CNN Photo of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
The value of Ray Robison's recent piece for FOXNews.com can be better evaluated by reviewing other events from the same time period that are available through open sources. For instance, much is known about Iraq’s motives and position at the time. Particularly, in 1998-99, Iraq was the subject of ongoing international attempts to inspect the country for WMD’s and the U.S. State Dept. and others revealed that internal and external pressures had laid the foundation for Iraq’s desire to rebuild its international terrorist infrastructure. The topic of Iraq’s motivations is a topic and article unto itself, so for now I will refer readers to a previous post in which I reviewed some of those factors.
The Taliban’s hosting of al Qaeda had also brought international pressures on Afghanistan that hadn’t previously existed. Both parties were under increasing U.N./U.S. led international pressure and may have had increased motivation for cooperation at the time.
Regarding the actual document, one of the first things that jump out is the author’s determination in keeping the nature of the work secret. Although the “Arab” government mentioned in the document is unknown, Iraq’s efforts to keep any mention of al Qaeda top-secret have been exposed in post-war official Iraqi documents. Particularly, the high priority secrecy revealed in the 1998 documents recovered by Inigo Gilmore and Mitch Potter and the 1993 documents reported by 60 Minutes and the Washington Times. If this document was authored by an Iraqi official, it matches up with how other Iraqi paperwork regarding al Qaeda has been handled.
The author (of the recovered documents) reminds their agents to keep information relating to their mission “compartmentalized”, meaning it was kept to those on a need to know basis.
“15- It is forbidden to talk about your work or the nature of your mission with anybody who is not related to it” the document says.
Both Iraq and al Qaeda have a history of keeping important missions strictly compartmentalized. I have some further examples of this here. If this document did not refer to Iraqi representatives, it at least matched al Qaeda's preference for compartmentalization.
Another indicator that the “Arab” regime responsible for authoring the document is Iraq is the timeliness of the military training and visits to Afghanistan. This type of collaboration would match up quite well with portions of the 9-11 Commission’s report, revelations from al Qaeda and Baathist interrogations and documents, and accounts of Middle East experts.
Some of the noteworthy events pertaining to Iraqi involvement in Afghanistan during this time period (1998-1999) are as follows:
In March, 1998 - Iraqi government delegations went to Afghanistan after bin Laden’s public fatwa against the U.S., discussions between the two sides include mutual hatred of United States 9-11 Commission Final report
(This establishes a good possibility of an Iraqi presence in Afghanistan)
July, 1998 - Iraq representatives visited bin Laden and Taliban representatives in Afghanistan “In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to meet first with the Taliban and then with Bin Ladin” 9-11 Commission Final Report
(Further high ranking meetings tend to support the notion that something important taking place)
August, 1998 - al Qaeda members in custody have reported being part of a joint mission with Iraq Intelligence to target U.S. and British embassies for attacks during this time Stephen Hayes, Thomas Joscelyn. Weekly Standard. 7-18-05
(This indicates coordination, in at least limited examples, of anti-U.S. attacks)
October, 1998 – an Iraqi intelligence officer (likely Farouk Hijazi) assured Iraq support for Taliban, al Qaeda, Pakistani militant groups
"In Oct 98, an Iraqi intelligence official met with the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, Osama bin Ladin, and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Egypt's Jihad movement. In Dec, according to Al-Majllah, the Iraqi embassy in Islamabad held a series of meetings with "leaders of a number of Pakistani fundamentalist movements and elements from the Taleban, with the knowledge of Pakistani military intelligence. On 21 December a high-ranking Iraqi diplomat normally based in Turkey visited Taleban leader Mullah Omar's residence in Kandahar, then headed for Khowat where he met with bin Ladin and al-Zawahiri...[He] affirmed to his Afghan and Arab audience Iraq's willingness to provide financial, logistic, political and informational support for the Taleban and the Afghan Arabs." - Al-Majallah weekly newspaper in London, England (10 Jan 1999) Securitywatchtower citing Stephen Hayes “The Connection”
(This story sounds almost identical to Ray’s past two pieces, note that it was reported in 1999)
Late 1998 – Farouk Hijazi met bin Laden in Afghanistan, meeting likely was offer of sanctuary for bin Laden in Iraq Peter Eisler, USA Today, 12-02-01
(This meeting was widely reported at the time yet Hijazi has admitted to previous meetings and denied this one)
November, 1998 - Al Qaeda and Iraqi Intelligence officials met in Kabul to discuss suicide attacks to drive U.S. out of Middle East Sam Pender “Saddam’s Ties to Al Queda” citing 9-11 Commission Report, Chapter 2
December 1998 – Bin Laden/Farouk Hijazi meetings included agreement by both sides to unleash anti-American terror war Yossef Bodansky, "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America", p.361, ABC NEWS clip, January 14, 1999
1999 - Faruok Hijazi’s meeting with al Qaeda leads to the set up for organized training of al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and Iraq, led by Unit 999. Yossef Bodansky, "Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America", p.361
(Unit 999 is reportedly the same unit involved in the attempted IIS car bomb attack on Bush Sr.)
January 27, 1999 - Al Qaeda said to be cooperating with Iraq’s elite Unit 999 during this time Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor, 4-2-02
September 1999 - Izzat al-Douri/Ayman al-Zawahiri meetings include discussions of terror camps and joint training ADNKRONOS International 5-23-05
(Is this to discuss ongoing training in Afghanistan? Future training in Iraq or Afghanistan? Iraq’s #1 “Most Wanted” man, Izzat al Douri would surely know the answers if captured alive)
November, 1999 - Iraq embassy in Pakistan said to be functioning as point of contact with al Qaeda Stephen Hayes, Weekly Standard, 11-24-2003
Iraq’s Pakistan embassy contact is later listed in Iraqi paper as Iraq’s contact point for bin Laden Stephen Hayes, Weekly Standard, 7-11-2003
(Multiple sources now indicate that the Pakistan/Afghanistan region was a place where meetings took place)
Late December 1999 – A Secret Meeting "Saddam Husayn and Osama Bin Ladin have sealed a pact. Faruq Hijazi, the former director of the Iraqi secret services and now the country's ambassador to Turkey, held a secret meeting with the extremist leader on 21 December Italian Newspaper Corriere della Sera (28 Dec 1999) via Securitywatchtower
(Unlike Iraq’s assistance to Hamas, Abu Nidal and other terrorist groups, the former regime viewed a possible relationship with al Qaeda as one that must be kept secret)
October, 2000 – an Iraqi intelligence operative, Salah Suleiman, was arrested near the Afghan border by Pakistani authorities while shuttling between Iraqi intelligence and Ayman al Zawahiri Janes Intelligence Report, 9-19-2001
(Pak/Afghanistan region continued to be a hub for communication)
The possibility of Iraqi military/intelligence training in Afghanistan (mentioned most recently in this new translated document), coupled with what else has been reported about Iraqi activity in Afghanistan in 1998-99, adds credibility to the comments of Ali Ibrahim al- Tikriti, a former General for Saddam Hussein and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq who noted that hatred of the U.S. and Israel brought al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime together. The public’s understanding of how much cooperation between the former Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, and whether or not these documents refer to Iraq-al Qaeda cooperation will be better understood as more documents from both Iraq and Afghanistan are translated and analyzed (by Ray Robison and others). Pressure from legislators and other public figures will hopefully speed the release of these documents.