A36 INTERVIEW India Abroad May 2, 2014
Carlotta Gall was punched in the face by Pakistani intelligence agents who broke into her hotel room and confiscated her phone and computer in 2006. She was probably digging up too much dirt about Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence hobnobbing with
Osama bin Laden, who was shot dead May 2 three years
ago during a raid by US Navy SEALs in Abbottabad in
Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region.
Having covering Afghanistan and Pakistan for The New
York Times for over a decade, the British journalist is convinced — in her new book titled The Wrong Enemy:
Americain Afghanistan— that the Pakistani establishment
was protecting Osama as an intelligence asset.
Gall in conversation with India Abroad.
How has your book been received?
It has been well-received in the United States. There has
been strong media interest in the revelations about the ISI
hiding Osama and Pakistan’s role in supporting the Taliban
and undermining the US and NATO mission in
Many Americans understood this when Osama was discovered to be living in Abbottabad in 2011, but this book
has reinforced those suppositions.
A few people have cast doubt on the book’s claims, but I
have also had many messages from senior officials, diplomats and military officers commending my work and telling
me it is accurate. So far, the reviews have treated my thesis
seriously and been favorable about the book.
What exactly was Osama’s relationship with the ISI?
I found that the ISI ran a special desk that was concerned
solely with handling him as an intelligence asset. My understanding is that he was protected, concealed, and used for
his influence as a charismatic figurehead over other militant
groups, including the Taliban and Pakistani militant
What did the ISI gain by protecting him? Does it mean
they were involved in the 9/11 attacks too?
I don’t know if the ISI was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
They certainly could have been aware of a pending international attack since there are indications the Taliban knew a
big international attack was coming and the ISI was
extremely close to the Taliban and closely involved in the
Taliban’s efforts to establish its rule over the whole of
You mention that Osama was in touch with Lashkar-e-
Tayiba founder Mohammad Saeed. Does a direct relation-
ship exist even today between Al Qaeda and the Lashkar?
I am unaware of any direct relationship between Al
Qaeda and the Lashkar except the correspondence between
the two mentioned in the book. I think they both have long-standing relations with the ISI and have clearly cooperated
on training militants and spreading radical Islam in the
What has the response been from the US and Pakistan
administration following this revelation?
The Inter-Services Public Relations (administrativemili-
tary organization within the Pakistan
army that coordinates military informa-
tion with the media and the civil society)
denied the main revelations, describing
them as ‘baseless and ridiculous.’
I am not sure if the US administration
has made any comments on the findings
of the book.
Cameron Munter, who served as US
ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the
raid against Osama, has said he does not
think Pakistan knew of the Al Qaeda
I, of course, stand by my writing and
my sources who are rock solid.
After 12 years reporting from the
region, I have learned which sources to
trust and have only included information
that has been tried and tested with other
sources and experts.
Since the publication of the extracts
and the book I have received confirmation from knowledgeable sources that indeed the main allegations are correct.
Is there a possibility that the ISI knows about Mullah
I would say everything that I have learned about the ISI’s
relationship with the Afghan Taliban indicates that the ISI
most certainly knows where Mullah Omar is at all times.
As I understand, the Afghan Taliban leaders lodge in
places, not only with the knowledge of the ISI, but with
Why do you think the US continues to fund the
Pakistan military despite these revelations?
US policy is based on the reasoning that it is important
to continue engaging Pakistan, in order to improve anti-terrorism cooperation and work towards a more stable
What role do you think Pakistan will continue to play
in Afghanistan? Do you see a dangerous blend of the ISI
and Taliban on the cards?
As far as I see, Pakistan and its militant groups, includ-
ing the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, and Kashmiri and
They certainly want to regain influence and leverage
over the Afghan government.
Some dream that the Taliban’s white flag will fly again
over Kabul. Specifically, they want to be able to direct
and influence future Afghan governments.
What role do you see India playing in Afghanistan?
Should it play a role at all?
India certainly has an important role to play in regional stability.
India has helped Afghanistan with humanitarian aid
and assistance programs. It could do much more to
improve its own relations with Pakistan, by seeking a gen-
uine and fair resolution to the Kashmir questions, and seek-
ing to calm Pakistan’s genuine fears about India’s hegemon-
ic ambitions, by fostering trade and cultural ties and
encourage better regional relations rather than competing
for interest at Pakistan’s expense.
You say the Pakistan military and the ISI supported the
assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir
Bhutto. What did they gain from this?
As I understand, there are people in the
Pakistani military and ISI who disliked
Bhutto’s stance on strategic issues for
Pakistan, in particular her criticism of militancy in FATA (Federally Administered
Tribal Areas), the presence of foreign fighters, and the military’s handling of the problem.
She also suggested she would allow
Western officials access to A Q Khan, the
man behind Pakistan’s program of nuclear
proliferation, which the Pakistan military
has long refused.
What part did then military dictator
Pervez Musharraf play in the assassination?
I show that Musharraf was aware of the
plans to assassinate Bhutto and did nothing
to ensure her security.
How different would things have been
had Benazir been alive and in power?
Bhutto was very outspoken in her final
days about the threat facing Pakistan from Islamist extrem-
ists and I think she intended to tackle the problem head on,
cooperating with the US and Afghanistan.
She may have run into strong resistance from the
Pakistani military and ISI, as the Pakistan Peoples Party
government did after her death, and it is unclear how successful she could have been.
I think she would have spoken out strongly on these
issues and may well have made progress in changing minds
inside the country.
I FOUND THE ISI RAN A
SPECIAL DESK THAT WAS
CONCERNED SOLELY WITH
HANDLING OSAMA BIN LADEN
AS AN INTELLIGENCE ASSET.
The New York Times reporter
and author of the stunning new
book The Wrong Enemy: America
in Afghanistan speaks to
THE ISI MOST CERTAINLY KNOWS WHERE MULLAH
OMAR IS AT ALL TIMES. AS I UNDERSTAND, THE
AFGHAN TALIBAN LEADERS LODGE IN PLACES,
NOT ONLY WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE ISI,
BUT WITH THEIR SANCTION.