COVER-UP OR COMPLICITY OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION?
The Role of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence Agency (ISI) in the September 11 attacks
Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa
Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the
Pentagon, a delegation led by the head of Pakistan’s military intelligence
agency (ISI) Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, was in Washington for high level
talks at the State Department.1
Most US media conveyed the impression that Islamabad had put together a
delegation at Washington’s behest, and that the invitation to the meeting
had been transmitted to the Pakistan government “after” the tragic events
of September 11.
But this is not what happened!
Pakistan’s chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad “was in the US when the
attacks occurred.”2 According to the New York Times, “he happened to be
here on a regular visit of consultations.”3
Not a word was mentioned regarding the nature of his “business” in the US
in the week prior to the terrorist attacks. According to Newsweek, he was
“on a visit to Washington at the time of the attack, and, like most other
visitors, is still stuck there,” unable to return home because of the
freeze on international airline travel.4
General Ahmad had in fact arrived in the US on the 4th of September, a full
week before the attacks.5 Bear in mind that the purpose of his meeting at
the State Department on the 13th was only made public “after” the September
11 terrorist attacks, when the Bush Administration took the decision to
formally seek the “cooperation” of Pakistan in its “campaign against
The press reports confirm that Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad had two meetings
with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, respectively on the 12th
and 13th.6 After September 11, he also met Senator Joseph Biden, chairman
of the powerful Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.
Confirmed by several press reports, however, he also had “a regular visit
of consultations” with US officials during the week prior to September 11–i.e. meetings with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon.7
What was the nature of these routine “consultations”? Were they in any way
related to the subsequent “post-September 11 consultations” pertaining to
Pakistan’s decision to cooperate with Washington, held behind closed doors
at the State Department on September 12 and 13? Was the planning of war
being discussed between Pakistani and US officials?
“The ISI-Osama-Taliban Axis”
On the 9th of September, the leader of the Northern Alliance Commander
Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated. The Northern Alliance had informed the
Bush Administration that the ISI was allegedly implicated in the
assassination: The Northern Alliance had confirmed in an official
“a ‘Pakistani ISI-Osama-Taliban axis’ [was responsible] of plotting the
assassination by two Arab suicide bombers…. ‘We believe that this is a
triangle between Osama bin Laden, ISI, which is the intelligence section of
the Pakistani army, and the Taliban,'”8
More generally, the complicity of the ISI in the “ISI-Osama-Taliban axis”
was a matter of public record, confirmed by congressional transcripts and
numerous intelligence reports.9
The Bush Administration Cooperates with Pakistan’s Military-Intelligence
The Bush Administration consciously took the decision in “the post
September 11 consultations” at the State Department to directly “cooperate”
with Pakistan’s military intelligence (ISI) despite its links to Osama bin
Laden and the Taliban and its alleged role in the assassination of
Commander Masood, which coincidentally occurred two days before the
Meanwhile, the Western media –in the face of mounting evidence–had
remained silent on the insidious role of Pakistan’s Military Intelligence
agency (ISI). The assassination of Masood was mentioned, but its political
significance in relation to September 11 and the subsequent decision to go
to war against Afghanistan, was barely touched upon.
Without discussion or debate, Pakistan had been heralded as a “friend” and
ally of America.
In an utterly twisted logic, the US media had concluded in chorus that:
“US officials had sought cooperation from Pakistan [precisely] because it
is the original backer of the Taliban, the hard-line Islamic leadership of
Afghanistan accused by Washington of harboring bin Laden.”10
From The Horse’s Mouth
Nobody seemed to have noticed the obtrusive and unsubtle falsehoods behind
the Administration’s “campaign against international terrorism”, with
perhaps the exception of an inquisitive journalist who questioned Colin
Powell at the outset of his State department briefing on Thursday
“[Does] the U.S. see Pakistan as an ally or, as the ‘Patterns of Global
Terrorism’ pointed out, a place where terrorist groups get training. Or is
it a mixture?”11
“Patterns of Global Terrorism” referred by the journalist (at
http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2000/) is a publication of the US
State Department which confirms that the government of President Pervez
Musharraf has links to international terrorism:
“The United States remains concerned about reports of continued Pakistani
support for the Taliban’s military operations in Afghanistan. Credible
reporting indicates that Pakistan is providing the Taliban with materiel,
fuel, funding, technical assistance, and military advisers. Pakistan has
not prevented large numbers of Pakistani nationals from moving into
Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban. Islamabad also failed to take
effective steps to curb the activities of certain madrassas, or religious
schools, that serve as recruiting grounds for terrorism.”12
Behind Close Doors at the State Department
The Bush Administration had sought the “cooperation” of those, who were
directly supporting and abetting the terrorists. Absurd, but at the same
time consistent with Washington’s broader strategic and economic
objectives in Central Asia.
