Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday admitted that the Pakistan Army and its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency had trained Al-Qaeda and other groups in Afghanistan.
Pakistan committed “one of the biggest blunders" by joining the US-led war on terrorism after the September 2001 terror attacks, Khan also said at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.
The previous governments “should not have pledged what they could not deliver", Khan said, referring to former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf’s decision to side with the US.
“The Pakistan Army, the ISI, trained the Al-Qaeda and all these groups to fight in Afghanistan," he said in response to a question on whether there was an inquiry into how Al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden came to be hiding in Pakistan. US special forces took out bin Laden in a top secret mission in May 2011 in Abbottabad, a military garrison town in Pakistan.
“(So), there had to be links (with the Al-Qaeda) because they trained them. Now, as I said, after 9/11, when we did a 180-degree turn and went after those groups. Not everyone agreed with this. The army people did not agree with this and so there were more insider attacks in Pakistan. There were two attacks on General Musharraf, which were from inside," Khan said.
“The (Pakistan) army chief, the ISI chief, had no idea about this (bin Laden being in Pakistan). I know this because they were listening to their conversation the night the raid took place and they said so. So, if there was (any knowledge of Osama bin Laden being in Abbottabad) it took place at lower levels," he said.
Analysts in New Delhi described Khan’s comments as a serious admission, but called them “half truths". “By speaking half truths, he is protecting the Pakistan army chief and the ISI chief. There is no way someone like bin Laden could have been in Pakistan for 10 years without the top brass knowing," said former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal.
“This is against commonsense that some low-level officers would take such a long-term risk of sheltering bin Laden," he said. Khan was hoping “to deflect pressure and earn some credibility for his government", Sibal said.
Khan said “Pakistan took a real battering" on joining the US-led war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. The country “should have stayed neutral in the conflict", he said.
“In the 1980s, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan, helped by the US, organised the resistance to the Soviets. The ISI trained militants who were invited from all over the Muslim world for jihad against the Soviets," Khan said. “So, we created these militant groups to fight the Soviets... Jihadis were heroes then. Come 1989, Soviets leave Afghanistan, the US packs up and leaves Afghanistan... and we were left with these groups," he said. “Then comes 9/11, and Pakistan again joins the US in the war on terror and now we are required to go after these groups as terrorists. They were indoctrinated that fighting foreign occupation is jihad, but now when the US arrived in Afghanistan, it was supposed to be terrorism," he added.
Khan said there could be no military solution in Afghanistan and he will ask US President Donald Trump to resume peace talks. “For 19 years if you have not been able to succeed, you are not going to be able to succeed in another 19 years," he said.