U.S. intelligence reports obtained the Danish daily Information now tie one of the West’s closest allies in Afghanistan to terrorist activities.
According to U.S. intelligence reports, vice president and top commander Mohammed Fahim Khan has been deeply involved in terrorist activities against President Hamid Karzai's government in the years 2005-2008.
Fahim’s primary power base is the Afghan National Army, which is supposed to take over responsibility for Afghanistans’s security within a few years. The leaks therefore seem to imply that the West is comitted to consolidating the power of a man who seem to be ready to resort to terror.
A confidential intelligence report dated 12.05.2005 reveal highly sensitive details about members of the Western-backed Karzai government:
”Current members of the democratic GOA [Government of Afghanistan], who belong to the JI party [Jamiat-e Islami] and are loyal to Fahim Khan, are in contact with members of the TB to coordinate responsibility for terrorist acts.”
The report is found among 14,821 secret military intelligence reports from Afghanistan, which is part of the original Afghan War Logs, published in july 2010 by Wikileaks. The reports are still being withheld by WikiLeaks, but has now been obtained by Information In several instances the documents ties the Afghan Vice President, Mr. Fahim Khan to terror and armed resistance against the government.
Today Fahim is Afghanistan’s vice president and is considered the second most powerful man in the country after President Hamid Karzai. Many experts even consider him to hold greater power than the president. But for a period of four years he was excluded from power after an initial carreer as vice president and defense minister from 2001-04.
These four years in the cold seem to have been the time, where he plottet against Karzai.
The sturdy warlord with his dark beard, fleshy face and a reputation for brutal attacks on his enemies has not only been Afghanistan’s vice president since 2009. He is also a top-ranking general with far-reaching control over part of the nation’s military and security apparatus – and a key figure in NATO's Afghanistan strategy.
According to an intelligence report from 2005, Fahim Khan's allies in the Afghan government contacted a Taliban leader by the name of Ma(u)lawi Abdul Latif with the intention of persuading the Taliban to take responsibility for their own terrorist acts. But Latif allegedly replied that the Taliban does not have the necessary logistical support to carry out such attacks, and that it would be ”unbeliveable for them to claim responsibility for actions, which they could not possibly carry out.”
The document concludes with a general observation from the U.S. military on ”the infighting that exists within the government”, since the members of the government who masterminded the terrorist actions seemed intent on demonstrating that the Karzai administration was unable to provide security:
”The repeated inability to curtail the existing insurgency could further destabilize the current administration and result in a change of leadership positions.”
The details in the U.S. intelligence report are quoted as evidence. The document does not
mention any specific terrorist activities, nor does it identify the Afghan government officials who have been talking with Taliban. They may be ministers or other members of the government administration.
It is also not clear whether the information have been obtained from wire tapping or from interviews with human sources. Nor does the document specify whether the U.S. military considers Fahim Khan to be personally involved or merely complicit in conspiring with the Taliban.
However having peroused a broad variety of documents from the leaked material, Information has found several reports indicating that Fahim Khan was indeed implicated in planning terror and armed resistance against the Karzai government.
Most of the information about Fahim alleged terror activities are attributed to human sources. Taking into account that no single piece of information can be assumed to be compleately reliable, the reports reveal a pattern that fits with previously known facts.
A key alley
As a prominent military leader in the The Northern Alliance – a political-military mujahedin organization, that united all ethnic groups of Afghanistan in a struggle against the Afghan Taleban general Fahim Khan became one of America’s and Britain’s foremost allies during the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
Being an ethnic Tajik, general Fahim was precluded from the presidency in a country, in which Pashtuns are the majority, but he was rewarded for his effort with millions of dollars from the CIA and a prominent position as vice president and minister of defense minister in the government of Hamid Karzai - a rather unknown Pasthune, who spend most of his life in exile.
This arrangement however, was met with harsh criticism from human rights activists especially since special forces under the command of general Fahim were suspected of serious war crimes against civilians.
