Tariq Saeedi, with Sergi Pyatakov in Moscow and Mark Davidson in Washington
Continued from Part One
We turned our attention back to Balochistan and patched into the local grapevine.
Misha’s phrase ‘Yankee-Jihadi Marriage’ was the key we were trying on every lock.
Something seemed to click after a while.
There was buzz that a representative of a jihadi outfit recently had a meeting with an American in the Sadabahar area at the edge of Quetta. This was the beginning of August 2007 and the meeting was unusual. Americans of all descriptions travel frequently between Afghanistan and Pakistan but they were not known, till then, to seek clandestine meetings with jihadi elements.
According to our source, the representative of the jihadi outfit was a burly man in mid thirties with medium-length, thick beard. In Sadabahar, where the compound walls are typically high, he met an American who was dressed like a Pushtun. The meeting lasted more than three hours and the jihadi left with a canvas bag full of cash.
We could not identify the American but we managed to trace the jihadi to a splinter group of LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba).
As is known, LeT is not a single entity; it is more like a brand name, used by many groups with diverse objectives and split loyalties.
The jihadi went to Karachi and met a colleague in Shah Faisal Colony and apparently gave him some of the cash he received from the American in Quetta. This assumption is based on the fact that the jihadi’s colleague in Shah Faisal Colony purchased a flashy SUV a few days later.
We returned to Sasha and Misha.
“It cannot be an isolated phenomenon. There must be something before and after it. Look for patterns, always look for patterns,” said Sasha.
Misha said, “This money will explode. It will explode in many places.”
It was early September 2007, and Misha’s black prediction was not long in coming true.
BB [Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan] returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007 after nearly eight years of self-imposed exile, and her huge convoy was hit by suicide bombers en-route to the mausoleum of the father of the nation. Hundreds were killed and wounded but BB escaped unharmed.
Was there any connection between the suicide attack on BB’s convoy and the American funding of a jihadi outfit?
Instead of jumping to conclusions, we went back to Sasha and Misha.
Look at the whole picture
“Look at the whole picture. Never get distracted; look at the whole picture,” said Sasha.
“That is what we are here for – show us the whole picture, or at least as much of the picture as you can,” we said.
Sasha looked Misha in the eyes for a few seconds. It is disconcerting, the way they can communicate with each other silently and make you feel dumb.
There seemed to be some kind of accord.
“OK, let’s a bit of picture for you,” said Sasha.
He started, “BB has hired the lobbying firm BKSH & Associates in a six-month contract for US $ 250000. It is the same firm that is working for Hillary Clinton.
“Burson-Marsteller is the parent company of BKSH and pollster Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates is its affiliate. Mark Penn is the president of Penn Schoen and CEO of Burson-Marsteller and he is also the chief advisor of Clinton in her presidential campaign.
“Now that Republicans are sure they cannot win the elections, they are betting on Hilary. She is a Republican among Democrats and by looking at her policy stance as senator, I can say confidently that if she wins the elections or finds her way into the new administration, she would continue with the Republican foreign policy. She is the last hope of Neocons.
“It is no coincidence that BB decided at this very time to return to Pakistan and hired BKSH to lobby for her in Washington.”
“She has been chosen as pillion rider to a wayward Musharraf,” interjected Misha.
“Yes,” continued Sasha, “she is the chosen pillion rider but there are likely other plans, several of them in fact; a dead BB would be more useful for Washington.”
Complicating the picture
“It is a rather confusing picture you are painting. First we find that Americans are funding a splinter group of LeT, then you predict that the money given to that jihadi outfit will lead to ‘explosions’ and now you are saying that BB was chosen as pillion rider to Musharraf but a dead BB will be more useful to Washington. Are you suggesting that Washington sent BB to Pakistan just to get her killed by LeT or some other jihadi lunatics?”
“Listen to the end,” said Sasha rather sternly.
“Sorry,” we said, afraid that he might clam up.
“First, let’s clarify the question of funding by Americans. Financing, arming and training of enemy elements is nothing new in the American policy. The whole Russo-Afghan was fought on funding and training the kind of people who would never be welcome in Washington. However, their being loathsome was not a barrier against their being funded and trained to fight the Russians because, as the Americans are fond of saying, the end justifies the means.
“If BB is removed from the scene, it would bring several benefits to Washington, the topmost being swift departure of Musharraf, replaced by a weak government that would be heavily dependent on Americans for its very survival”
Misha started speaking when Sasha broke the conversation. “We are not saying that LeT did or did not engineer the suicide bombing in the BB procession on 18 Oct.
“What we are underlining is that a dead BB would be very useful for the region-wide American objectives, and the contract to bump her off may have been outsourced to more than one contractors.”
Look for patterns
It was even more confusing.
“Sorry, but we cannot make head or tail of all this,” we said.
“Look for patterns,” said Sasha like a teacher whose patience was wearing thin.
“The pattern here is,” explained Sasha, “that CIA and other American agencies are funding, training and arming MeK [Mujahideen-e-Khalq] in Iraq and Iran to use them against Iran, they are funding and supporting Jundullah in Pakistan and Iran to create trouble in Iran, and now they have co-opted some factions of LeT, possibly some other jihadi outfits also, to do their dirty work in Pakistan.”
“Go chase Vickers,” said Misha with the finality that indicated the end of our session with the spymasters.
Chasing Vickers is easier said than done.
Michael Vickers is the assistant secretary of defence responsible for special operations and low intensity warfare. A former Green Beret, he was confirmed as assistant secretary for defence on 23 July 2007.
Vickers was the principle strategist for covert CIA operation in Afghanistan that resulted in the defeat, and subsequent break-up, of the Soviet Union.