The meeting behind closed doors at the State Department on September 13
between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Lt. General Mahmoud
Ahmad was shrouded in secrecy. Remember President Bush was not even
involved in these crucial negotiations:
“Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage handed over [to ISI chief
Mahmoud Ahmad] a list of specific steps Washington wanted Pakistan to
take”.13 “After a telephone conversation between [Secretary of State Colin]
Powell and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, State Department spokesman
Richard Boucher said Pakistan had promised to cooperate.” 14 President
George W. Bush later confirmed (also on the morning of September 13th) that
the Pakistan government had accepted “to cooperate and to participate as we
hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable, despicable act on
Former Iran-Contragate Officials Call the Shots
Bear in mind that Richard Armitage had served as Assistant Secretary of
Defense for International Security under the Reagan Administration. “He
worked closely with Oliver North and was involved in the Iran-contra arms
In many regards, the pattern of Bush Junior appointments replicate the
Iran-Contragate team of the Reagan and Bush senior administrations:
“The same kind of appointments are being made in foreign policy. Bush has
been choosing people from the most dubious part of the Republican stable of
the 1980s, those engaged in the Iran-Contra affair… Armitage served as
Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the
Reagan years, but a 1989 appointment in the elder Bush administration was
withdrawn before hearings because of controversy over Iran-Contra and other
Armitage was one of the main architects behind US covert to the Mujahedin
and the “militant Islamic base, both during the Afghan-Soviet war as well
as in its aftermath. US covert support was financed by the Golden Crescent
This pattern has not been fundamentally altered. It still constitutes an
integral part of US foreign policy by the Bush Administration and the basis
of CIA covert operations.
Pakistan’s Chief Spy on Mission to Afghanistan
On September 13th, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf confirmed that he
would send chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad to meet the Taliban and
negotiate the extradition of Osama bin Laden. This decision was at
Washington’s behest, most probably agreed upon during the meeting between
Dick Armitage and General Mahmoud at the State Department.
Pakistan’s chief spy is rapidly whisked back from Washington to Islamabad:
“At American urging, Ahmed traveled … to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There he
delivered the bluntest of demands. Turn over bin Laden without conditions,
he told Taliban leader Mohammad Omar, or face certain war with the United
States and its allies.”18
Mahmoud’s meetings on two separate missions with the Taliban were reported
as a “failure.” Yet this “failure” to extradite Osama was part of
Washington’s design, providing a pretext for a military intervention which
was already in the pipeline. If Osama had been extradited, the main
justification for waging a war “against international terrorism” would no
longer hold. And the evidence suggests that this war had been planned well
in advance of September 11, in response to broad strategic and economic
Meanwhile, senior Pentagon and State Department officials had been rushed
to Islamabad to put the finishing touches on America’s war plans. And on
Sunday prior to the onslaught of the bombing of major cities in Afghanistan
by the US Air Force (October 7th), Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad was sacked
from his position as head of the ISI in what was described as a routine
“The Missing Link”
In the days following Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad’s dismissal, a report
published in the Times of India, which went virtually unnoticed by the
Western media, revealed the links between Pakistan’s Chief spy Lt. General
Mahmoud Ahmad and the presumed “ring leader” of the WTC attacks Mohamed
Atta. In many regards, the Times of India report constitutes “the missing
link” to an understanding of who was behind the terrorist attacks of
“While the Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations claimed that former
ISI director-general Lt-Gen Mahmoud Ahmad sought retirement after being
superseded on Monday [8 October], the day the US started bombing
Afghanistan], the truth is more shocking. Top sources confirmed here on
Tuesday [October 9], that the general lost his job because of the
“evidence” India produced to show his links to one of the suicide bombers
that wrecked the World Trade Centre. The US authorities sought his removal
after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed
Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen. Mahmoud.
