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Author Topic: World Agenda: the Taleban? They're puppets of the US. - Times newspaper of UK  (Read 3799 times)
Ahhangar
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« on: June 12, 2009, 05:53:55 AM »

Read the following two article about US and Taliban - the denouncers of Taliban - and the actions of the US running  dogs against their denouncers.  The following article by the Times attempts to shield itself from outward criticism by throwing in the words 'conspiracy theory' but it is in effect saying that these ideas are not just conspiracy theories and have some legitimacy to them.

World Agenda: the Taleban? They're puppets of the US

June 9, 2009

US and British officials are no doubt delighted to see tribesmen in northwestern Pakistan fighting the Taleban after years of sheltering, tolerating or supporting them. Elsewhere in the country, there has also been an unprecedented wave of public, political and even religious support for the army’s campaign in Swat, despite the massive exodus of refugees.

This appears to show that Pakistanis have at last heeded Western warnings that the militancy they face is indigenous and threatens the existence of the Pakistani state.

What is less encouraging — and less well advertised — is that a key reason for the backlash is that many Pakistanis believe the Taleban is being funded and armed by America as part of an elaborate geopolitical conspiracy.

Absurd as it may sound to Westerners this conspiracy theory, like so many others in Pakistan, seems to have taken root among even well-educated people in the political, military and religious establishments.

It was outlined recently in an interview with Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, a respected Sunni cleric who set up an alliance of 22 Islamic groups and political parties last month with the explicit goal of opposing the Taleban.

He explained that the Taleban preached an extreme version of the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam, while most Pakistanis followed the more moderate Barelvi school.

He said that many Pakistanis were outraged when the Taleban attacked Barelvi shrines, and denounced Pakistan’s constitution and democratic system as unIslamic.

Halfway through the interview, however, he suddenly added that the Taleban was also being funded and trained by the CIA, Mossad, and India’s RAW intelligence agency. Why? As part of a strategy to carve out an independent statelet in northwestern Pakistan to help to contain China’s growing military and economic power. And to capture Pakistan’s nuclear weapons.

So America is now funding the Pakistani army and using CIA drones to attack militants who are in fact funded and armed by America?

Yes.

And what about the militants blamed for last year’s attack on Mumbai? They were Indian intelligence agents who staged the attack to give India an excuse to exact revenge by staging another attack — this time on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore.

And why would India want to do that? So that Pakistan would not be able to co-host the 2011 cricket World Cup, of course.

He went on to say that most of his fellow clerics felt the same way, and many included such theories in their sermons at Friday prayers. No wonder such ideas spread fast across the country — 45 per cent of which is illiterate — and are reinforced through repetition in the domestic media, especially the Urdu-language press.

Nor are these theories confined to the civilian population.

A few days after the interview with Dr Naeemi , a senior Pakistani security official admitted that similar views were common in the army and the intelligence service, although they were not official policy.

His justification made slightly more sense, although it was equally hard to prove or disprove: he claimed that the CIA had on at least one occasion had Baitullah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taleban chief, in the sights of one of its drones but had decided not to kill him.

He was also convinced that Washington had never wanted Pakistan to have nuclear weapons, and cited US media reports about contingency plans for American special forces to secure, or destroy, Pakistan’s atomic facilities.

Yes, he conceded, there was an unprecedented level of public support for the Pakistani army. Just don’t confuse that with support for the United States.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/world_agenda/article6462959.ece
----------------------------

That article appeared June 9th and on June 12th the religious scholar is assassinated - but is hardly covered in any western press.
-------------------

Suicide Attack In Lahore Religious Scholar Sarfraz Naeemi Killed
June 12th, 2009

LAHORE: Renowned religious scholar and principal of Jamia Naeemia Lahore Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi among three people were killed in a suicide attack at his seminary here Friday.

The blast that apparently was a suicide attack occurred following the Jumma prayer in the seminary situated at Garhi Shahu area of the metropolis.

According to preliminary reports, the blast was occurred in the office of Dr Sarfraz Ahmed Naeemi, the principle of one of the largest religious seminary of the city. Naeemi was present in his office at the time of the blast, says an eyewitness.

The blast was as powerful as it completely destroyed the offices building and also damaged the nearby installations of the seminary.

