Friday, August 6, 2010

The Colonel Imam Situation

The Counterterrorism Blog has a post linking to Flashpoint, which received a video and posted its transcript dealing with the kidnapping of retired Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer Colonel Imam Sultan Amir Tarar.

First, here is the English transcription, with the vid below:

Today is July 24, and tomorrow, it will be July 25. I am Sultan Amir, son of Ghulaam Amir, and people know me as Colonel Imam. I am in the custody of Lashkar Jhangvi Al Alami, Abdullah Mansoor. I sent my statements and CD messages to the government several times, but no attention has been given until now.

You know what mentality these people have and what are they up to. Khalid Khwaja has already been killed and we might receive an even harsher treatment, which will be damaging for Pakistan.

They cannot be pressured by anyone. They are well organized. According to them, my previous statements have not been released to the media either. I appeal, Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, DG ISI Jahangir Gul and Jasim Baig, to accept the demands of Lashkar Jhangvi Al Alami as soon as possible.

You people know about the services I rendered for my country. If the Pakistan government does not care about me, then I don't have any reason to care about the nation either, and [I] will reveal all the weaknesses of our nation.

Whatever game is being played with Afghanistan, India, Russia, and America, I know about all of it. It is now for the Pakistani government to decide. Four months have now passed but you don't care about me. I am fed up of spending my whole life all the time in a basement.

It should be conveyed to my family to pray for me and to take care of the children. I also want it to make it clear to my son Nauman Umar to resign from his government post. At the moment, they don't seem to care about me, so why would they make a fuss over him in the future either.

Wasalam, your well wisher, Sultan Amir.

But, who is this Colonel Imam? From Former Pakistani Officer Embodies a Policy Puzzle, dated March 3, 2010 (shortly before Col. Imam was captured):

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — With his white turban, untrimmed beard and worn army jacket, the man known uniformly here by his nom de guerre, Col. Imam, is a particular Pakistani enigma.

Once a promising protégé for the United States, Brig. Sultan Amir, who is known as Col. Imam, has taught insurgent tactics.

A United States-trained former colonel in Pakistan's spy agency, he spent 20 years running insurgents in and out of Afghanistan, first to fight the Soviet Army, and later to support the Taliban, as Pakistani allies, in their push to conquer Afghanistan in the 1990s.

Today those Taliban forces are battling his onetime mentor, the United States, and Western officials say Colonel Imam has continued to train, recruit and finance the insurgents. Along with a number of other retired Pakistani intelligence officials, they say, he has helped the Taliban stage a remarkable comeback since 2006.

In two recent interviews with The New York Times, Colonel Imam denied that. But he remains a vocal advocate of the Taliban, and his views reveal the sympathies that have long run deep in the ranks of Pakistan's military and intelligence services.

Despite Pakistan's recent arrest of several high-level Taliban commanders, men like Colonel Imam sit at the center of the questions that linger around what Pakistan's actual intentions are toward the Taliban.

American and NATO officials suspect that retired officers like Colonel Imam have served as a quasi-official bridge to Taliban leaders and their rank and file as well as other militant groups.

The group that kidnapped Col. Imam is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami - classified by both the US and Pakistan as a terrorist organization, and which follows Deobandi/neo-Wahhabi Islam. This is the group that killed journalist Daniel Pearl in early 2002, and the suicide bomber that killed Benazir Bhutto and 20 others in 2007 was said to belong to this group.

In other words, these guys are reputedly hardcore fanatic freaks.

So, why are they holding a retired Pakistani intelligence officer who is reputed to have essentially founded the Taliban, and to be a rogue element continuing to support the Taliban despite the fact that his country, Pakistan, is supposed to be allied with the US fighting against the Taliban?

Because, if this Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami is who everyone says it is - a terrorist organization - and if this Colonel Imam is who everyone says he is - a guy who founded the Taliban and has been treasonously supporting them despite the fact that his government is now at war against them - then Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami and Colonel Imam should be allies.

Perhaps the explanation can be found in a blog post. From US "Trapped" By ISI, August 4, 2010:

The following article apparently sounds like ISI being demonized, but reading between the lines, it actually reflects the fear and frustration they have in their hearts, the way they are terrorized of the genius of ISI strategists and that how badly are they trapped in the same labyrinth they have been trying to build to achieve their covert goals in this region. The "ISI Terror" is becoming a nightmare for the open and covert enemies of Pakistan. They didn't learn from history and didn't see whats coming, hence falling in their own trap. This region is sure to become the graveyard of another superpower. ISI did it once, they can do it again. Soon the Americans will be seen being "farewell-photographed" with Pakistani officials.



