"CIA worked in tandem with Pak to create Taliban"

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LONDON: The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked in tandem with Pakistan to create the "monster" that is today Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, a leading US expert on South Asia said here.

"I warned them that we were creating a monster," Selig Harrison from the Woodrow Wilson International Centre for Scholars said at the conference here last week on "Terrorism and Regional Security: Managing the Challenges in Asia."

Harrison said: "The CIA made a historic mistake in encouraging Islamic groups from all over the world to come to Afghanistan." The US provided $3 billion for building up these Islamic groups, and it accepted Pakistan's demand that they should decide how this money should be spent, Harrison said.

Harrison, who spoke before the Taliban assault on the Buddha statues was launched, told the gathering of security experts that he had meetings with CIA leaders at the time when Islamic forces were being strengthened in Afghanistan. "They told me these people were fanatical, and the more fierce they were the more fiercely they would fight the Soviets," he said. "I warned them that we were creating a monster."

Harrison, who has written five books on Asian affairs and US relations with Asia, has had extensive contact with the CIA and political leaders in South Asia. Harrison was a senior associate of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace between 1974 and 1996.

Harrison who is now senior fellow with The Century Foundation recalled a conversation he had with the late Gen Zia-ul Haq of Pakistan. "Gen Zia spoke to me about expanding Pakistan's sphere of influence to control Afghanistan, then Uzbekistan and Tajikstan and then Iran and Turkey," Harrison said. That design continues, he said. Gen.Mohammed Aziz who was involved in that Zia plan has been elevated now to a key position by Chief Executive, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, Harrison said.

The old associations between the intelligence agencies continue, Harrison said. "The CIA still has close links with the ISI (Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence)."

Today that money and those weapons have helped build up the Taliban, Harrison said. "The Taliban are not just recruits from 'madrassas' (Muslim theological schools) but are on the payroll of the ISI (Inter Services Intelligence, the intelligence wing of the Pakistani government)." The Taliban are now "making a living out of terrorism."

Harrison said the UN Security Council resolution number 1333 calls for an embargo on arms to the Taliban. "But it is a resolution without teeth because it does not provide sanctions for non-compliance," he said. "The US is not backing the Russians who want to give more teeth to the resolution."

Now it is Pakistan that "holds the key to the future of Afghanistan," Harrison said. The creation of the Taliban was central to Pakistan's "pan-Islamic vision," Harrison said.

It came after "the CIA made the historic mistake of encouraging Islamic groups from all over the world to come to Afghanistan," he said. The creation of the Taliban had been "actively encouraged by the ISI and the CIA," he said. "Pakistan has been building up Afghan collaborators who will sustain Pakistan," he said. (IANS)
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