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Context of 'Late 1980s: Bin Laden, CIA, and ISI Train Core of Future Philippines Militant Group'

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Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, begins its program to recruit Arab fundamentalists fighters from across the Arab world to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 129]

Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

Following a March 1985 directive signed by President Reagan that sharply escalates US covert action in Afghanistan, the Pakistani ISI begins training Afghans to launch strikes directly into Soviet territory. Apparently the idea originated with CIA Director William Casey who first proposed harassing Soviet territory in 1984 (see October 1984). According to Graham Fuller, a senior US intelligence official, most top US officials consider such military raids “an incredible escalation” and fear a large-scale Soviet response if they are carried out. The Reagan administration decides not to give Pakistan detailed satellite photographs of military targets inside the Soviet Union. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] Mohammad Yousaf, a high-ranking ISI officer, will later claim that the training actually began in 1984. “During this period we were specifically to train and dispatch hundreds of mujaheddin up to 25 kilometers deep inside the Soviet Union. They were probably the most secret and sensitive operations of the war.” He notes that, “By 1985, it became obvious that the United States had got cold feet. Somebody at the top in the American administration was getting frightened.” But, he claims, “the CIA, and others, gave us every encouragement unofficially to take the war into the Soviet Union.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 286-287] Casey will approve of such attacks and the first attack inside the Soviet Union will take place in 1985 (see 1985-1987).

Entity Tags: William Casey, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Graham Fuller, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohammad Yousaf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

The Central Intelligence Agency, which has been supporting indigenous Afghan groups fighting occupying Soviet forces, becomes unhappy with them due to infighting, and searches for alternative anti-Soviet allies. MSNBC will later comment: “[T]he CIA, concerned about the factionalism of Afghanistan made famous by Rudyard Kipling, found that Arab zealots who flocked to aid the Afghans were easier to ‘read’ than the rivalry-ridden natives. While the Arab volunteers might well prove troublesome later, the agency reasoned, they at least were one-dimensionally anti-Soviet for now. So [Osama] bin Laden, along with a small group of Islamic militants from Egypt, Pakistan, Lebanon, Syria and Palestinian refugee camps all over the Middle East, became the ‘reliable’ partners of the CIA in its war against Moscow.” The CIA does not usually deal with the Afghan Arabs directly, but through an intermediary, Pakistan’s ISI, which helps the Arabs through the Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) run by Abdullah Azzam. [MSNBC, 8/24/1998] The agreement is sealed during a secret visit to Pakistan, where CIA Director William Casey commits the agency to support the ISI program of recruiting radical Muslims for the Afghan war from other Muslim countries around the world. In addition to the Gulf States, these include Turkey, the Philippines, and China. The ISI started their recruitment of radicals from other countries in 1982 (see 1982). This CIA cooperation is part of a joint CIA-ISI plan begun the year before to expand the “Jihad” beyond Afghanistan (see 1984-March 1985). [Rashid, 2001, pp. 128-129] Thousands of militant Arabs are trained under this program (see 1986-1992).

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Maktab al-Khidamat, Abdullah Azzam, William Casey, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

William Casey.William Casey. [Source: CIA]Following an agreement between the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI to make more use of Arabs in the Soviet-Afghan War, recruitment of potential fighters increases significantly. The agreement was a result of CIA dissatisfaction at infighting between indigenous Afghan rebels (see 1985-1986). According to Australian journalist John Pilger, in this year: “CIA Director William Casey [gives] his backing to a plan put forward by Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. More than 100,000 Islamic militants [are] trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and [the British intelligence agency] MI6, with the [British special forces unit] SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders [are] trained at a CIA camp in Virginia.” [Guardian, 9/20/2003] Eventually, around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries will fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. Tens of thousands more will study in the hundreds of new madrassas (Islamic schools) funded by the ISI and CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] Ironically, although many are trained, it seems only a small percentage actually take part fight in serious fighting in Afghanistan, so their impact on the war is small. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian relations during the Reagan administration, will later say: “We did spawn a monster in Afghanistan. Once the Soviets were gone [the people trained and/or funded by the US] were looking around for other targets, and Osama bin Laden has settled on the United States as the source of all evil. Irony? Irony is all over the place.” [Associated Press, 8/23/1998] In the late 1980s, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, feeling the mujaheddin network has grown too strong, tells President George H. W. Bush, “You are creating a Frankenstein.” However, the warning goes unheeded. [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] By 1993, President Bhutto tells Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Peshawar is under de facto control of the mujaheddin, and unsuccessfully asks for military help in reasserting Pakistani control over the city. Thousands of mujaheddin fighters return to their home countries after the war is over and engage in multiple acts of violence. One Western diplomat notes these thousands would never have been trained or united without US help, and says, “The consequences for all of us are astronomical.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996]