Rescuers and law enforcement personnel have arrived at the scene and the injured were being rushed to Mayo Hospital, Ganga Ram Hospital and other nearby hospitals.

http://www.apakistannews.com/suicide-attack-in-lahore-religious-scholar-sarfraz-naeemi-killed-125537

-----------------------------------

Benazir Bhutto was also of the view that the Taliban and others around and behind it are proxies of the US - and she specifically mentioned BAITULLAH Mehsud as being an 'Afghan Warlord'  ------  anyhow - she was removed twice from premiership when she dared to criticize the US and the Islamists and eventually assassinated.

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnychOXj9Tg" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnychOXj9Tg</a>
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Ahhangar
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« Reply #1 on: June 12, 2009, 06:04:20 AM »

<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bTp9sSuzpI" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2bTp9sSuzpI</a>
« Last Edit: June 12, 2009, 06:06:00 AM by Ahhangar » Logged
Ahhangar
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« Reply #2 on: June 12, 2009, 06:13:56 AM »

The Accidental Operative

Richard Helms’s Afghani Niece Leads Corps of Taliban Reps



Camelia Fard & James Ridgeway
published: June 12, 2001

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 6—On this muggy afternoon, a group of neatly attired men and a handful of women gather in a conference room at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The guest list includes officials from the furthest corners of the world—Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, and Turkey—and reps from the World Bank, the Uzbekistan chamber of commerce, the oil industry, and the Russian news agency Tass, along with various individuals identified only as "U.S. Government," which in times past was code for spook.

    *
      photo: Pak Fung Wong
      "Uncle Dick thinks I’m crazy": Laili Helms, niece of the former CIA director and ambassador for the Taliban.

At hand is a low-profile briefing on international narcotics by a top State Department official, who has recently returned from a United Nations trip to inspect the poppy fields of Afghanistan, source of 80 percent of the world's opium and target of a recent eradication campaign by the fundamentalist Taliban. The lecture begins as every other in Washington: The speaker politely informs the crowd he has nothing to do with policymaking. And, by the way, it's all off the record.

Lecture over, the chairman asks for questions. One man after another rises to describe his own observations while in the foreign service. The moderator pauses, looks to the back of the room, and says in a scarcely audible voice: "Laili Helms." The room goes silent.

For the people gathered here, the name brings back memories of Richard Helms, director of the CIA during the tumultuous 1960s, the era of Cuba and Vietnam. After he was accused of destroying most of the agency's secret documents detailing its own crimes, Helms left the CIA and became President Ford's ambassador to Iran. There, he trained the repressive secret police, inadvertently sparking the revolution that soon toppled his friend the Shah.

Laili Helms, his niece by marriage, is an operative, too—but of a different kind. This pleasant young woman who makes her home in New Jersey is the Taliban rulers' unofficial ambassador in the U.S., and their most active and best-known advocate elsewhere in the West. As such she not only defends but promotes a severe regime that has given the White House fits for the past six years—by throwing women out of jobs and schools, stoning adulterers, forcing Hindus to wear an identifying yellow patch, and smashing ancient Buddha statues.

In meetings on Capitol Hill and at the State Department, Helms represents a theocracy that harbors America's Public Enemy No. 1: Osama bin Laden, the man who allegedly masterminded the bombing of American embassies in Tanzania and Kenya and is suspected of blowing up the USS Cole. From his Afghan fortress, bin Laden operates a terrorist network reaching across the world.

All of which is highly ironic since bin Laden is the progeny of a U.S. policy that sought to unite Muslims in a jihad against the Soviet Union, but over a decade eroded the moderate political wing and launched a wave of young radical fundamentalists. The Taliban, says the author Ahmed Rashid, "is the hip-hop generation of Islamic militants. They know nothing about nothing. Their aim is the destruction of the status quo, but they offer nothing to replace it with."

Now the Bush administration is lowering its sights, viewing the Taliban within a broader context of an oil-rich central Asia. The chaotic region is strewn with crooked governments, terrorist brotherhoods, thieving warlords, and smugglers. Against this backdrop, the Taliban sometimes seems to be the least of our problems.

The mullahs would like to take advantage of the Bush administration's own fundamentalist leanings, complete with antidrug, pro-energy, and feminist-rollback policies. Their often comic efforts to establish representation in the U.S. took off when they found Helms. For them, she is a disarming presence, the unassuming woman at the back of the room.

