Musharraf tried to protect Taliban after 9/11: Report

After the Sep 11, 2001 terror attack, when the US had decided to bomb Afghanistan, then Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf and its Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) tried to persuade the Bush administration to instead hold a dialogue with the Taliban, as the ISI always regarded it as one of its strategic assets, the documents reveal.

The disclosures came as President Barack Obama Monday met with his national security team for his regular monthly meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to a White House readout, the top US commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus undedrscored that additional US forces deployed after a review last December  are "now at the highest operational tempo to date, and are focused on challenging long-established Taliban strongholds, targeting Taliban leadership."

The newly disclosed documents show that "on September 13, 2001, US Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin "bluntly" told Pakistani President Musharraf that there was absolutely no inclination in Washington to enter into a dialogue with the Taliban. The time for dialogue was finished as of Sep 11."

"Pakistan, as the Taliban's primary sponsor, disagreed," according to the documents extracted from the National Security Archive Electronic Briefing. "Pakistani Intelligence (ISI) Chief Mahmoud (Ahmad) told the ambassador "not to act in anger. Real victory will come in negotiations... If the Taliban are eliminated... Afghanistan will revert to warlordism."

Pakistan's primary concern was that the Northern Alliance, backed by other foreign powers in the region, including India, would return to power in Kabul.
Pakistan also backed off from hunting down Osama bin Laden, with Mahmoud, who was present in Washington on 9/11 telling the Americans it was "better for the Afghans to do it. We could avoid the fallout," the document said.

Mahmoud travelled to Afghanistan twice, on Sep 17, aboard an American plane, and again on Sep 24, 2001 to discuss the seriousness of the situation with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Ambassador Chamberlin said negotiations were pointless since Mullah Omar "had so far refused to meet even one US demand." She told Mahmoud his meetings with Omar were fine, but they "could not delay military planning."

As a result, Pakistani tribal areas where Osama bin Laden found refuge, which were momentarily open to the Pakistani Army when "the tribes were overawed by US firepower" after 9/11, quickly again became "no-go areas" where the Taliban could reorganize and plan their resurgence in Afghanistan, a commentary by the national Security Archive that accompanied the documents, notes.

The policy to protect Taliban reached the highest levels of the Pakistani establishment, the documents show. In exchanges between Sep 14 and Nov 16, 2001 Musharraf asked the US to clarify if its counterterrorism mission is against the Taliban or just Al Qaeda and repeatedly asks the US not to let the Northern Alliance take over Kabul.

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