environment in the country.

From the evidence that has emerged, it was a group of Americans who began the covert operation in Azerbaijan, just as the Soviet republic was proclaiming its independence from the Soviet Union in late 1991. At this time a US company, run by three career air force officers with CIA links and a past record of involvement in covert operations, set up a office in the Azeri capital, Baku. The company, called Mega Oil, was approached by the Azeri government to recruit and train mercenaries to help fight its war in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the western part of Azerbaijan. What was to become a two-year operation then began to recruit 2,000 Afghan jihadists and procure weapons for them; many were recruited in Peshawar, Pakistan by being offered $2,000 dollars each. The weapons procurement programme was to amount to some $20 million worth, while training was provided by retired US special forces officers....

....According to Russian intelligence, around 1,500 Afghan veterans entered Azerbaijan in the Autumn of 1993, their numbers rising to 2,500 the following year. Some of these militants had been recruited by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, still an ally of Bin Laden, who in turn established an office in Baku around this time which acted as a base for jihadist operations in Dagestan and Chechnya....

The British government was also covertly helping to arm Azerbaijan. The Independent reported in January 19904 that London had 'given tacit support to an illegal scheme to supply Azerbaijan with military backing in its war with Armenia.'.....

British policy was, once again, based on pure political expediency, with London again finding itself on the same side as mujahideen forces - any regime was suitable, whether led by an anti-communist democratic figure such as Elchibey in 1992 or a former communist tyrant such as Aliev in 1993, as long as it promoted British business interests."

NLPWESSEX, natural law publishing