The retired Pakistani general recently named as a key link between Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan and their backers in Islamabad has been hitting out at his critics ever since a huge database of secret U.S. military field reports identifying him was posted on the Web over the weekend.
In interviews with the Financial Times and other news organizations, Gen. Hamid Gul, a former head of Pakistan’s feared Inter Service Intelligence, or ISI, has said the leaked field reports were U.S. fabrications designed to discredit him.
But in an interview with Washington Times editor at large Arnaud de Borchgrave, conducted just two weeks after the attacks on New York City and Washington, Mr. Gul expressed his admiration for Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, accused the United States of trying to destabilize Pakistan, and argued that the war on terror is a campaign against Muslims that will end in a global jihad.
About 180 of the 75,000 reports posted this week on the Web by transparency advocate Wikileaks concern alleged Pakistani support for or collaboration with the Taliban or al Qaeda. Mr. Gul, who headed the ISI when it was distributing U.S. aid to an earlier generation of Islamic insurgents in Afghanistan, is named in about 10 of them. According to the reports — which contain unverified intelligence reporting — he plotted with extremists to kidnap U.N. staff, helped with a plan for suicide bombings in revenge for the killing of an insurgent leader, and urged Taliban fighters to concentrate their activities in Afghanistan in return for Islamabad turning a blind eye to their presence in Pakistan.
The reports have crystallized long-held suspicions that Mr. Gul was acting as a deniable cut-out for ISI in its dealings with the Taliban.
“I am a very favorite whipping boy of America. They can’t imagine the Afghans can win wars on their own,” Mr. Gul told the Financial Times. It was “pure fiction” that “a 74-year-old general living a retired life (was) manipulating the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan,” he added.
His denials notwithstanding, Mr. Gul has been a longtime supporter of both the Taliban and al Qaeda, and — immediately following the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks — promoted the conspiracy theory that the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad and its U.S. supporters had carried out the suicide hijackings.