WASHINGTON (AFP) – Pakistan helped al-Qaeda members launch their operations in Afghanistan in the 1990s and even secretly ran a major training camp used by Osama bin Laden’s terror network, according to US intelligence documents made public here. The documents, produced by the Defense Intelligence Agency in the fall of 2001 and declassified in a censored version this past week, also indicate that legendary Afghan guerrilla commander Ahmad Shah Masood may have been killed two days before the September 11 attacks because he had learned something about bin Laden’s plan and “began to warn the West.”
In its secret dispatches, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive, a non-profit research organization here, the DIA warns that the documents represent only raw intelligence.
They nonetheless paint a complex picture of factional rivalry, in which Pakistan had tried to use the Taliban and al-Qaeda to promote its influence in war-torn Afghanistan # only to eventually lose control over both of them.
“Taliban acceptance and approval of fundamentalist non-Afghans as part of their fighting force were merely an extension of Pakistani policy during the Soviet-Afghan war,” said one of the DIA dispatches among US government agencies after the September 11 attacks but before US troops began their operation to root out the Taliban in Afghanistan.
It said Pakistani agents “encouraged, facilitated and often escorted Arabs from the Middle East into Afghanistan.”
To make them a more viable fighting force, Pakistan even built a training camp located outside the Afghan village of Zahawa, near the border between the two countries.
According to the DIA, the camp, target of a US missile strike, was built by Pakistani contractors funded by the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISI), and protected by a local and influential Jadran tribal leader called Jalalludin.
“However, the real host of the facility was the Pakistani ISI,” said one of the documents, which added that this arrangement raised “serious questions” about early ties between bin Laden and Pakistani intelligence.
The US military fired a volley of cruise missiles into the camp in August 1998 in retaliation to the terrorist bombings earlier that year of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that left 257 people dead.