From 2001 to 2004, Fahim Khan installed a large number of Tajik commanders from the Northern Alliance in key positions in the Afghan National Army and the Ministry of Defense – positions many of them still hold today, thereby ensuring Fahim’s influence in the army.
International media reported in 2002 that President Karzai substituted his bodyguards from the Afghan army with American bodyguards – a reshuffle which was interpreted as a sign that the president did not feel safe after this worrisome development and may have had valid reason to suspect his vice president of not being loyal to him.
In 2004, Hamid Karzai decided to remove Fahim Khan from all government offices. This move came about after pressure from Washington and London who were highly critical of the vice president and had not yet come to terms with his role as a crucial ally. According to confidential CIA reports detailed in the New York Times, the U.S. administration had ascertained that Fahim owned a Soviet-built cargo plane, which he had put into regular service, smuggling heroin into Russia.
In return, Fahim Khan was given the honorary title of Marshall in the Afghan army, which is the highest rank, an Afghan officer can achieve. It also became clear that the former vice president still had powerful allies in the Karzai government – among them several members of the militant Islamic party Jamiat-e Islami, in which Fahim Khan is a dominant figure.
Another intelligence report dated 31.10.2005, states that a certain commander Amir Gul – who was and still may be a Taliban member, and, according to U.S. intelligence, deeply involved in terrorist acts – had established training camps in northeastern Afghanistan with nine lieutenants under his command, each of them commanding 60-120 men.
”Fahim Khan is supporting all these entire groups through Amir Gul,” the American intelligence agent drafting the report wrote, stressing that Amir Gul is one of Fahim Khan’s ”true men”. ”Those groups are training out of sight, and they're Fahim Khan’s back up in case that there will be a war in Afghanistan,” the agent noted.
The year after that report was written, Fahim Khan was again linked with Amir Gul. This happens in an intelligence report, dated 28.03.2006, that is based on unidentified oral sources.
According to this report, the former head of the Pakistani Intelligence service Hamid Gul and the Pakistani politician and religious leader Maulana Sami ul-Haq were planning attacks against NATO forces and Afghan authorities.
The two men, who are considered to be among Taliban’s founding fathers, alledgedly used a former senior official in The Taleban as an intermediary to provide Amir Gul with ”3 satellite phones, 8 small weapons with silencer, 28 remote controlled mines and 6 terrorists.”
Intelligence report highlights the fact that Amir Gul upheld private contacts with Fahim Khan. Later that year, on the 16th of July, Amir Gul was arrested by NATO forces, precisely because he was suspected of masterminding the terror against the Afghan government and foreign coalition forces as well as some of the arms and drugs trafficking.
Lust for power
A few months later (according to an intelligence document dated 20.11.2006), a source said that a relative of Fahim Khan had purchased about 150 kg of explosives and delivered it in the northeastern Panshir province in two vehicles belonging to Fahim Khan’s fleet.
Eight days later, Fahim Khan met with a number of like-minded Islamist militia men and party leaders in the quarters of former mujahedeen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who is head of the Afghanistan’s Islamic Dawah Organization, a party which is known to have had close links to al Qaeda.
This is a stated in a so-called ’intelligence summary’ – an American analysis of one or several intelligence sources – dated 05.12.2006. The summary comes with an evaluation of the source and the information. On a scale from A to E, where A is the most reliable category, this particular source is categorized as a C, and on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is the most credible, this piece of infomation is categorized as a 3.
At the time, president Karzai had appointed Fahim Khan as his ”senior adviser” – according to analysts an obvious indication that the president was under pressure from Fahim Khan and his supporters in the government.
The warlords, who met with Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, all belonged to the Northern Alliance, and most of them subsequently took part in the political alliance known as the United National Front, that was established shortly after this gathering as a parliamentary opposition to Hamid Karzai.