Entity Tags: Richard W. Murphy, John Pilger, UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), Benazir Bhutto, William Casey, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan

The core of the future Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf fights with bin Laden in Afghanistan and its training there is paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI. In 1986, the CIA agreed to support an ISI program of recruiting radical Muslims from other countries, including the Philippines, to fight in the Afghan war (see 1985-1986). By one estimate, initially between 300 and 500 radical Muslims from the southern Philippines go to Afghanistan to fight. [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 pdf file] In 1987 or 1988, bin Laden dispatches his brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to the Philippines to find more recruits willing to go to Afghanistan. It is estimated he finds about 1,000 recruits. One of them is Abdurajak Janjalani, who emerges as the leader of these recruits in Afghanistan. When the Afghan war ends in 1989 most of them will return to the Philippines and form the Abu Sayyaf group, still led by Janjalani (see Early 1991). [Contemporary Southeast Asia, 12/1/2002; Manila Times, 2/1/2007] Journalist John Cooley will write in a book first published in 1999 that Abu Sayyaf will become “the most violent and radical Islamist group in the Far East, using its CIA and ISI training to harass, attack, and murder Christian priests, wealthy non-Muslim plantation-owners, and merchants and local government in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao.” [Cooley, 2002, pp. 63] After having read Cooley’s book and gathering information from other sources, Senator Aquilino Pimentel, President of the Philippine Senate, will say in a 2000 speech that the “CIA has sired a monster” because it helped train this core of the Abu Sayyaf. [Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel website, 7/31/2000]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Abu Sayyaf, Aquilino Pimentel, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Abdurajak Janjalani, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdurajak Janjalani.Abdurajak Janjalani. [Source: Public domain]Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic group, is formed in the Philippines, and is led mainly by returned mujaheddin fighters from Afghanistan. Abdurajak Janjalani, who had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, is considered the founder of the group. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001; Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 pdf file; Bayani Magazine, 4/2005] Janjalani had befriended bin Laden while fighting in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He and many others from the Philippines had their training paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI (see Late 1980s). “Osama bin Laden wanted to expand his al-Qaeda network, established in 1988, so he turned to Janjalani to establish a cell in Southeast Asia.” Many militants break from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group, to join Abu Sayyaf. It will later be reported that, “Philippine intelligence officials believe [Abu Sayyaf’s] primary goal at the time was to sabotage the ongoing peace process between the MNLF and the [Philippine government] and to discredit the MNLF’s leaders.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 pdf file] This comment takes on added meaning in light of evidence that the group was penetrated from the very beginning by the Philippine government, as a deep undercover operative became the group’s second in command and operational leader (see 1991-Early February 1995). The group begins a series of attacks by killing two American evangelists in April 1991. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] The group engages primarily in kidnapping and extortion. It also receives early funding from Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, and Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 WTC bomber (see December 1991-May 1992). [Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 pdf file; Time, 8/23/2004]

Entity Tags: Philippines, Osama bin Laden, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Abdurajak Janjalani, Moro National Liberation Front, Abu Sayyaf