Senior government sources have confirmed that India contributed
significantly to establishing the link between the money transfer and the
role played by the dismissed ISI chief. While they did not provide details,
they said that Indian inputs, including Sheikh’s mobile phone number,
helped the FBI in tracing and establishing the link.
“A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous
repercussions. The US cannot but suspect whether or not there were other
senior Pakistani Army commanders who were in the know of things. Evidence
of a larger conspiracy could shake US confidence in Pakistan’s ability to
participate in the anti-terrorism coalition.”19
According to FBI files, Mohamed Atta was “the lead hijacker of the first
jet airliner to slam into the World Trade Center and, apparently, the lead
The Times of India article was based on an official intelligence report of
the Delhi government that had been transmitted through official channels
to Washington. Agence France Press (AFP) confirms in this regard that:
“A highly-placed government source told AFP that the ‘damning link’ between
the General and the transfer of funds to Atta was part of evidence which
India has officially sent to the US. ‘The evidence we have supplied to the
US is of a much wider range and depth than just one piece of paper linking
a rogue general to some misplaced act of terrorism,’ the source said.” 21
Pakistan’s Military-Intelligence Agency behind September 11?
The revelation of the Times of India article has several implications. The
report not only points to the links between ISI Chief General Ahmad and
terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta, it also indicates that other ISI
officials might have had contacts with the terrorists. Moreover, it
suggests that the September 11 attacks were not an act of “individual
terrorism” organised by a separate Al Qaeda cell, but rather they were part
of coordinated military-intelligence operation, emanating from Pakistan’s
The Times of India report also sheds light on the nature of General Ahmad’s
“business activities” in the US during the week prior to September 11,
raising the distinct possibility of ISI contacts with Mohamed Atta in the
US in the week “prior” to the attacks on the WTC, precisely at the time
when General Mahmoud and his delegation were on a so-called “regular visit
of consultations” with US officials. Remember, Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad
arrived in the US on the 4th of September.
US Approved Appointee
In assessing the alleged links between the terrorists and the ISI, it
should be understood that Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad as head of the ISI was
a “US approved appointee”. As head of the ISI since 1999, he was in
liaison with his US counterparts in the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA)
and the Pentagon. Also bear in mind that Pakistan’s ISI remained
throughout the entire post Cold War era until the present, the launch pad for CIA
covert operations in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Balkans.22
In other words, General Mahmoud Ahmad as head of the ISI was serving US
foreign policy interests. His dismissal on the orders of Washington was
not the result of a fundamental political disagreement. Without US support
channeled through the Pakistani ISI, the Taliban would not have been able
to form a government in 1996. Jane Defense Weekly confirms in this regard
that “half of Taliban manpower and equipment originate[d] in Pakistan under
the ISI,” which in turn was supported by the US.23 Moreover, the
assassination of the leader of the Northern Alliance General Ahmad Shah
Masood–in which the ISI is alleged to have been implicated–was not in
contradiction with US foreign policy objectives. Since the late 1980s, the
US had consistently sought to side-track and weaken Masood who was
perceived as a nationalist reformer, by providing support to both to the
Taliban and the Hezb-I-Islami group led by Gulbuddin Hektmayar against
Corroborated by Congressional Transcripts
Corroborated by the House of Representatives Internaitonal Relations
Committee, US support funneled through the ISI to the Taliban and Osama bin
Laden has been a consistent policy of the US Administration since the end
of the Cold War:
“…[T]he United States has been part and parcel to supporting the Taliban
all along, and still is let me add… You have a military government [of
President Musharraf] in Pakistan now that is arming the Taliban to the
teeth….Let me note; that [US] aid has always gone to Taliban areas… We
have been supporting the Taliban, because all our aid goes to the Taliban
areas. And when people from the outside try to put aid into areas not
controlled by the Taliban, they are thwarted by our own State Department…
At that same moment, Pakistan initiated a major resupply effort, which
eventually saw the defeat, and caused the defeat, of almost all of the
anti-Taliban forces in Afghanistan.”24
Cover-up and Complicity
The existence of an “ISI-Osama-Taliban axis” is a matter of public record.