After spending most her life in the States, Helms has impeccable suburban credentials. She lives in Jersey City and is the mother of a couple of grade-school kids. Her husband works at Chase Manhattan.

A granddaughter of a former Afghan minister in the last monarchy, she returned home during the war to work on U.S. aid missions. "Everyone thinks I'm a spy," she said in a recent Voice interview. "And Uncle Dick thinks I'm crazy."

Helms's home across the Hudson has become a sort of kitchen-table embassy. She says she patches together conference calls between the Taliban leadership and State Department officials. A recent one cost more than $1000, an expense she covered from her own checking account.

One moment she's packing up a used computer for the foreign ministry in Kabul, the next driving down to Washington for a briefing or meeting with members of Congress. Her cell phone rings nonstop. "These guys," she says, referring to the Taliban leaders, "are on no one else's agenda. They are so isolated you can't call the country. You can't send letters out. None of their officials can leave Afghanistan now."

Indeed, the Taliban government is virtually unrecognized by most others. It has no standing at the UN, where it has come under scathing indictment for human rights abuses. In February, the U.S. demanded that Taliban offices here be closed.

Helms may be just another suburban mom in the States, but last year in Afghanistan she got movie-star treatment, driving around downtown Kabul in a smart late-model Japanese car, escorted by armed guards waving Kalashnikov rifles, rattling away in English and Farsi as she shot video footage to prove that Afghan women are working, free, and happy.

She stands at the public relations hub of a ragtag network of amateur Taliban advocates in the U.S. At the University of Southern California, economics professor Nake M. Kamrany arranged last year for the Taliban's Rahmatullah Hashami, ambassador at large, to bypass the visa block. He even rounded up enough money for Hashami to lecture at the University of California, both in Los Angeles and Berkeley. The trip ended at the State Department in D.C., with a reported offer to turn Osama bin Laden over to the U.S.

Kamrany hardly looks the part of a foreign emissary, showing up for an interview recently in Santa Monica dressed in a Hawaiian shirt and shorts, and insisting on a tuna fish sandwich before getting down to defending the burqa, the head-to-toe covering required for Afghani women. In addition to Kamrany, there's the erstwhile official Taliban representative, Abdul Hakim Mojahed, in Queens, whom Helms dismisses with a wave of her hand as a do-nothing, not worth talking to. Mojahed's voice line has been disconnected, and his fax number never picks up.

Dr. Davood Davoodyar, an economics professor at Cal State in San Francisco, joined the jihad to fight against the Soviets in the early 1980s. Today he keeps in touch with the elusive Mojahed, who seems to have gone underground since his office was shuttered. Davoodyar thinks the Taliban is helping to stabilize Afghanistan, but concedes, "If I asked my wife to wear the burqa, she'd kill me."

Also in San Francisco, Ghamar Farhad, a bank supervisor, has served as host to the Taliban's visiting deputy minister of information along with the ambassador at large. She generally likes the Taliban because she believes they have cut down on rape, but got very upset when they blew up the Buddha statues. When the Taliban explained to her that these satanic idols had to go, Farhad says, she changed her mind.

Led by Helms, these people have answers for all the accusations made against the Taliban, starting with its treatment of women. To a visitor it might seem as if women had just disappeared, as if by some sort of massive ethnic cleansing. Though they made up 40 percent of all the doctors and 70 percent of teachers in the capital, women were forced to abandon Western clothes and stay indoors behind windows painted black "for their own good." Ten million reportedly have been denied education, hospital care, and the right to work.

The Taliban insists that a woman wear a burqa, stifling garb with only tiny slits for her eyes and no peripheral vision. Even her voice is banned. In shops or in the market, she must have her brother, husband, or father speak to the shopkeeper so that she will not excite him with the sound of her speaking.

Helms argues that foreign observers have forgotten conditions in the country following the war against the Soviets. "Afghanistan was like a Mad Max scenario," she says. "Anyone who had a gun and a pickup truck could abduct your women, rape them. . . . When the Taliban came and established security, the majority of Afghan women who suffered from the chaotic conditions were happy, because they could live, their children could live."

But a current Physicians for Human Rights poll taken in Afghanistan reports that women surveyed in Taliban-controlled areas "almost unanimously expressed that the Taliban had made their life 'much worse.' " They reported high rates of depression and suicide.

