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Bush Could Have Avoided Afghan War, Reveal Classified Documents

Washington: As the US prepared to invade Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11 attacks, Pakistan's powerful ISI wanted America to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban, but the then Bush Administration "bluntly" told President Pervez
PTI September 14, 2010 10:50 IST
PTI
Washington: As the US prepared to invade Afghanistan in 2001 after 9/11 attacks, Pakistan's powerful ISI wanted America to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban, but the then Bush Administration "bluntly" told President Pervez Musharraf that it had no inclination to do so.   

According to classified documents released by the National Security Archive of the George Washington University, two days after Al-Qaeda unleashed terror on the US, its envoy to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin "bluntly" told Musharraf on September 13, 2001 that there was "absolutely no inclination in Washington to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban, which controlled Afghanistan at that time.   

"The time for dialogue was finished as of September 11," he told Musharraf, the documents said. However, Pakistan, as the Taliban's primary sponsor, disagreed.   

The documents also say Musharraf, who was facing the US heat because of his support to the Taliban regime, accepted "unconditionally" in 24 hours all seven demands made by the US like stopping  the Al-Qaeda at the border, provide the US with blanket landing rights to conduct operations and territorial and naval access and help in "destroying Osama Bin Laden".   

However, events thereafter, showed that such an acceptance was just a "tactical move" by Musharraf for all practical purposes there was not much change in the polices of his government, the documents say.   

The then ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad also told the then US Ambassador to Pakistan Wendy Chamberlin "not to act in anger."  "Real victory will come in negotiations...If the Taliban are eliminated...Afghanistan will revert to warlordism," the documents quoted Ahmad as saying.   

The then ISI chief wanted the US to give Pakistan some time as he was headed for another trip to Afghanistan on September 25, 2001 to meet the top Taliban leadership in this regard, said the classified cable dated September 23, 2001.   

ISI chief Ahmad returned to Afghanistan to make a last-minute plea to the Taliban.  General Ahmad told Wendy Chamberlin "his mission was taking place in parallel with US Pakistani military planning" and that in his estimation, "a negotiated solution would be preferable to military action."   

"I implore you," Ahmad told the Ambassador, "not to act in anger. Real victory will come in negotiations..."  "(Taliban leader Mullah) Omar himself," he said, "is frightened. That much was clear in his last meeting."   

The ISI chief told the Ambassador that America's strategic objectives of getting Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda would best be accomplished by coercing the Taliban to do it themselves.  

"It is better for the Afghans to do it. We could avoid the fallout," ISI chief Ahmad told the US Ambassador.  Nevertheless, he promised full Pakistani support for US activities, including military action.  "We will not flinch from a military effort." "Pakistan," Ahmad said, "stands behind you," the documents say.   

Ambassador Chamberlin insisted that while Washington "appreciated his objectives" to negotiate to get bin Laden, Mullah Omar "had so far refused to meet even one US demand."   

The Ambassador told Ahmad that his trip "could not delay military planning."  The secret documents reveal that the seven US demands were delivered to ISI chief Ahmad by the Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Within 24 hours, Musharraf accepted "those requests without conditions."   

While Pakistan denied that it was a safe haven for anti-American forces, a State Department Issue paper for the Vice President Dick Cheney claimed "some Taliban leaders operate with relative impunity in some Pakistani cities, and may still enjoy support from the lower echelons of Pakistan's ISI."   

Armitage met with Ahmad on September 13, 2001 and told him that the US was looking for full cooperation and partnership from Pakistan, indicating that the decision whether or not to fully comply with US demands would be "a difficult choice for Pakistan."  Armitage "carefully presented Ahmad with the following specific requests for immediate action and asks that he present them to Musharraf for approval."   

The demands were: Stop Al-Qaeda at the border, provide the US with blanket landing rights to conduct operations; provide territorial and naval access, provide intelligence; publicly condemn terrorist attacks, cut off recruits and supplies to the Taliban, and break diplomatic relations with the Taliban and help US "Destroy Usama bin Ladin."   

In another cable dated September 14, 2001, the Ambassador in her message to the then Secretary of State informed Musharraf has accepted all the US conditions.   

"Gen Musharraf accepts the seven actions we are asking of the GOP (Government of Pakistan) to support our efforts against international terrorism. His top military commander concurs. Musharraf discussed implementation details remaining to be worked out regarding the points and invited us to send an interagency team to address them," the US Ambassador wrote.   

"In a 90-minute meeting with the Ambassador and Pol(itical) Counselor late September 14, Musharraf said he had studied the points and discussed them in an all-day meeting with his corps commanders and other ranking military officers."   

"He (Musharraf) said he accepted the points without conditions and that his military leadership concurred," the documents said. PTI