WASHINGTON, April 30: Richard Armitage, former US deputy secretary of state, did not “threaten to bomb Pakistan back to the stone age” but he did “drop the hammer on them”, ex-CIA chief George Tenet says in his book.
Mr Tenet recalls that on Sept 13, 2001, two days after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Mr Armitage invited Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi and the-then ISI chief Mahmood Ahmed, who was in Washington, to his office “and dropped the hammer on them.”
“Mr Armitage is a bull of a man. (Gen) Mahmood must have felt like he had been run over by a stampede by the time he left Rich’s office,” writes Mr Tenet.
“I seriously doubt, however, that Rich actually threatened to bomb Pakistan back to the stone age, as Gen Mahmood reportedly told President (Gen) Musharraf.”
Mr Tenet, one of the longest-serving CIA bosses who had to resign following a controversy over the Iraq war, described Gen Mahmood as a man who sympathised with the Taliban and tried to defend Mullah Omar in the meetings he had with the former ISI chief.
Gen Mahmood, he claimed, opposed the US military action against Taliban and suggested ‘bribing key Taliban officials’ to get them to turn over Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“He made it clear that neither he nor his service would have anything to do with the (US) effort (against the Taliban), not even to the extent of advising us whom we might approach.”
But Mr Tenet also said that being in Washington when the attacks occurred probably had the greatest influence on Gen Mahmood. “He saw the plume of smoke rising from the Pentagon. He watched reaction all around him, and he understood, as he never could if he had been following events from Islamabad, how deep and viscerally Americans felt the attacks.”
Although Gen Mahmood was still trying to save the Taliban, “he knew that if we did not get satisfaction, we were still coming after Al Qaeda, no matter who objected or who tried to stand in the way.”
That’s why, Mr Tenet says, Gen Mahmood finally agreed to meet Mullah Omar when he returned home.
The Taliban leader, however, still refused to handover Osama, “but across the border in Pakistan, (Gen) Pervez Musharraf clearly got the message we were sending him and, I can only assume, the message Gen Mahmood sent to Pakistan immediately after the attacks.”
“Within hours of Mr Armitage’s delivering his ultimatums, and despite some violent internal opposition, Gen Musharraf agreed” to support the US offensive.
In his meeting with Gen Mahmood and Ms Lodhi, according to Mr Tenet, Mr Armitage had demanded that “Pakistan begin stopping Al Qaeda agents at its border, grant the US blanket over-flight and landing rights for all necessary military and intelligence operations, provide territorial access to American and allied intelligence agencies, and cut off all fuel shipments to the Taliban.”
“On Oct 8, as final measure of his determination to aid America in rooting out Al Qaeda, Gen Musharraf replaced Mahmood Ahmed as head of the ISI, even though he had been instrumental in Gen Musharraf’s rise to power.”
“Like us, Gen Musharraf must have concluded that in the new global reality, his intel chief was just too close to the enemy.”
“Whatever the reason, I’ve always considered Gen Musharraf’ reversal to be the most important post-9/11 strategic development after the takedown of the Afghan sanctuary itself.”