Last year a group of Afghani women gathered in Tajikistan made a concerted demand for basic human rights, citing "torture and inhumane and degrading treatment." Their address noted that "poverty and the lack of freedom of movement push women into prostitution, involuntary exile, forced marriages, and the selling and trafficking of their daughters."

The Taliban drew more worldwide criticism for its abuse of other religious and ethnic minorities. It required that Hindus wear yellow clothing—saris for women and shirts for men, so they could be distinguished from Muslims—a move that immediately brought back images of Jews in Nazi Germany wearing the Star of David. There are 5000 Hindus living in Kabul and thousands more in other Afghan cities. An Indian external affairs spokesman condemned the new requirements as "reprehensible" and told The Times of India it was another example of the Taliban's "obscurantist and racist ideology, which is alien to Afghan traditions."

Helms argues outsiders don't understand the import of the yellow tags. "We asked them to identify themselves [to protect] their religious beliefs. Everyone has identity cards. The intention is to protect people." She shrugs. "Here you have labels for handicapped people. So you can have special parking."

Blowing up the ancient statues of Buddhas, hewn from cliffs in the third and fifth centuries B.C., was another matter. "That was a very big deal," she says. "That was them thumbing their nose at the international community."

Helms has little regard for Osama bin Laden, whom she sneeringly refers to as a "tractor driver." She says he was inherited by the Taliban and is widely viewed as a "hang nail."

In 1999, Helms says, she got a message from the Taliban leadership that they were willing to turn over all of bin Laden's communications equipment, which they had seized, to the U.S. When she called the State Department with this offer, officials were at first interested, but later said, "No. We want him."

In the same year, Prince Turki, head of Saudi intelligence, reputedly came up with a scheme to capture bin Laden on his own; after consulting with the Taliban he flew his private plane to Kabul and drove out to see Mullah Omar at his HQ. The two men sat down, as Helms recounts the story, and the Saudi said, "There's just one little thing. Will you kill bin Laden before you put him on the plane?" Mullah Omar called for a bucket of cold water. As the Saudi delegation fidgeted, he took off his turban, splashed water on his head, and then washed his hands before sitting back down. "You know why I asked for the cold water?" he asked Turki. "What you just said made my blood boil."

Bin Laden was a guest of the Afghanis and there was no way they were going to kill him, though they might turn him over for a trial. At that the deal collapsed, and Turki flew home empty-handed.

Early this year, the Taliban's ambassador at large, Hashami, a young man speaking perfect English, met with CIA operations people and State Department reps, Helms says. At this final meeting, she says, Hashami proposed that the Taliban hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the U.S. to locate and destroy him. The U.S. refused, says Helms, who claims she was the go-between in this deal between the supreme leader and the feds.

A U.S. government source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, made clear that the U.S. is not trying to kill bin Laden but instead wants him expelled from Afghanistan so he can be brought to justice. Acknowledging that Laili Helms does a lot of lobbying on behalf of the Taliban, this source said Helms does not speak to the Taliban for the U.S.

In the realpolitik of Bush foreign policy, the Taliban may have improved its chances for an opening of relations with the rest of the world. As it now stands, there seems little question that Afghanistan has indeed stopped the production of poppies in the areas under its control. Partly as a result, its farmers are destitute, their lives made more miserable by drought.

But that's not likely to faze the powers that be in Afghanistan, since most of the country's real money comes from taxing non-dope trade. Nor will it bother the drug traffickers, who swarm the region and are shifting production north and west into such places as Turkmenistan. As of last month, the U.S. had committed $124 million in aid to Afghanistan, according to the State Department. Meanwhile, Iran, which harbors some 2 million Afghan refugees and is fighting massive drug addiction, has sent agricultural engineers north to help repair Afghanistan's irrigation systems.

Last week Milt Bearden, the former CIA station chief in Pakistan and Sudan, argued in The Wall Street Journal that the Bush administration should take a "more restrained approach" to bin Laden. "There may be a realization that the two years of unrestrained rhetoric of the Clinton administration following the 1998 attacks in Africa may have done little more than inflate the myth that has inspired others to harm Americans," he wrote.

