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Context of 'After September 1996: Journalist Sees US and Taliban Combating Russia over Central Asian Pipeline Issue'

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1994-1997: US Supports Taliban Rise to Power

Journalist Ahmed Rashid, a long-time expert on Pakistan and Afghanistan, will later write in a book about the Taliban that the US supported the Taliban in its early years. “Between 1994 and 1996, the USA supported the Taliban politically through its allies Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, essentially because Washington viewed the Taliban as anti-Iranian, anti-Shia, and pro-Western. Between 1995 and 1997, US support was even more driven because of its backing for the Unocal [pipeline] project.” He notes that many US diplomats “saw them as messianic do-gooders—like born-again Christians from the American Bible Belt.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 326] Selig Harrison, a long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties, will later say that he complained at the time about how Pakistani ISI support of the Taliban was backed by the CIA. “I warned them that we were creating a monster.” [Times of India, 3/7/2001] There is evidence the CIA may have helped supply the Taliban with weapons during the first months of their rise to power (see October 1994).

Entity Tags: Taliban, Ahmed Rashid, Selig Harrison

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The Taliban, while just starting to take over Afghanistan, forms an important alliance with a powerful mafia of truck transporters based in Quetta, Pakistan (near the Afghanistan border) and Kandahar, Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 22] The transporters pay hefty fees to the Taliban, who, in return, suppress any local warlords who interfere with the mafia’s trade. Additionally, the Taliban ensures that roads are kept open so that the transporters can operate freely. Taliban expert and author Ahmed Rashid argues that the alliance between the Taliban and the Quetta mafia becomes so successful that it ultimately destabilizes not only Afghanistan, but Pakistan as well. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 191-195]

Entity Tags: Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ahmed Rashid.Ahmed Rashid. [Source: Jane Scherr/ University of California, Berkeley]Ahmed Rashid, correspondent for the Far Eastern Economic Review and The Daily Telegraph, conducts extensive investigative research in Afghanistan after the Taliban conquest of Kabul. As he will later write in his 2000 book, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, he sees a “massive regional polarization between the USA, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the Taliban on one side and Iran, Russia, the Central Asian states and the anti-Taliban alliance on the other. While some focused on whether there was a revival of the old CIA-ISI connection from the Afghan jihad era, it became apparent to me that the strategy over pipelines had become the driving force behind Washington’s interest in the Taliban, which in turn was prompting a counter-reaction from Russia and Iran. But exploring this was like entering a labyrinth, where nobody spoke the truth or divulged their real motives or interests. It was the job of a detective rather than a journalist because there were few clues. Even gaining access to the real players in the game was difficult, because policy was not being driven by politicians and diplomats, but by the secretive oil companies and intelligence services of the regional states.” [Rashid, 2001, pp. 163]

Entity Tags: Pakistan, Iran, Russia, Ahmed Rashid, Saudi Arabia, Taliban

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Selig Harrison.Selig Harrison. [Source: Publicity photo]Selig Harrison, a long-time regional expert working at the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars, says, “the CIA still has close links with the ISI.” Harrison is said to have “extensive contact with the CIA and political leaders in South Asia.” He also claims that the US worked with Pakistan to create the Taliban. [Times of India, 3/7/2001] Similarly, in 2000, Ahmed Rashid, longtime regional correspondent for the Financial Times and the Daily Telegraph, called the US “Pakistan’s closest ally, with deep links to [Pakistan’s] military and the ISI.” Rashid agrees with Harrison that the US had a role in the creation of the Taliban. [Center for Public Integrity, 9/13/2001]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Selig Harrison

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Saud al-Rashid.
Saud al-Rashid. [Source: FBI]A CD-ROM containing a picture of a young Saudi man named Saud al-Rashid is seized in an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The CD also contains the pictures of three 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Abdulaziz Alomari, placed in the same folder with the picture of al-Rashid. The pictures are all passport photos or pages of entry and exit stamps from the same passports. All the computer files of the pictures were saved in May 2001. A senior US official says that investigators “were able to take this piece of information and it showed clear signals or lines that [al-Rashid] was connected to 9/11.” Media reports in 2002 say that the raid takes place on August 15, but an FBI report made public years later will show the raid took place on May 16 but the importance of the CD-ROM’s contents was not discovered until August 15. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Al-Rashid Escapes Dragnet - On August 21, six days after the files on the CD-ROM are discovered, the US will issue a worldwide dragnet to find al-Rashid. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] But they are unable to catch him because a few days later, he flees from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and turns himself in to the Saudi authorities. The Saudis apparently will not try him for any crime or allow the FBI to interview him. [CNN, 8/26/2002; CNN, 8/31/2002]
Al-Rashid's Background - Al-Rashid was in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, where he met 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi “once or twice” in a guest house. [New York Times, 7/29/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Although detainees identify him as a candidate 9/11 hijacker, he claims not to have met Osama bin Laden or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), or even to have heard of al-Qaeda. Under interrogation, KSM will say al-Rashid was headstrong and immature and dropped out of the plot after returning to Saudi Arabia for a visa, either due to second thoughts or the influence of his family. However, doubts will be raised about the reliability of KSM’s statements under interrogation (see August 6, 2007). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Intriguingly, al-Rashid’s father is Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official who paid a salary to Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of both Almihdhar and Alhazmi who is later suspected of being a Saudi agent. [New York Times, 7/29/2003]
Passport Clue - Also intriguingly, the pictures from Saeed Alghamdi’s and Khalid Almihdhar’s passports show the passports were issued at “Holy Capital.” This may be an indicator placed by the Saudi government to show that the passport holders are radicals. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Other Evidence? - Florida FBI agent Tom Yowell will later mention to the 9/11 Commission that he remembers some other 9/11-related evidence captured in a May 2002 Karachi raid, including mention of the address of a Virginia post office box (see February 19-20, 2001 and April 3-4, 2001 and around) and videos of the 9/11 hijackers. But which hijackers were videotaped, and where and when, is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 12/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, Omar al-Bayoumi, Tom Yowell, Hamid al-Rashid, Saud al-Rashid, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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