The former chief of Pakistan’s spy agency has derided as “malicious, fictitious, and preposterous” the leaked United States military documents implicating him in a string of attacks against US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
Hamid Gul’s name appears no less than eight times in documents leaked Sunday by the online whistle-blower WikiLeaks. In the reports, the retired general and former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) from 1987 to 1989 is accused of ordering IED attacks against Afghan and international forces in December 2006 and of plotting to kidnap United Nations staff to use as hostages in exchange for militant prisoners.
The ISI is mentioned in at least 190 reports, and is accused of backing attacks against US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces in Afghanistan. In one report from March 2007, the ISI is alleged to have donated 1,000 motorcycles to militant leader Jalaluddin Haqqani to carry out suicide bomb attacks in Afghanistan.
“This is utter nonsense,” Mr. Gul says in a telephone interview. Asked to respond to the various WikiLeaks reports in which his name appears, he replied: "Malicious, fictitious, and preposterous – and if this is the condition of US intelligence, then I am afraid it is no wonder they are losing in Afghanistan, and they will lose everywhere they try to poke their nose."
Gul has in the past called himself Washington's "darling" for playing a key role in the CIA's covert support of the Afghan mujahideen against the Soviet-backed government in Kabul the 1980s, and he was a principle architect of Pakistan's foreign strategy in Afghanistan. He has held no official position since 1992, though he is still seen as a well-connected military adviser.
“It’s a bloody shame for [the US] if a 74-year-old general sitting in his small house who has nothing to do within the ISI can pull this off,” he says, adding: “If I can pull off the defeat of America in Afghanistan, then history books will record it to my credit, and my future generations will rejoice over it.”
'I know your wrongdoings in Afghanistan'
WikiLeaks did not reveal the source of the leaked intelligence information, which was released weeks ago to The New York Times, The Guardian, and Der Spiegel, which analyzed the data and simultaneously published articles Sunday. In April, WikiLeaks released classified video footage of US military shooting a group of civilians alleged to be insurgents in Baghdad, including two staff from Reuters news agency. In May, the US arrested Bradley Manning, an American intelligence analyst suspected of providing the video to WikiLeaks.
Gul, however, says that the US itself has orchestrated the latest WikiLeaks exposé to shift attention away from its own failings in Afghanistan. Speaking in an elevated tone and at times furious, he says he believes the US may now use the exposé as a way to force Pakistan's hand on policy in Afghanistan.
"They [the Americans] want to bash Pakistan, at this time to come up with this leak. I refuse to believe it is not on purpose,” says Gul.
Pakistan, a country awash in conspiracy theories, is already buzzing with rumors that the US orchestrated the WikiLeaks exposé to undermine Pakistan and pave the way for military intervention here. Gul himself warns that any military intervention in Pakistan will send the country into turmoil. “You touch Pakistan on any pretext, it will ignite an inferno which will inflame every part of the region,” he says.
Gul says he is prepared to testify before US Congress to clear his name, adding that he is also prepared to share his own secrets about the US involvement in Pakistan and Afghanistan. “I know your wrongdoings in Afghanistan and deficiencies in your leadership, your involvement in the narcotics trade, and how your security complexes are minting money and cheating their own taxpayers,” he says.
WikiLeaks reports called into question
The leaked reports, which span from January 2004 to December 2009, reinforce a widely held Afghan and US view that the ISI has not cut its historical links to the Taliban, though the veracity of the reports cannot be independently confirmed and independent analysts have questioned their reliability.
Indeed, some of the reports appear implausible, such as a report from February 2007 that claims the ISI and Taliban insurgents planned to buy alcoholic drinks and “mix them with poison” to kill Afghan and ISAF troops.
Rifaat Hussain, a defense analyst at Islamabad’s Quaid-i-Azam University, says he believes the sources are disgruntled former members of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government operating with a political agenda.
“They apparently have made this public to embarrass the Karzai government and drive a wedge between Kabul and Pakistan, as well as create a fresh strain between Pakistan and the US,” he says.
Dr. Hussain also casts doubt on the veracity of the reports. Given the sheer number of reports leaked – some 92,000 in total – he says it is likely they are in raw form and unfiltered by intelligence analysts.
“Raw evidence is essentially material before it gets corroborated," he says, "which you collect from different sources before you know its solid or reliable or not."