None of this has changed the impression most people here have of the Taliban. Helms and her cohorts have a lot of work to do. As she freely admits, the Taliban leaders "are considered fascists, tyrants, Pol Pots. They can't do anything right. We perceive them as monsters no matter what they do."

Additional reporting: Ariston-Lizabeth Anderson and Rouven Gueissaz
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« Reply #3 on: June 12, 2009, 06:16:19 AM »

Gotta Go
Laili Helms, Other Taliban Reps Stop Talking



Camelia E. Fard
published: November 13, 2001

It was an unusual alliance from the beginning, and it appears not to have lasted long. Laili Helms, the niece by marriage of former CIA director Richard Helms, hooked up with the Taliban as an unofficial representative in the United States. Now she claims to have broken all ties with fundamentalist regime. For years, Laili Helms, born in Afghanistan but raised in wealth and comfort in the West, was the most vocal supporter of the Taliban in the United States. In a June article headlined "The Accidental Operative," she told the Voice about her work defending the Taliban. "Afghanistan was like a Mad Max scenario," the New Jersey resident said. "Anyone who had a gun and a pickup truck could abduct your women, rape them. . . . When the Taliban came and established security, the majority of Afghan women who suffered from the chaotic conditions were happy because they could live, their children could live."

But when the Voice contacted her after the September 11 attacks, she said she was unhappy with the previous article and declined to comment. Called later, as the U.S. began taking action against Osama bin Laden and his Afghanistan-based terrorist network, Helms hung up.

Helms was not the only person representing the Taliban in the U.S.

Nake M. Kamrany, an economics professor at the University of Southern California, arranged last year for a Taliban ambassador at large to lecture at the University of California, both in Los Angeles and Berkeley. The trip ended at the State Department in Washington, D.C., with a reported offer to turn Osama bin Laden over to the U.S.

But when the Voice called after the terrorist attacks, Kamrany had nothing to say on the Taliban or the recent turn of events. Instead, he complained about being described in the June article as wearing a Hawaiian shirt and short pants. "I'm very angry," he said. "I won't talk with you anymore."

Likewise, Ghamar Farhad, a bank supervisor in San Francisco who had hosted the Taliban's visiting deputy minister of information, did not return several Voice calls seeking comment.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2009, 06:19:34 AM by Ahhangar » Logged
Ahhangar
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« Reply #4 on: June 12, 2009, 06:35:11 AM »

Rahmatillah Hashemi -the representative of the Taliban was given a place in the breeding ground for CIA alumnus and their children -
YALE.

From article Should Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi be at Yale?

................Schuster's persistent efforts -- and an educational charity he and Hoover set up to finance tuition costs -- it is doubtful Hashemi would have ended up in New Haven.

http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/2006_05/rahmatullah.html
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« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2009, 06:46:51 AM »

Oil barons court Taliban in Texas
By Caroline Lees

Daily Telegraph 12/14/1997



THE Taliban, Afghanistan's Islamic fundamentalist army, is about to sign a £2 billion contract with an American oil company to build a pipeline across the war-torn country.

The Islamic warriors appear to have been persuaded to close the deal, not through delicate negotiation but by old-fashioned Texan hospitality. Last week Unocal, the Houston-based company bidding to build the 876-mile pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, invited the Taliban to visit them in Texas. Dressed in traditional salwar khameez, Afghan waistcoats and loose, black turbans, the high-ranking delegation was given VIP treatment during the four-day stay.

The Taliban ministers and their advisers stayed in a five-star hotel and were chauffeured in a company minibus. Their only requests were to visit Houston's zoo, the Nasa space centre and Omaha's Super Target discount store to buy stockings, toothpaste, combs and soap. The Taliban, which controls two-thirds of Afghanistan and is still fighting for the last third, was also given an insight into how the other half lives.

The men, who are accustomed to life without heating, electricity or running water, were amazed by the luxurious homes of Texan oil barons. Invited to dinner at the palatial home of Martin Miller, a vice-president of Unocal, they marvelled at his swimming pool, views of the golf course and six bathrooms. After a meal of specially prepared halal meat, rice and Coca-Cola, the hardline fundamentalists - who have banned women from working and girls from going to school - asked Mr Miller about his Christmas tree.

