GLW: Boris Kagarlisky on Chechnya

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Tue Nov 16 16:26:44 MST 1999



>This task will not be made easier by the fact that there is only
>one progressive thing about today's Chechen leaders: the fact
>that for contradictory and (quite probably) fleeting reasons,
>they are heading a struggle that has an undoubted liberating
>dynamic and that is directed against people who are much more
>dangerous enemies of the international working class than the
>Chechen leaders themselves.

Liberating dynamic? If so, there must be elements in the Chechen resistance
that I have not been made aware of. My impression--and I might be wrong--is
that they are virtually indistinguishable politically from the Taliban.

The Gazette (Montreal), October 26, 1999, FINAL

Who's calling the shots?: Chechen conflict finds Islamic roots in
Afghanistan and Pakistan

LEVON SEVUNTS

Since 1990, Levon Sevunts has covered wars and ethnic conflicts in the
Caucasus as a freelance war correspondent and reporter with the Armenian TV
news program Haylur. In 1992, he moved to Montreal where he is a freelance
journalist, writing in English, Russian and Armenian.

Sevunts replaces David Manicom in the rotation of Gazette foreign-issues
columnists. Manicom, a Canadian foreign-service worker, is on assignment in
Beijing.

When you land on Khodinka military airfield in Moscow, you see a glass
office tower, surrounded by a windowless three-storey fort, overlooking the
runway. This glass tower houses the eyes, ears and once feared long arms of
the Russian army - the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff
of the Russian army, known by the abbreviation GRU. During the Cold War
these eyes and ears were focused on another glass and concrete fortress -
the Pentagon. But now the Russian army is facing a very different threat
and the GRU has found a new enemy.

The GRU's new nemesis dwells in a grayish concrete office block on the
outskirts of Rawalpindi, a bustling Pakistani city near Islamabad. It is
the headquarters of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), Pakistan's main
security service and the grand puppet master behind a host of Islamic
insurgent movements all over the world: from Harakat ul-Ansar in Kashmir,
Tajikistan, Bosnia, the Taliban in Afghanistan, to Shamil Basayev's forces
in Chechnya.

GRU's first battle with the ISI was 20 years ago. An elite team of
''spetznaz'' (special purpose) commandos boarded a military transport plane
on Khodinka airfield and lit an inferno 3,369 kilometres southeast of
Moscow by storming the presidential palace in Kabul and assassinating
Afghani President Hafezullah Amin.

For all nine years and 50 days of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the
ISI, teamed up with the CIA, armed, trained and sheltered different
factions of Afghan mujaheddin - most of them radical Islamic groups. When
the Soviets finally departed, Pakistan was left with an explosive motley of
thousands of armed and zealous men with a lot of time on their hands and
who knew nothing but how to fight.

Sending these restless young men to die for Islamic causes in faraway lands
became at once a practical necessity and a means of achieving the
geopolitical objectives of Pakistani leadership: creation of a trans-Asian
axis stretching from its eastern border with China through Afghanistan, the
former Soviet republics of central Asia to the oil- and gas-rich shores of
the Caspian Sea.

To do that, Pakistan would have to control all of Afghanistan and drive out
of central Asia the last remnants of Russian influence. Russia, however,
has designs of its own for central Asia and has done everything in its
power to create a buffer between pro-Pakistani Taliban forces and former
Soviet republics of central Asia, bordering Afghanistan from the north.

By some strange twist of fate, the role of this buffer fell on a man the
GRU hunted unsuccessfully for nine years - Uzbek warlord Ahmed Shah
Massoud, whose forces now control a narrow strip of land along
Afghanistan's northern frontier with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and
Tajikistan. If it weren't for the military help Shah Massoud is getting
from Russian forces stationed in Tajikistan, he would have never survived
the Taliban onslaught.

To stop the flow of arms to Ahmed Shah Massoud, Pakistanis needed a
diversion that would have forced Russians to switch their attention and
resources away from central Asia. That diversion soon presented itself in
the form of a brewing conflict between Moscow and its rebel Autonomous
Republic of Chechnya, which wanted full independence from Russia. It was a
perfect opportunity for the Pakistani intelligence.