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ramzi Yousef, the future bomber of the WTC in 1993, stays in the Philippines and trains militants there in bomb-making. According to Philippine intelligence documents, Yousef had developed expertise in bomb-making and worked at a training camp at Khost, Afghanistan, teaching bomb-making for militants connected to bin Laden. But bin Laden dispatches him to the Philippines, where he trains about 20 militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group. Abu Sayyaf is heavily penetrated by Philippine undercover operatives at this time, especially Edwin Angeles, an operative who is the second in command of the group. Angeles will later recall that Yousef is introduced to him at this time as an “emissary from bin Laden.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 pdf file] Angeles also claims Yousef decided to use the Philippines as a “launching pad” for terrorist acts around the world. [New York Times, 9/6/1996] One of Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders will later recall that Yousef also brings a significant amount of money to help fund the group. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1/22/2007; CNN, 1/31/2007] A flow chart of Yousef’s associates prepared in early 1995 by Angeles’ Philippines handler Rodolfo Mendoza shows a box connected to Abu Sayyaf labeled “20 trainees/recruits.” So presumably the Philippine government is aware of this information by then, but it is not known when they warned the US about it (see Spring 1995). Yousef will also later admit to planning the 1993 WTC bombing at an Abu Sayyaf base, which most likely takes place at this time (see Early 1992). The ties between Yousef and Abu Sayyaf will grow stronger, culminating in the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot.

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Abu Sayyaf, Edwin Angeles, Rodolfo Mendoza

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In 2002, it will be reported that a former head of the CIA station in Manilia, Philippines, alleges that Osama bin Laden comes to the Philippines personally this year at the invitation of the Philippine government. This CIA official claims, “Bin Laden presented himself as a wealthy Saudi who wanted to invest in Muslim areas and donate money to charity.” He was flown to the southern island of Mindanao by Philippine President Fidel Ramos. Bin Laden is not known as a notorious terrorist at the time, but it appears he actually is invited to help strengthen Abu Sayyaf and other rebel groups based in Mindanao fighting the Philippine government. A 2002 article calls this “an alleged plot” by Ramos “to manipulate Abu Sayyaf as a means of enhancing his personal political power.” [Insight, 6/22/2002] There have been reports for years that the Philippine government has propped up Abu Sayyaf to split the Muslim militants in the southern Philippines and for other Machiavellian reasons (see for instance 1991-Early February 1995, 1994, and July 27-28, 2003). It has also been reported that bin Laden visited the southern Philippines around 1988 to set up operations there. This was before Abu Sayyaf was formed (see Early 1991), but he apparently met with members of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a larger rebel group in the same region. [South China Morning Post, 10/11/2001; CNN, 1/27/2002]

Entity Tags: Abu Sayyaf, Philippines, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Fidel Ramos, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The United States Strategic Command (Stratcom) produces a document mentioning that the US backed some of al-Qaeda’s forerunners. The document, an after-action report for Stratcom’s Global Guardian exercise in 2001, contains summaries about terrorist groups from around the world. Its section on al-Qaeda states: “The group was originally brought together from elements of various insurgent military groups which have fought continuously in the Middle East since the 1980s. Some of these groups had US backing in the past.” Al-Qaeda was formed in 1988 (see August 11-20, 1988) by Arabs who had fought for the US-sponsored mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan war (see 1985-1986 and 1986-1992). [US Strategic Command, 12/4/2011]

Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Strategic Command

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law and former best friend of Osama bin Laden, is killed in Madagascar. Khalifa’s family claims that a large group of armed men broke into his house and killed him as he slept. His computer and laptop is stolen. Khalifa was living in Saudi Arabia but traded precious stones and was staying at a mine that he owns. His family says they do not believe he had been killed by locals. There is considerable evidence Khalifa was involved in funding al-Qaeda-connected plots in the Philippines and Yemen in the 1990s (see December 16, 1994-February 1995, December 16, 1994-May 1995, and 1996-1997 and After). Since that time, Khalifa has steadfastly denied any involvement in terrorism and has criticized bin Laden. CNN reporter Nic Robertson asks, “Was he killed by bin Laden’s associates for speaking out against the al-Qaeda leader or, equally feasibly, by an international intelligence agency settling an old score?” Just one week earlier, a Philippine newspaper published a posthumous 2006 interview with Khaddafy Janjalani, former leader of Abu Sayyaf, a Muslim militant group in the southern Philippines. In the interview, Janjalani claimed Abu Sayyaf received $122,000 from Khalifa and bomber Ramzi Yousef in the mid-1990s (see Early 1991). [CNN, 1/31/2007; Reuters, 2/1/2007] And four days before his murder, Interpol put out a bulletin about him, notifying a number of US intelligence agencies (see January 26, 2007). [Guardian, 3/2/2007] His murderers have not been found or charged.

Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Abu Sayyaf, Osama bin Laden, Khaddafy Janjalani

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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