T. J. S. George

The leakage of 92,000 secret military intelligence documents is sensational anywhere any time. When the documents pertain to the war against Taliban-Al-Quaida, it is also disturbing because it shows (a) that America is in a trap and is unlikely to win this war, and (b) that India is in for trouble, big trouble.

Let's not forget that the information now leaked is new only to us, the lay public. To the top echelons of leadership in America, the facts were known all along. They also knew that the records had leaked. Two months ago, in May, the US Army Criminal Investigation Command had arrested an intelligence analyst in the army and charges were filed against him early this month, well before the leaked documents hit world headlines.

The arrested man, Bradley Manning, is 22 years old. If he is indeed the man who leaked the secrets, he must have done so as a matter of conscience, appalled by the atrocities American troops were committing. This is a "problem" with American democracy. One man with conscience will always be around to do the unexpected.

Remember those pictures of Iraqi citizens being humiliated and tortured by fun-loving American soldiers? Earlier, Vietnam war secrets were published by Daniel Ellsberg, another military analyst then working for the Rand Corporation.

The latest documents had much to reveal about Pakistan's complicity in terror network in the region. This led to some patriotic drum-beating in India — as if Pakistan had been caught with its pants down and now America would be forced to act.

Nothing of the kind will happen. America has been seeing Pakistan with its pants down for quite a while. For example, it said more than once in recent weeks that Osama bin Laden was living in Pakistan. Blandly, Pakistan denied it. And America let it rest at that. Pakistan is for America, a pill that is too bitter to swallow and too sweet to spit out, a classic diplomatic trap.

Pakistan's military leaders, especially the smart strategists of the ISI, know this very well, hence their audacious policy of helping al-Quaida and the Taliban. Some of the terror outfits the ISI trains and equips are fighting America. Knowing this, America goes on giving Pakistan one billion dollars in aid every year. That is how smart the ISI is.

I'm wondering just how "kidnapped" this Colonel Imam really is.

What I think is going on is this:

Bhutto understood quite well that Pakistan was supporting the terrorists that we are supposedly fighting, as does everyone else who is paying attention. (In fact, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Russian leadership immediately pointed out that such an operation could only be carried out with the support of a state intelligence apparatus.) Bhutto commented on how dictatorships (such as that of General Pervez Musharraf, who was running Pakistan while Bhutto was campaigning) need terrorists, and terrorists need dictatorships.

Considering Pakistan's long-standing support for the Taliban and other Islamic terrorist groups, it is not surprising that Pakistan was unable to provide adequate security for Benazir Bhutto, and so Bhutto ultimately wound up assassinated by the same kind of terrorist group that Mushy's government had been supporting.

Now, for the first time in years with a civilian government - one which likely does not know the full extent of involvement of Pakistan's own military intelligence in everything from nuclear weapons proliferation to supporting terrorism - there is a definite possibility (however slight) that the civilian government might rein in Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI).

To keep this from happening, guys like Colonel Imam need to be out of reach of legitimate authorities who might want to investigate this terrorist support network.

What better place to keep him than "in a basement" supposedly "kidnapped" by the terrorists?

If he should ever get "released" (i.e., captured, for example, in a covert operation), his cover story and alibi are intact - he was, after all, not collaborating with terrorists, he was their hostage.

I close with another excerpt from Former Pakistani Officer Embodies a Policy Puzzle:

If Colonel Imam personifies the double edge of Pakistan's policy toward the Taliban, he also embodies the deep connection Pakistan has to the Afghan insurgents, and possibly the key to controlling them.

Once a promising protégé for the United States, he underwent Special Forces training at Fort Bragg, N.C., in 1974, learning in particular the use of explosives, and he went on to do a master parachutist course with the 82nd Airborne Division.

On his return to Pakistan, he taught insurgent tactics to the first Afghan students who fled the country's Communist revolution in 1978, among them future resistance leaders Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and Ahmed Shah Masood. He then worked closely with the C.I.A. to train and support thousands of guerrilla fighters for the Afghan resistance against the Soviet Army throughout the 1980s.

Once the Soviets were pushed out, the Taliban emerged and Colonel Imam, then serving as a Pakistani consular official in Afghanistan, provided critical support to their bid to rule the country, Western officials said.

By his own account, he was so close to the Taliban leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, that he visited him in the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, and left only when the American bombing campaign began later in 2001. He says he has not returned since. His parting advice to Mullah Omar, he said, was to fight on, but stick to guerrilla tactics.

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