Here we review another cable from a series of declassified documents from the American Embassy in Islamabad to the US Secretary of State's office in Washington, DC.
This is a cable dated 13 Oct 95: Subject: A/S RAPHER'S OCTOBER 4 MEETING WITH ASSEF ALL ON AFGHANISTAN.
Note that the abbreviation below, GOP, refers to the Government of Pakistan.
1. CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT.
2. SUMMARY: FOREIGN MINISTER ASSEF ALL TOLD SA A/S RAPHEL THAT MISTAKES BY THE KABUL AUTHORITIES AND ISMAEL KHAN, NOT ACTIONS BY PAKISTAN, WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FALL OF HERAT. HE THOUGHT THAT MASOOD WAS DESPERATE BECAUSE THE RUSSIAN AIRBRIDGE TO KABUL HAD BEEN CUT BY THE TALIBAN AND THAT IRAN WAS FRENZIED OVER THE FALL OF HERAT AND MIGHT "DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL". ALL MAINTAINED THE TALIBAN DID NOT NEED GOP SUPPORT BECAUSE OF ITS EXTENSIVE SUPPORT FROM PASHTUNS WITHIN THE COUNTRY; HE ADMITTED THAT PAKISTAN WAS TRYING TO COORDINATE THE OPPOSITION. [redacted extensively] END SUMMARY.
In Genesis, Part 15 and Genesis, Part 16, we reviewed a cable wherein we found a description of a Taliban that was well-funded, with military units that were disciplined, supported by airpower, and with public affairs savvy among the people of occupied Herat. In short, the Taliban troops conducted themselves better than most professional national armies, going so far as to pay for (not requisition on credit?) all provisions bought among Heratis, accepting no gifts.
We were left wondering where religious students from the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan got this degree of sophistication - and this kind of cash.
3. PAKISTANI FOREIGN MINISTER ASSEF ALL, ALONG WITH PAKISTANI EMBASSY PERSONNEL INCLUDING AMB. LODHI AND MILATT BRIG. JAVED, MET INFORMALLY TO DISCUSS AFGHANISTAN WITH SOUTH ASIA A/S ROBIN RAPHEL AND SA/PAB DIRECTOR (NOTETAKER) JUST FOLLOWING ALL'S MEETING WITH SECDEF PERRY (REF A) ON SAFETY OF HOSTAGES IN KASHMIR
4. BEFORE TURNING TO AFGHANISTAN, RAPHEL RAISED THE ISSUE OF THE HOSTAGES IN KASHMIR, REITERATING THAT THE GOP SHOULD CEASE RELYING ON ACCUSATIONS OF GOVERNMENT OF INDIA COMPLICITY WHICH WERE NOT CREDIBLE. SHE URGED PAKISTAN TO COMMUNICATE DIRECTLY WITH THE INDIAN AUTHORITIES ACROSS THE LINE OF CONTROL IF IT APPEARED THAT THE KIDNAPPERS WERE TRYING TO CROSS INTO PAKISTAN WITH THE HOSTAGES TO AVOID THE HOSTAGES BEING KILLED IN A CROSSFIRE. ALL STATED THAT HE DOUBTED THE KIDNAPPERS WOULD TRY TO ENTER PAKISTAN.
Pakistani officials, and the inevitable crisis with India....
Makes you pause and consider if the rise of the Taliban wasn't also a result of Pakistani concerns about India, and a desire for strategic depth vis-a-vis New Dehli. Indeed, some historical works maintain this to be the case.
ACCUSATIONS OF PAKISTANI REPONSIBILITY FOR HERAT
5. ALL DISMISSED OUT OF HAND THE ACCUSATION BY INDIA, IRAN AND MASOOD THAT PAKISTAN CONTROLLED THE TALIBAN AND WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE FALL OF HERAT. ALL STATED THAT MISTAKES MADE BY ISMAEL KHAN AND THE KABUL AUTHORITIES WERE BEHIND THE SUDDEN FALL OF HERAT TO THE TALIBAN. KABUL HAD SENT IN PANJSHERI TAJIKS TO FIGHT THE TALIBAN WHICH WAS GREATLY RESENTED BY HERATIS. BY MAKING IT A TAJIK VS PASHTUN FIGHT, THE PASHTUNS FOUGHT ALL THE HARDER. MOREOVER, IN TRYING TO PUSH THE TALIBAN BACK TO KANDAHAR, ISMAEL KHAN CREATED AN UNSUITABLE LINE OF SUPPLY WHICH COLLAPSED WHEN DOSTAM OPENED A FRONT NORTHEAST OF HERAT IN BADGHIS PROVINSE. FOLLOWING ISMAEL KHAN'S FORCES ATTEMPT TO LOOT GERESHK, THE FIGHT WITH THE TALIBAN BECAME A ROUT.
We saw in Part 15 and Part 16 how Ismail Khan's forces were basically poorly commanded in the fighting around Herat; so, there is a great deal of truth to the Pakistani position, as outlined above.
But, for the reasons we mentioned above - reasons addressed in Part 15 and Part 16 - we have ample reason to suspect that Pakistani military personnel may have been involved, at the very least in advisory and technical support capacities.
