Chossudovsky on the CIA-ISI link

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It's no secret that Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) has supported radical Islamist groups in the past, but the claims that some within the ISI knew about, and even funded the September 11 attacks has still been seized upon by those who say "9/11 was an inside job". Why? It's apparently all down to the "close relationship" between the two agencies. Michel Chossudovsky talks about this here:

The ISI owing “its existence to the CIA” is amply documented, Chossudovsky tells us, so you might expect the quote he uses as an example to be the very best available. But this doesn’t appear to be the case.

First, the ISI was created long before “the early 1980’s”, in fact only the year after the CIA was established in 1947, so it’s hard to see any literal truth in Chossudovsky’s claim:

And second, Chossudovsky’s own quote is short on details. CIA backing? Where, exactly? How much? “Massive amounts of US military aid”? How much? Was this intended to develop the ISI into a “parallel structure wielding enormous power over all aspects of Government”, or could that be an unexpected byproduct?

Chossudovsky does kindly provide a footnoted source for this comment, so perhaps that’ll tell us more.

There’s no URL for the first source provided, unfortunately, but no problem. A quick Google search for the title “The Taliban: Exporting Extremism” delivers multiple copies, including one on Read it, though, and you’ll find no real support for Chossudovsky. This is as strong as it gets:

Nothing on CIA “backing” for the ISI, nothing on “massive military aid”, nothing on “parallel structures”, no direct support for the comment its supposedly footnoting at all. Still, we do have the second source: “See also Michel Chossudovsky, Who is Osama bin Laden, Global Outlook, No. 1, 2002”. Yes, it seems Chossudovsky is sourcing comments from himself. Take a look at that page, and we find the following:

We’ve not been able to trace the source document, unfortunately. (Can you? Point us to it.) However, the way this is written suggests Banerjee’s article is a source for the "parallel structure wielding enormous power over all aspects of government" quote: it may have nothing to do with establishing “CIA backing”, or the ISI “owing its existence to the CIA” at all.

Let’s be fair, though. This quote may be referring to earlier parts of the “Who is Osama bin Laden” document, so let’s see what Chossudovsky has to say here:

Here we a direct use of the source quoted earlier. No proof of links between the CIA and ISI, though. Next:

It seems things improve here with talk of “a dramatic increase in arms supplies”: is this the “massive amounts of military aid” referred to by Chossudovsky, earlier? We’d hope not, as the quote seems to be talking about aid intended for Afghanistan, not Pakistan, however in the absence of other candidates perhaps this really is it.

We do finally get some mention of links between the CIA and ISI, too. However, there’s nothing here to suggest there’s anything involved other than collaboration due to a shared goal. “CIA specialists” meeting with the ISI to “plan operations for the Afghan rebels” is barely support for Chossudovsky’s suggestion that of “CIA backing”, and certainly doesn’t help show that “the ISI owes its existence to the CIA”. Let’s keep looking.

Note the unsupported phrasing here. Somehow we’ve moved to the CIA “using” the ISI. How? The previous article suggests only that they’re working together. Chossudovsky may want to prove that the CIA were in charge, but he’s yet to demonstrate it.

Then he tells us the CIA “played a key role in training the Mujahideen”, but he’s not established that yet either (the training, or the “key”). And again, there’s no support in the quote he provides. Maybe there will be something in a moment...?

Chossudovsky once more tells us that “Pakistan’s ISI was used...”. Certainly they were an intermediary for US support, but that doesn’t mean they were subservient or didn’t have reasons of their own for acting as they did.

Here we do have someone appearing to say that the CIA were involved in training. What’s that based on? We have no idea, and that matters, because other very qualified commentators take a very different view. Maloy Krishna Dhar, for instance, is a former Joint Director of the Indian Intelligence Bureau. His book “Fulcrum of Evil: ISI-CIA-Al Qaeda Nexus” is, as you might guess from the title, far from sympathetic to the US, yet his observations are quite clear:

Gerald Posner, in “Why America Slept: The Failure To Prevent 9/11”, has a similar observation:

Whatever the truth about the training issue, there’s still no support here for the idea that “the ISI owes its existence to the CIA”, or that it’s simply a client agency, doing as it’s told. Still, Chossudovsky ploughs on regardless.

Again, we have repetition of Chossudovsky’s theme, but with no supporting evidence. So he tells us that Milton Beardman saying “we didn’t train Arabs” still means he was playing a specific American role, as opposed to (for example) one for Pakistan. Can his last reference to CIA/ISI links save the day?

Well, no. Although there’s a reference here to relations between the CIA and ISI “growing increasingly warm”, this also demonstrates that the ISI had plans of their own, not always in line with what the CIA wanted to do. And, of course, there’s still no support for Chossudovsky’s claim that we mentioned, what seemed so very long ago, at the top of the page.

So what does Chossudovsky give us? Lots of accusations. Sources that don’t back up what he’s saying, or are just something he said in a previous essay. And the constant repetition of his main themes, as though this might make up for the lack of documentation. Well, we say it doesn’t: he displays minimal supporting evidence for his thesis here, and unless you’re predisposed to take his point of view, it’s hard to see why anyone could find this even faintly convincing.

CIA used the ISI in Bosnia

Chossudovsky also says that the CIA has used the ISI as an intermediary to conceal it’s support for Islamist groups in the past:

This quote is used as supporting evidence:

Read this carefully and you’ll note there’s nothing here about Pakistan or the ISI. Are we to assume that the "stream of "Afghan" Mujahedin" can only have been supplied by Pakistan? If so, a paragraph from the original International Media Corporation article suggests that isn’t true:

Some from Pakistan, then, but still no mention of the ISI. And definitely no support for the original statement. In fact it seems that Iran was far more involved with this affair than Pakistan. Does that mean they should now be viewed as subservient to the CIA? Or could it be that drawing long-term conclusions from a report relating primarily to events in September and October 1994, is just a little simplistic?

None of this means the Pentagon or US were innocent, of course, as Dutch Professor Cees Wiebes pointed out in 2002:

In this version of the story we have talk of the CIAs "reluctance to develop close relations with the Islamists". There certainly was contact through the Pentagon and intermediaries like Iran, but how involved were they with members of terrorist groups who fought in the Balkans?. Even some books with sympathy for 9/11 “inside job” theories hesitate to offer a definitive answer (our emphasis):

So it’s “not clear” that the US sanctioned the involvement of any proscribed organisation, at least according to this analysis. And with regard to the original claim, there’s once more nothing at all on the CIA using the ISI as a go-between: no support at all.