This document, dated November 30, 1995, is a cable from the US Embassy in Islamabad to the US Secretary of State's office, outlining the views of one Russian embassy official, Zamir Kabulov, on the rise of the Taliban.
SUBJECT: AFGHANISTAN: RUSSIAN EMBASSY OFFICIAL CLAIMS IRAN INTERFERING MORE THAN PAKISTAN
1. (U) CLASSIFIED BY JOHN C. HOLZMAN, CHARGE D'AFFAIRES, A.I., EMBASSY ISLAMABAD. REASON: 1.5 (D).
2. (C) ZAMIR KABULOV, THE WELL-INFORMED COUNSELOR FOR CENTRAL ASIAN AND AFGHAN AFFAIRS AT THE RUSSIAN EMBASSY HERE, BRIEFED POLOFF NOVEMBER 28 ON RUSSIAN PERCEPTIONS OF PAKISTANI AND IRANIAN INVOLVEMENT IN AFGHANISTAN. ON PAKISTANI SUPPORT FOR THE TALIBAN, HE ALLEGED THAT:
-- MOST TALIBAN FUNDING STILL COMES FROM AFGHAN TRADERS, BUT THE PAKISTANI GOVERNMENT ALSO PROVIDES MODEST FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE TO KEY TALIBAN FIGURES -- PARTICULARLY WITHIN THE CENTRAL SHURA IN KANDAHAR.
-- FORMER NAJIBULLAH REGIME PILOTS IN KANDAHAR SAY PAKISTAN INDIRECTLY AIDS PRO-TALIBAN AFGHAN TRADERS BY MAKING NO EFFORT TO STOP THE BOOMING SMUGGLING TRADE (MOSTLY ELECTRONICS FLOWN INTO KANDAHAR AIRPORT FROM DUBAI AND THEN SMUGGLED INTO PAKISTAN FOR SALE).
-- THE GOP PROVIDES JET AND DIESEL FUEL TO THE TALIBAN, AS WELL AS SOME LOGISTICS SUPPORT (MAINLY COMMO GEAR, REPAIR OF RADAR SYSTEMS, ETC.).
-- LETHAL ASSISTANCE IS LIMITED, ALTHOUGH PAKISTAN'S ISID GIVES THE TALIBAN SMALL AMOUNTS OF AMMUNITION, "MOSTLY TO MAINTAIN INFLUENCE -- THE TALIBAN CAPTURED ENOUGH AT SHINDAND AND HERAT TO MEET THEIR CURRENT NEEDS, INCLUDING A KABUL SIEGE."
-- PAKISTAN HAS PROVIDED TANK AND ARTILLERY TRAINING IN QUETTA TO 20-30 TALIBAN, AND ALSO GAVE "REFRESHER" FLIGHT INSTRUCTION TO FORMER NAJIBULLAH PILOTS NOW WORKING FOR THE TALIBAN.
This certainly falls in line with what we have previously seen in these series, as we had been left with the question of how a bunch of religious students from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area were able to operate tanks and artillery, much less helicopters and fighter planes.
The description of this as support from Pakistan, but of a rather limited nature, to me seems to dovetail with what we would expect if Pakistan were sponsoring the Taliban - it would be hard to keep anyone from knowing anything, but rather it would be apparent that at least some support was being provided.
3. (C) IN CONTRAST TO WHAT HE CHARACTERIZED AS PAKISTAN'S "MODEST BUT PERVASIVE" AID TO THE TALIBAN, KABULOV COMMENTED THAT IRAN WAS POURING LARGE AMOUNTS OF MONEY AND MATERIAL INTO AFGHANISTAN IN SUPPORT OF THE RABBANI GOVERNMENT. HE CLAIMED:
-- IRANIAN DEPUTY FOREIGN MINISTER BORUJERDI HAS OFFERED LARGE BRIBES TO DOSTAM, KARIM KHALILI AND HEKMATYAR IN AN EFFORT TO SHATTER THE OPPOSITION TO THE SCC COALITION.
-- TEHRAN WAS RECRUITING, ARMING, AND TRAINING "SEVERAL THOUSAND" ANTI-TALIBAN AFGHAN REFUGEES IN CAMPS INSIDE IRAN BUT CLOSE TO THE AFGHAN BORDER.
-- IRAN HAD ESTABLISHED AN "AIR BRIGADE" TO BAGHRAM FROM MASHHAD, WITH SEVERAL FLIGHTS EACH DAY BRINGING WEAPONS AND MONEY FOR THE KABUL GOVERNMENT. MOST OF THESE FLIGHTS CAME AT NIGHT, AND THE GOVERNMENT OF TURKMENISTAN HAD BECOME SUFFICIENTLY ANNOYED AT THE FREQUENCY OF THESE UNCLEARED FLIGHTS THAT IT HAD LODGED A PRIVATE PROTEST WITH TEHRAN.
As we shall see in the next cable we review in this series, Iran had been against the government in Kabul, until Tehran began to understand the nature of the Taliban threat, at which point Iran began to support the anti-Taliban forces, including the government in Kabul.
4. (C) AS TO RUSSIAN AID TO KABUL, KABULOV WAS COY, SAYING ONLY THAT MOSCOW COULD NOT CONTROL THE MANY AFGHAN AND RUSSIAN ENTREPRENEURS WHO ENGAGED IN 'PRIVATE' BUSINESS DEALINGS -- ALTHOUGH HE ADMITTED THAT ASSISTANCE TO RABBANI AND MASOOD FROM THE FORMER SOVIET UNION WAS PROBABLY ON THE INCREASE. HOLZMAN
This last paragraph is very interesting.
This is exactly how a power would intervene, while giving the appearance that it was not doing so officially - "plausible deniability". It certainly gives us insight as to what might have been going on in Pakistan and, as we shall soon see, it gives us insight into the multiplicity of Russian policy regarding Afghanistan in this time frame.