MASOOD AND IRAN DESPERATE
6. HE CLAIMED THAT MASOOD WAS DESPERATE DUE TO THE CUTTING OF THE RUSSIAN AIRBRIDGE TO KABUL THAT RESULTED FROM THE TALIBAN'S CAPTURE OF A RUSSIAN PLANELOAD OF "32 TONS OF AMMUNITION" BOUND FOR KABUL. ACCORDING TO ALL, THE PLANE WAS THE 41ST RUSSIAN FLIGHT IN RECENT MONTHS. HE CONTINUED THAT IRAN WAS FRENZIED OVER THE FALL OF HERAT AND WAS ADVISING ALL OPPOSING FACTIONS TO ALLY WITH RABBANI IN ORDER TO SECURE A LANDROUTE FOR PROVISIONS TO KABUL. HE OPINED THAT IRAN MIGHT "DO SOMETHING PHYSICAL" IN ADDITION TO BACKING ROUTED FORCES OF ISMAEL KHAN [redacted] HE TOOK THE CANCELLATION OF THE IRANIAN ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF'S VISIT TO MALAYSIA AND SUBSEQUENT TRAVEL TO MESHED AS AN OMINOUS SIGN OF MILITARY PREPARATIONS AGAINST HERAT. HE COMMENTED THAT OBVIOUS INVOLVEMENT OF IRAN WOULD UNITE ALL AFGHANS AGAINST IRAN. [redacted]
It seems both Iran and Russia agreed that Taliban domination of Afghanistan was undesireable. Furthermore, a comment indicated that Afghans would unite in the face of a foreign invasion - by Iran - of Afghanistan.
I wonder how Afghans would feel if they knew that the Taliban takeover of their country was a foriegn invasion by proxy - perhaps a disguised takeover by Pakistan's military-religious nexus?
In the following section, the expression TALL BAN is encountered, which presumably is a misprint and refers to the Taliban. Note also that it is numbered "V." instead of "7." as we would expect.
v. ALL DID NOT DENY THAT PAKISTAN HAD SIGNIFICANT CONTACT WITH AND GAVE SOME SUPPORT TO THE TALIBAN. HOWEVER, HE SAID THAT LITTLE OUTSIDE MATERIAL SUPPORT WAS NECESSARY AS THE TALL BAN HAD WIDESPREAD SUPPORT THROUGHOUT THE PASHTUN AREAS OF AFGHANISTAN. HE ASSERTED THAT MOST OF THE TALIBAN'S MONETARY SUPPORT CAME FROM KANDAHARI TRADERS WHO STAND TO LOSE MILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN TRADE WHEN THE LANDROUTES OUT OF AFGHANISTAN ARE CLOSED BY FIGHTING OR SUBJECT TO RUINOUS "TAXES" BY LOCAL COMMANDERS. ALL SAID IT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO INFLUENCE THE TALIBAN AND THAT PAKISTAN HAD TRIED TO "BRING THE TALIBAN FROM THE 14TH TO THE 20TH CENTURY" IN HERAT WHERE THEIR FUNDAMENTALIST STREAK WAS ALREADY ALIENATING THE MORE SOPHISTICATED HERATIS. HE MAINTAINED THAT PAKISTAN HAD ALSO SPOKEN WITH THE TALIBAN IN KANDAHAR ABOUT THE CAPTURED RUSSIAN AIRCREW. WHILE ALL PERSONALLY TOOK CREDIT FOR GETTING BETTER TREATMENT FOR THE CREW, HE SAID THAT THE TALL BAN WERE HARDHEADED WHEN IT CAME TO RELEASING THEM.
Kandahari traders? Funding the Taliban? With what excess capital? Trade had been severely crippled prior to the arrival on the scene of the Taliban, who opened the roads in that part of Afghanistan, clearing them of highwaymen.
A far more likely explanation is that the Taliban were being funded by the Saudis, who likely approved of their "conservative" form of Islam.
PAKISTAN TRIES TO COORDINATE OPPOSITION
8. ALL SAID THAT THE GOP HAS CONTACTS WITH ALL THE MAJOR OPPONENTS OF RABBANI AND MASOOD AND HAS ENCOURAGED COOPERATION AMONG THEM. WHILE INDICATING THAT MILITARY COOPERATION APPEARED SUCCESSFUL, THERE WAS LITTLE PROGRESS IN POLITICAL COOPERATION GIVEN THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE FACTIONS AND THE LOOSE LEADERSHIP AND INTERNAL DIVISIONS INSIDE THE TALIBAN. HE STATED THAT THE MAIN PAKISTANI MESSAGE TO THE OPPOSITION WAS TO UNITE AGAINST THE KABUL REGIME, BUT NOT TO ATTACK KABUL AS THE HUMAN COST WOULD SIMPLY BE TOO GREAT. ALL HOPED THAT ISOLATING KABUL WOULD LEAD TO RABBANI RESIGNING AS HE PROMISED MESTIRI IN MARCH, 1995. HIS REPLY TO QUERIES ABOUT MASOOD AND HIS FORCES WAS MORE EQUIVOCAL, THOUGH HE OPINED THAT FEELING AGAINST PANSHERIS IN KABUL WAS HARDENING AND THAT MASOOD COULD PARTICIPATE IN FUTURE GOVERNMENTS IF HE QUIT KABUL.
It seems Islamabad did not like the Rabbani government; only the Taliban seemed able to replace it.
RETURN OF THE KING
[Paragraph 9 redacted in its entirety.]
THE ROLE OF THE UNITED STATES AND SAUDI ARABIA
10. [redacted extensively] RAPHEL REITERATED THAT US POLICY WAS TO BACK THE UN SPECIAL MISSION. WHILE WE COULD SUPPORT EFFORTS THAT WERE AIMED AT FURTHERING THE UN SPECIAL MISSION, OUR POLICY WAS NOT TO ENDORSE ANY FACTIONS, INDIVIDUAL OR MOVEMENT IN THE AFGHAN STRUGGLE. NOR SHOULD THERE BE ANY ILLUSIONS ABOUT THE USG PROVIDING FUNDS OUTSIDE OF THOSE CHANNELED THROUGH THE UN ITSELF. [redacted extensively]
[Paragraph 11 redacted in its entirety.] CHRISTOPHER
I would sure like to know what had been redacted out of this part of the cable - especially the part about Saudi Arabia.