In 1994, Shamil Basayev, a young Chechen field commander, who a year
earlier had distinguished himself in Abkhazia - a breakaway republic of the
former Soviet Georgia - caught the attention of Pakistani intelligence
stationed in the neighbouring oil-rich Azerbaijan, where about 1,500 Afghan
mujaheddin under the command of Pakistani officers were fighting Armenians
to reclaim for Azeris the rebel Armenian enclave of Nagorno Karabakh. In
April 1994, the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence arranged for Basayev
and his trusted lieutenants to undergo intensive Islamic indoctrination and
training in guerrilla warfare in the Khost province of Afghanistan at Amir
Muawia camp, set up in the early 1980s by the CIA and ISI and run by famous
Afghani warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

In July 1994, upon graduating from Amir Muawia, Basayev was transfered to
Markaz-i-Dawar camp in Pakistan to undergo training in advanced guerrilla
tactics. In Pakistan, Basayev met the highest ranking Pakistani military
and intelligence officers: Minister of Defence General Aftab Shahban
Mirani, Minister of Interior General Naserullah Babar, and the head of the
ISI branch in charge of supporting Islamic causes, General Javed Ashraf,
(all now retired). High-level connections soon proved very useful to Basayev.

Drug Flow Stopped Up

That same summer, the Pakistan-backed Taliban offensive against the
government of the Iranian- backed president of Afghanistan, Burhanuddin
Rabbani (later expelled), threatened to cut the Chechen drug trade. The
Taliban had taken Amir Muawia and other Khost-area camps, disrupting plans
to train hundreds of Chechen fighters there. After personal intervention of
General Babar, Taliban and government forces allowed shipments of Chechen
drugs through their lines while they were slitting each other's throats.
The training of Chechen fighters also went as scheduled in Khost-area camps
now controlled by one of the largest Kashmiri terrorist groups, the Harkat
ul-Ansar. Pakistani intelligence also sent experienced and battle-hardened
officers to train Chechen fighters on site. One of the most prominent
Pakistani nationals is Abu Abdulla Jafa, who along with Basayev and
Jordanian-born Afghan veteran Khattab (he goes by the one name) has
organized a ''terrorist academy'' in Chechnya, according to U.S. and
Russian sources.

Russians also suspect that Abu Abdulla Jafa is a career officer of
Pakistan's elite Northern Light Infantry Brigade, and the tactical
mastermind behind Basayev's August invasions into Dagestan. Russian
security services also suspect that Pakistan supplies Chechens with deadly
shoulder-launched Stinger anti-aircraft missiles - leftovers of the Afghan
war.

Meeting in Mogadishu

The Russian air force has already lost at least three SU-25 ground attack
planes and a half dozen helicopters to Stingers. But Pakistan's involvement
in the Chechen conflict goes far beyond supplying Chechens with weapons and
expertise: the ISI and its radical Islamic proxies are actually calling the
shots in this war. According to a renowned terrorism expert, Yossef
Bodansky, director of the U.S. Congress's Task Force on Terrorism and
Unconventional Warfare, the master plan for the latest flare-up in Kashmir
and in the Caucuses was prepared in August and September 1996, during a
secret summit of HizbAllah International in Mogadishu, Somalia. The summit,
according to U.S. anti- terrorism experts, was attended by now infamous
Osama bin Ladin and high- ranking Iranian and Pakistani intelligence
officers.

Pakistani ISI General Javed Ashraf was charged with organizing the
logistics of transporting Afghan mudjahedeen and Chechen fighters and their
weapons from training camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Lebanon.
Saudi terrorist-billionaire bin Ladin undertook the financing of the whole
operation. Russian intelligence analysts estimate that the current campaign
in Chechnya and Dagestan has cost bin Ladin $25 million.

That is one of the reasons that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has
so far refused to negotiate with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov: he
knows that the decision to stop fighting is not in the hands of Maskhadov,
who one day vows to hand in Basayev and Khattab, but the next day appoints
him commander of the eastern front. Russian officials are certain that for
the war to stop in Chechnya, the decision must be taken in the gray
building in Rawalpindi, by the new military government of General Pervaiz
Musharraf.


Louis Proyect
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