"They were interested to know what it was for and what the star was," said Mr Miller, who hopes that Unocal has clinched the deal. "The first day, they were stiff and cautious. But before long they were totally relaxed and happy," he said. Unocal, which heads an international consortium of companies from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Japan, has been bidding for the contract since vast oil and gas reserves were discovered in Turkmenistan, one of the southernmost states of the former Soviet Union, in 1994. The fuel has so far been untapped because of Moscow's demands for high transport fees if it passes through Russian-controlled territory. The quickest and cheapest way to get the reserves out is to build a pipeline through Afghanistan.

It will supply two of the fastest-growing energy markets in the world: Pakistan and India. The Unocal group has one significant attraction for the Taliban - it has American government backing. At the end of their stay last week, the Afghan visitors were invited to Washington to meet government officials. The US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban's policies against women and children "despicable", appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract. The Taliban is likely to have been impressed by the American government's interest as it is anxious to win international recognition. So far, it has been recognised only by the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

Unocal has promised to start building the pipeline immediately, despite the region's instability. There is fighting just 87 miles from the planned entry point of the pipeline in the northwest of the country. The Taliban has assured Unocal that its workers and the pipeline will be safe, but it cannot guarantee that it will not be attacked by opposition forces.

The consortium has also agreed to start paying the Taliban immediately. The Islamic army will receive tax on every one of the million cubic feet of fuel that passes through Afghanistan every day. Unocal has also offered other inducements. Apart from giving fax machines, generators and T-shirts, it has donated £500,000 to the University of Nebraska for courses in Afghanistan to train 400 teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters. Nearly 150 students are already receiving technical training in southern Afghanistan.

But it was the homely touches which swayed the Taliban. When the delegation left Texas, one of their entourage stayed behind. Mullah Mohammad Ghaus, the former foreign minister and a leading member of the Taliban ruling council, remained in Texas for medical treatment. Years on the front line damaged his eyesight. Unocal bought him a battery-powered magnifying glass and are paying for him to go to an optician.
« Last Edit: June 12, 2009, 06:49:36 AM by Ahhangar » Logged
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« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2009, 07:04:37 AM »

from http://www.16beavergroup.org/mtarchive/archives/000301.php

..................LAST GASP FOR KARABAKH

LIKE MANY AFGHANS, Abdullah only uses his first name. Thankfully, there
aren't very many people named "Abdullah" in Tbilisi's underground to
confuse him with.

Abdullah was 16 years old in 1986, when he fled his village along
Afghanistan's eastern border for Pakistani city of Peshawar. Tens of
thousands of other Afghan refugees live in Peshawar, and the city was
the nerve center for the American campaign of support for the Mujahedin
during the Afghan War.

Once crawling with intelligence agents dispensing thick stacks of rupees
and RPGs, in the 1990s the spooks left, but Peshawar continued to be the
world's greatest illegal arms bazaar and a recruiting ground for
Soldiers of God fighting in conflicts around the world.

Abdullah was selling fruit in his neighbour's stall in Peshawar when he
met a slender, bespectacled American who offered him two thousand
dollars to fight in Karabakh. Upon arriving in Azerbaijan, the agent,
Abdullah found out, worked for Gary Best.

In September of 1992, Azerbaijan's new Popular Front officials in the
Defense Ministry called up thousands of young Azeris for military
service. The army's aging officer corps was not entirely pleased. The
Armenians had by now drilled themselves into the Karabakh hills like
ticks, and the top brass reiterated that throwing untrainted conscripts
at their positions en masse would be suicide (after all, it hadn't
worked up until now). Once again they pressed the ministry to outfit and
train a crack cadre of special forces that wouldn't bristle at the
Armenian advantage.

Best's mysterious international connections once again worked to his
advantage. Abdullah was one of an estimated 2,000 Afghan mercenaries
hired by MEGA Oil to wear Azeri uniforms and face the Armenians head on.
(The Afghans were split between separate parts of the country; Abdullah
himself claims to have trained with 200 of his fellow countrymen.)

It's difficult to house a few thousand foreign soldiers and keep it
quiet, especially in a country as small as Azerbaijan. Abdullah tells us
that he and his compatriots were never permitted to leave the base. As
the recruits' identity papers had been confiscated upon their arrival in
the country, they had no doubt that any attempt to desert would result
in their arrest as illegal migrants - their American handlers had
several times threatened to do just that in disciplinary proceedings. In
spite of his precautions, Gary
Best's Afghan enterprise was soon common knowledge all over the
Caucasus, even in Armenia and Karabakh, though no one had yet collected
enough evidence to substantiate it.