The links between the ISI and agencies of the US government including the
CIA are also a matter of public record.
Pakistan’s ISI has been used by successive US adminstrations as “a
go-between.” Pakistan’s military-intelligence apparatus, constitutes the
core institutional support to both Osama’s Al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Without this institutional support, there would be no Taliban government in
Kabul. In turn, without the unbending support of the US government. There
would be no powerful military-intelligence apparatus in Pakistan.
Senior officials in the State Department were fully cognizant of General
Mahmoud Ahmad’s role. In the wake of September 11, the Bush Administration
consciously sought the “cooperation” of the ISI which had been supporting
and abetting Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.
In other words, the Bush Administration’s relations with Pakistan’s
ISI–including its “consultations” with General Mahmoud Ahmad in the week
prior to September 11–raise the issue of “cover-up” as well as
“complicity”. While Ahmad was talking to US officials at the CIA and the
Pentagon, the ISI allegedly had contacts with the September 11 terrorists.
According to the Indian government intelligence report (referred to in the
Times of India), the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks had links to
Pakistan’s ISI, which in turn has links to agencies of the US government.
What this suggests is that key individuals within the US
military-intelligence establishment might have known about ISI contacts
with the September 11 terrorist “ring-leader” Mohamed Atta and failed to
Whether this amounts to the outright complicity of the Bush Administration
remains to be firmly established.
What is crystal clear, however, is that this war is not a “campaign
international terrorism”. It is a war of conquest with devastating
consequences for the future of humanity. And the American people have been
consciously and deliberately misled by their government.
Ultimately the truth must prevail. The falsehoods behind America’s war
against the people of Afghanistan must be unveiled.
1. Guardian, 15 September 2001.
2. Reuters, 13 September 2001.
3. The New York Times, 13 September 2001.
4. Newsweek, 14 September 2001.
5. The Daily Telegraph, London, 14 September 2001.
6. The New York Times, September 13th 2001 confirms the meeting on the
7. The New York Times, 13 September 2001.
8. The Northern Alliance’s statement was released on 14 September 2001,
quoted in Reuters 15 September 2001.
9. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, “Osamagate”, Centre for
Research on Globalisation (CRG), at globalresearch.ca, October 2001.
10. Reuters 13 September 2001.
11. Journalist’s question to Secretary of State Colin Powell, State
Department Briefing, 13 September 2001.
12. US State Department, “Patterns of Global Terrorism”, State Department,
http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2000/, Washington 2000.
13. Reuters, 13 September 2001.
15. Presidential Papers, Remarks in a Telephone Conversation With New York
City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and New York Governor George Pataki and an
Exchange With Reporters, 13 September 2001.
16. The Guardian, 15 September 2001.
17. United Press International, Face-off: Bush’s foreign policy warriors,
by Peter Roff and James Chapin, UPI, 18 July 2001.
18. Washington Post, 23 September 2001.
19. Times of India, Delhi, 9 October 2001, at:
20. The Weekly Standard, Vol. 7, No 7, October 2001.
21. AFP, 10 October 2001.
22. For further details see Michel Chossudovsky, “Who is Osama bin Laden”,
Centre for Research on Globalisation, 12 September 2001.
23. Quoted in the Christian Science Monitor, 3 September 1998.
24. US House of Representatives: Statement by Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, Hearing
of The House International Relations Committee on “Global Terrorism And
South Asia”, Washington, July 12, 2000.
Copyright, Michel Chossudovsky, Centre for Research on Globalis (CRG),
November 2001. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to post this
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