At the height of Afghan operation, he was giving strategic and operational direction to 300 unit commanders, 150000 full time and 500000 part time fighters. He coordinated the efforts of ten countries and oversaw an annual budget of more than US $ 2 billion.
In other words, Vickers was the direct challenger of Sasha and Misha in Afghanistan.
Special Operations Command (Socom), a part of the portfolio of Vickers, is based in Tampa, Florida. Its annual budget is US $ 8 billion. More than 60000 covert and overt personnel are on its payroll.
Vickers has offices on the third floor of Pentagon in the ‘C’ ring.
X is for eXpert
Washington is not an easy place for us; the people are reluctant to talk. Everyone who knows us is wary of us, and those who don’t know us, don’t care to talk to us.
However, there are three experts with deep knowledge and insight, who sometimes cooperate with us. For this story, we have given them a composite name ‘X’ – X for expert.
“Vickers is not a bureaucrat. He is a fighter, first and last,” said X.
He elucidated, “Vickers has four qualities that put him head and shoulders above the crowd: 1. His multi-track mind that can process several scenarios simultaneously; 2. His ability to co-opt enemy to fight the enemy; 3. His talent to add or remove the essential elements, as the situation demands; and 4. His uncanny sense of timing; where to strike, when and how.
“He would think a thousand times before setting a goal, but once he has decided where he wants to go, he would use endless, flexible tactics to get there.”
“We are impressed already,” we said, “but what is the connection between American funding of some Pakistani jihadi outfits, the return of BB to Pakistan, and suicide attack on her convoy?”
“BB is the daughter of her father. Popularity goes to her head and she tends to become stubborn, even arrogant.
“Remember? Her father, ZAB [Zulfikar Ali Bhutto], made an extremely fine impression on JFK in their first meeting. JFK said that if you were an American, you would be in my cabinet. ZAB replied, ‘Watch your words Mr. President. If I were an American, you would be in my cabinet.’ She is no different.
“Although she has been sent as co-pilot for Musharraf, she might change her mind any time and that would be quite inconvenient for her American handlers. However, if she is bumped off, preferably with traceable links to some jihadi outfit, it would fit nicely with American plans for Pakistan and the entire region,” said X.
“And, what could those plans be,” we asked.
X said, “There is general agreement among all the 16 intelligence agencies of the United States that Pakistan is ‘on the edge,’ the situation is ‘very bad, very bleak.’ The latest National Intelligence Estimate describes Pakistan as ‘no money, no energy, no government.’”
He was of the opinion that not only the entire intelligence community but the mainstream Democrats and Republicans, and the Pentagon leadership, had come to the conclusion that nothing was going to go forward without dealing directly with Pakistan.
“Vickers is in the forefront. He was one of the authors of the QDR-2006-2025 [Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defence Review for the next twenty years]. QDR defines terrorism as the immediate threat and China, Russia and India as long-term threats,” said X.
Expanding on the theme, X said, “There is the concept of ‘Total Force.’ This includes active and reserve components, DoD civilians and contractors. DoD, specifically its special operations wing, has been tasked to enable ‘other actors’ to perform key tasks, roles and missions.
“There is also the concept of ‘freedom of action’ which means that indirect approach, stealth, flexible basing and strategic reach, outsourcing of missions, co-opting enemies, and conducting covert operations in countries that are not at war with the USA, are all fully permissible.
“There is the stress to ‘shift the cost balance’ to the adversaries. It means that military and civilian activities are to be conducted across the spectrum to establish and maintain desired order in countries and regions, and in doing so, one enemy should be used to cause damage to the other enemy.
“In addition to QDR, there is the special hit list of Socom. Vickers has short-listed 20 ‘high priority’ countries. Pakistan is at the top of the list and India is not very far behind. These are the countries where Socom will conduct all kinds of clandestine operations. External actors will be playing, wittingly or unwittingly, the script written by Vickers.
“You should never forget that Vickers is on first-name basis with lot many of the original jihadis of the Afghan war – he was their paymaster and handler – and these are the people running or guiding most of the present jihadi outfits.”
Some of it was already going over our heads. The information was piling up like a shapeless lump, eluding any handle.
The best thing was to take a break for brainstorming.
We tried to put together what we had uncovered so far in our investigations and match it with the information we obtained from X, Sasha and Misha.
Only some parts of the overall picture were visible, and it looked like this:
- American espionage activity has intensified in Pakistan, indicating some major shift in policy and possible preparation for big action.
- Americans are funding some jihadi outfits and militant elements in Pakistan, including at least a splinter faction of LeT. This is part of the known pattern of American tactics to finance enemy to fight the enemy. Other examples are US funding, training and arming of MeK and Jundullah.
- BB has returned to Pakistan after reaching some kind of understanding with the current and future power players in Washington but the actual scriptwriters would like her dead because that would accelerate their regional ambitions.
- Michael Vickers, assistant secretary of defence for special operations and low intensity warfare since July 2007, is a CIA veteran and chief strategist of jihadi war against USSR. He has big budget and huge manpower at his disposal for conducting clandestine and covert operations anywhere in the world. He has successful track record of co-opting enemy to fight the enemy. Pakistan is at the top of the list of his target countries and India is not far behind.
- American establishment is unanimous in its opinion that a radical solution is needed for ‘Pakistan problem.’
- There are region-wide American ambitions, although we don’t know much about them, but whatever those ambitions are, they cannot be advanced without severe damage to, possibly bifurcation of, Pakistan.
Where do we go from here? There were no fresh leads. We were also aware that we don’t know the right questions to ask.
We were still in a state of indecision. And, BB got assassinated.
Continued . . .
[This report is our Archive Material, first published in January 2009]