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Context of 'Late 1990 or After: Pakistan Sends Stinger Missile to North Korea to Revive Cooperation'

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Fearing a diplomatic incident, CIA and other US agents rarely venture into Afghanistan. Generally speaking, soldiers from the British elite Special Air Service (SAS) work with and train the mujaheddin instead. The SAS provides weapons training in Afghanistan until 1982 when Russian soldiers find the passports of two British instructors in a training camp. After that, mujaheddin are trained in secret camps in remote parts of Scotland. When the US decides to supply Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin in 1986, it is the SAS who provide the training in how to use them (see September 1986). But the SAS is taking orders from the CIA. The CIA also indirectly gives weapons to Osama bin Laden and other mujaheddin leaders. One former US intelligence official will say in 1999, “[US agents] armed [bin Laden’s] men by letting him pay rock-bottom prices for basic weapons.” But this person notes the relationship will later prove to be embarrassing to bin Laden and the CIA. “Of course it’s not something they want to talk about.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 168)

Journalist Simon Reeve will claim in the 1999 book The New Jackals that US officials directly met with bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1980s. He will write, “American emissaries are understood to have traveled to Pakistan for meetings with mujaheddin leaders… [A former CIA official] even suggests the US emissaries met directly with bin Laden, and that it was bin Laden, acting on advice from his friends in Saudi intelligence, who first suggested the mujaheddin should be given Stingers.” (Reeve 1999, pp. 167, 176) The CIA begins supplying Stinger missiles to the mujaheddin in 1986 (see September 1986). After 9/11, the CIA will state, “Numerous comments in the media recently have reiterated a widely circulated but incorrect notion that the CIA once had a relationship with Osama bin Laden. For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.” (US State Department 1/14/2005)

Mujaheddin preparing to fire a stinger missile.Mujaheddin preparing to fire a stinger missile. [Source: National Geographic]Worried that the Soviets are winning the war in Afghanistan, the US decides to train and arm the mujaheddin with Stinger missiles. The Soviets are forced to stop using the attack helicopters that were being used to devastating effect. Some claim the Stingers turn the tide of the war and lead directly to Soviet withdrawal. Now the mujaheddin are better trained and armed than ever before. (Coll 2004, pp. 11, 149-51; Clarke 2004, pp. 48-50) The British Special Air Service (SAS) train the mujaheddin in how to use the Stingers (see 1980-1989).

Essam al Ridi, a US-based Muslim who supports the mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan War, helps the CIA obtain photographs of a downed Russian helicopter, according to a statement al Ridi will later make to the New York Times. Al Ridi is an associate of leading Islamists Abdullah Azzam (see Early 1983-Late 1984 and Early 1989) and Osama bin Laden (see 1984 and Early 1993), and helps them purchase weapons. Al Ridi will help the FBI after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see October 1998). (Miller 6/3/2002) The CIA introduced stinger missiles into the war in late September 1986 to great effect against Soviet helicopters (see September 1986). (Coll 2004, pp. 149-151) Presumably therefore, the CIA is asking al Ridi to get photos of a helicopter downed by a stinger shortly after they were introduced.

Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan supplies North Korea with some basic technology for its nuclear program. The equipment is to be used for enriching uranium, but the Koreans are unable to make full use of the technology as they do not have the technical expertise to master the process alone. This causes co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea on nuclear matters to stall, until it is revived some years later (see Late 1990 or After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 220)

Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto refuses to visit North Korea during her first term in office. Bhutto will later say that she is pressured to go by her party, the Pakistan People’s Party, and there may be some link to co-operation on the two countries’ nuclear programs (see Late 1980s). Bhutto resists the pressure for fear it will generate adverse publicity in Western countries. However, Bhutto will go to North Korea in her second term in order to facilitate nuclear proliferation (see December 29, 1993 and Shortly After). (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 244)

Pakistan sends a Stinger missile to North Korea. Pakistan obtained the Stinger from the US, which provided them to Pakistani-backed rebels during the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s (see September 1986). The missile is partly intended as a gift for the North Koreans—an incentive for the revival of co-operation between the two countries, which has been stalled for some time (see Late 1980s). In addition, the Stingers held by Pakistan are becoming useless, because their batteries are failing, and the Pakistanis hope that the North Koreans will be able to help them reverse engineer the batteries. The mission to North Korea is undertaken by ISI Director Javed Nasir at the behest of Pakistani army chief Mirza Aslam Beg and nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, who will later become closely involved in co-operation with the North Koreans. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 220)

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