But according the intelligence summary, the Mujahedin would not merely form a parliamentary alliance. They agreed to join a cooperation under Fahim Khan’s leadership in the alliance of the United Grand Army, ”aiming to free the country of the ’foreign rulers’, to change the actual government, and to promote a new government of Mujahedin”, and at the end of the meeting, they agreed that ”all the commanders should provide weapons to their subordinates and await future orders of Marshal FAHIM.”
During the period when Fahim Khan is excluded from power, several reports warn that insurgent groups are planning to attack the top general. But at the same time numerous reports claim that the dissatisfied war lord is cooperating with other parts of the insurgence.
On the 5th of May 2007, the U.S. military wrote in an intelligence summary that three suicide bombers are at large in Kabul.
”Raiese takes orders and receives funding from Marshall ((Fahim)) Khan, President Karzai's advisor,” it is stated with reference to one of the three suicide bombers.
The intelligence officer who wrote the document, did not have access to any information about the original source of this piece of news, nor was he aware of the target of the suicide bomber.
Later that year, according to an entry dated 22.11.2007, a former mujahedeen named Hashim, who was opposed to the Afghan government and wanted to attack the coalition forces, transported large quantities of arms and ammunition from a depot in the northeastern province of Panjshir to an unknown location in the same province. The depot was owned by Fahim Khan who like most of the other notorious Afghan warlords comes from Panjshir, but the source of the news ignores the extent of Fahim Khan’s involvement in the case.
”I am uncertain as to whether Marshall Fahim is aware that Hashim is taking weapons,” he said, according to the document.
During the same period, there was frequent reports on lower ranking people around the Fahim Khan-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party being involved in planning attacks on NATO forces and Afghan authorities.
Out in the cold
The intelligence reports from the U.S. military on Fahim Khan's involvement in the plotting of terrorist acts and armed resistance against the government cover the period from 2005 to 2008. This may be circumstantial. Obviously, Information has only had access to a fragment of American intelligence on the Afghanistan war.
But on the other hand this time frame also could indicate that Fahim Khan conspired against President Karzai in the very same period when he was kept out of government.
As mentioned by the U.S. military, the communication links between members of the government loyal to Fahim Khan and the Taliban may be movitated by a desire to destabilize the security situation in order to demonstrate that Hamid Karzai cannot secure the country without Fahim Khan.
Ties to al-Qaida?
The suspicions against Fahim Khan are strenghtened by the fact that he was already suspected of collaborating with terrorists before the Karzai government was established.
Two days before the 9-11 attacks in 2001, the legendary mujahideen leader Ahmad Shah Massoud, then the supreme commander of The Northern Alliance, was murdered by al-Qaida terrorists who cooperated with the Taliban. Back then, Fahim Khan was head of Alliance’s Intelligence Unit, but now he took over Ahmad Shah Massoud’s position.
In an article from 2009 in Foreign Policy, Hillary Mann Leverett – a former member of George W. Bush’s National Security Council and the President’s senior adviser on matters pertaining to Afghanistan – revealed that the CIA previously had raised questions about whether Fahim Khan secretly may have cooperated with al Qaida and the Taliban in plotting the assassination of Massoud.
According to Hillary Mann Leverett, several factors point towards Fahim Khan having deliberately failed in his job as intelligence chief, giving the terrorists who carried out the attack free access to eliminate his superior in order to assume power for himself.
Fahim Khan's possible role in the assassination of Ahmad Shah Massoud prompts Hillary Mann Leverett to conclude that America’s and NATO’s Afghan strategy may be completely misguided.
”There is no reason to believe that Fahim military, even with U.S. training, would be a reliable bulwark against Al-Qaida resurgence in Afghanistan,” she writes.
Suspicion that Fahim Khan was indeed involved in terror and conspiracies against the Karzai government has so far been a well kept secret, and NATO’s exit strategy is to continue to pull out as soon as the Afghan National Army – which, as mentioned, is largely under Fahim Khan’s control – has been built up to perform adequately.