MEGA Oil's Karabakh adventure was the first time that Afghans fought
inside the boundaries of the former Soviet Union. In later years, they
would flock to Tajikistan and Chechnya in aid of embattled Muslim
rebels, hijacking what were more or less independence struggles for
their own war to further the reach of fundamentalist Islam. Importing
hardcore Mujahedin could have been disastrous for Azerbaijan as well.
For a variety of reasons, it wasn't.

Elchibey's government wanted experienced soldiers - the mujahids who
have put the fear of a fire-breathing Allah into Christians and
Communists on four continents. But most of the Afghans hired by MEGA Oil
were like Abdullah: poor refugees whose only connection to war had been
their flight from it (something they shared with a great many Azeris).
Very few of the
Afghans, according to Abdullah, had any fighting experience whatsoever.
Best had bought Afghan refugees for pennies, and sold them as million
dollar Afghan Mujahedin.

According to Abdullah, and confirmed by people involved in the project
interviewed by Thomas Goltz in the mid-1990s, the "well-armed" part of
MEGA Oil's Afghan enterprise wasn't quite accurate, either. Much of
Azerbaijan's heavy weaponry had been lost in Karabakh during the
previous winter's Armenian counter-attack. Goltz even alleged that many
of the Afghans given
RPGs and anti-armour weapons watched in horror as their rounds bounced
harmlessly from Armenian positions. They had been firing practice
rounds, remarked and sold at discount prices as live ammunition.

In addition to Afghans like Abdullah, Best imported in several dozen
American veterans to replenish those who had walked away in disgust
after Best, Aderholt and Secord's original plans had been shelved with
the fall of Mutalibov. According to Goltz, many of the "legitimate"
American mercenaries scoffed at the new meat Best brought in as "the
type of psychos who answer ads in magazines." Abdullah remembers things
differently - all of the Americans, he claims, were arrogant sadists and
willing collaborators in the scheme. Even worse were some of the Turkish
"advisors" - some allegedly members of the fascist Grey Wolves movement
- that the Turkophile Elchibey had added to the project, one of whom
shot an Afghan recruit in a brawl. Training was hard, and the Afghans
were given spoiled food and hand-me-down uniforms mended with patches.

The winter offensive began in December. The Popular Front began a
massive program of agitation among the Azeri population, with one of
Elchibey's advisors threatening to launch nuclear warheads into Karabakh
to teach the Armenians a lesson. It soon became clear that the offensive
was a complete failure. Thousands of Azeris were killed, and in another
counter-attack, the
Armenians for the first time occupied Azeri territory outside of
Karabakh itself. People that Goltz spoke to blamed Azerbaijan's military
brass for using the "elite troops" that Best had acquired as "cannon
fodder." Abdullah has a different explanation.

"When the shooting started, we were surrounded, and we ran," he says.
Though miles away in Tbilisi, one gets the impression that the battle
for Abdullah is just over the next hill. He fidgets and runs a hand
through his thick black hair.

"You must understand that most of us had only fired a gun a few times,
never an automatic weapon. Only a few of us had fought before, and when
we looked to [these] people to lead us, they were unable to communicate
with the Azeris. We didn't speak the language and nobody spoke ours. The
orders were to advance at any cost, but it was clear that the people who
issued these orders did not know what we were fighting. We looked at the
maps. Were we in the wrong place? No, but they gave us maps from forty
years ago! The village at the top of a hill was burned to the ground.
The Armenians were in it and
they were shooting down at us. But according to the map, there was no
village at all!"

The Azeri regular forces fared no better. An element of farce permeated
the sackings and dismissals as the Elchibey government searched for a
scapegoat to blame for the latest Azeri military disaster. The closest
thing the Azeris had to a war hero, Colonel Surat Husseinov, decided to
spare his troops the pleasure of hurling the lifeless bodies of their
comrades at
Armenian machine gun nests and withdrew of his own accord from
Kelbadzhar. The Armenians swooped down in their wake. While gaining
thousands of new refugees from the area, Azerbaijan had lost one of its
last pieces of Karabakh. Essentially, the Karabakh War was over.
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