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In 1973 Afghan Prince Muhammad Daoud ousts the Afghan king with help from the Soviet Union, and establishes an Afghan republic. The CIA in turn begins funding Islamist extremists, including Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, as a resistance movement opposing the Soviets. US allies Iran, with its intelligence agency SAVAK, and Pakistan, with its intelligence agency the ISI, play an important role in funneling weapons and other forms of assistance to the Afghan Islamist militants. After the pro-Soviet coup in April 1978, the Islamic militants with the support of the ISI carry out a massive campaign of terrorism, assassinating hundreds of teachers and civil servants. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 260 - 263]
A team of scientists and engineers working on conventional weapons at a Pakistan army ordnance facility are transferred to a secret location to begin working on a nuclear warhead design. The team is led by Dr. Samar Mubarakmand, a founding member of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. However, the team will not have finished its work by 1981, and a second, competing program will then be set up (see 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 90-91]
India detonates a nuclear device in an underground facility. The device had been built using material supplied for its ostensibly peaceful nuclear program by the United States, France, and Canada. The test, and this aspect of India’s nuclear program, is unauthorized by global control mechanisms. India portrays the test as a “peaceful nuclear explosion,” and says it is “firmly committed” to using nuclear technology for only peaceful purposes.
Kissinger: 'Fait Accompli' - Pakistan, India’s regional opponent, is extremely unhappy with the test, which apparently confirms India’s military superiority. Due to the obvious difficulties producing its own nuclear bomb, Pakistan first tries to find a diplomatic solution. It asks the US to provide it with a nuclear umbrella, without much hope of success. Relations between Pakistan and the US, once extremely close, have been worsening for some years. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger tells Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington that the test is “a fait accompli and that Pakistan would have to learn to live with it,” although he is aware this is a “little rough” on the Pakistanis.
No Punishment - No sanctions are imposed on India, or the countries that sold the technology to it, and they continue to help India’s nuclear program. Pakistani foreign minister Agha Shahi will later say that, if Kissinger had replied otherwise, Pakistan would have not started its own nuclear weapons program and that “you would never have heard of A. Q. Khan.” Shahi also points out to his colleagues that if Pakistan does build a bomb, then it will probably not suffer any sanctions either.
Pakistan Steps up Nuclear Program - Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto then decides that his country must respond to this “grave and serious threat” by making its own nuclear weapons. He steps up Pakistan’s nuclear research efforts in a quest to build a bomb, a quest that will be successful by the mid-1980s (see 1987). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 11-14; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 39-40]
After India’s first successful nuclear test on May 18, 1974, Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, at this time working in a centrifuge production facility in the Netherlands, begins to approach Pakistani government representatives to offer help with Pakistan’s nuclear program. First he approaches a pair of Pakistani military scientists who are in the Netherlands on business. He tells them he wants to help Pakistan’s nuclear program, but they discourage him, saying it would be hard for him to find a job in Pakistan. Undaunted, Khan then writes to Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. He sets out his experience and encourages Bhutto to make a nuclear bomb using uranium, rather than plutonium, the method Pakistan is currently trying to adopt. Pakistan will examine Khan’s idea and find it a good one (see Summer-Autumn 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 48]
Pakistani government leaders consider a secret proposal made by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan that it build a uranium bomb (see After May 18, 1974) and find it to be a good idea. Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto writes of Khan, “He seems to be making sense.” Siddique Butt, an employee of Pakistan’s embassy in Belgium who will go on to help Khan’s future nuclear smuggling ring, investigates Khan and finds he is a top scientist who can be helpful to Pakistan. Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another future key associate of Khan’s, is asked to write another assessment, which finds that, if implemented, Khan’s ideas could give Pakistan enough uranium for a bomb by 1979. Based on these reports, the Pakistani government starts working with Khan, who begins to steal secrets for them (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 49-50]
After Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan agrees to help Pakistan obtain the technology to make a nuclear bomb (see Summer-Autumn 1974), he begins to steal secrets from a Dutch company he works for to help them. Khan is asked to help translate a top-secret report on the G2 centrifuge, a major advance in uranium enrichment technology. To this end, he is assigned to a high-security section of the company, but the strict security procedures are ignored and he has free access for 16 days to the company’s main centrifuge plant. He takes full advantage of the situation, noting down details of the various processes. Around this time, neighbors also notice that Khan is receiving late-night visits from French and Belgian cars with diplomatic license plates, presumably Pakistani contacts to whom Khan is passing the secrets. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 50-1]
A. Q. Khan, a Pakistani employee of the Dutch nuclear equipment company Urenco, travels to Pakistan and meets Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Munir Khan, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. Khan again tells Bhutto that Pakistan should build a uranium, not plutonium bomb, and agrees to continue with his job in the Netherlands, where he is stealing secrets for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see October 1974). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 51-2]
Following discussions with fellow Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan, on February 15, 1975, head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) Munir Khan proposes that Pakistan formally establish a uranium enrichment program, to go with the plutonium enrichment program it already has. The $450 million plan calls for a centrifuge plant, a uranium mine, and a facility to produce uranium gas, which would allow Pakistan to produce a nuclear weapon. The proposal is approved by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, and a scientist known as Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood is placed in charge of the program. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 52-3]
Following the commencement of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program (see After February 15, 1975), A. Q. Khan meets program head Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood in Belgium and then begins to steal an unprecedented amount of information from the company he works for, a European nuclear company called Urenco, to support the program. According to authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento: “Khan sent everything from centrifuge designs and technical literature to parts and lists of suppliers. He even sent blueprints of an entire uranium enrichment facility. In at least one instance, Khan sent [an associate] a discarded component from a uranium centrifuge.” He evens asks a photographer he shares an office with to photograph some centrifuges and components. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 53-4]
Frits Veerman, a photographer who works with Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan at the nuclear equipment manufacturer Urenco, becomes suspicious of Khan, and attempts to warn the company. Veerman becomes suspicious because Khan keeps asking him to photograph centrifuges and components, evidently so he can send the photographs back to Pakistan. When Veerman visits Khan’s house, he sees highly classified centrifuge designs lying around. He also meets other Pakistanis at the house, and will later learn they are agents working under diplomatic cover. His suspicions aroused, Veerman warns Urenco of this repeatedly. However, the company denies there is a problem and tells Veerman not to make allegations against a superior. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 54]
The BVD, a Dutch intelligence service, begins investigating A. Q. Khan over suspicions he is passing on nuclear secrets from the uranium enrichment company Urenco, for which he works, to Pakistan. The investigation starts because of two incidents. In the first, the Pakistani embassy in Belgium uses a report that appears to have come from one of Urenco’s owners to order specialized wrapping foil for centrifuges from Metalimphy, a French company. Metalimphy checks with Urenco’s owner, which says that the report belongs to it, and should not be in the Pakistanis’ hands. The BVD then learns that Khan was asking suspicious questions at a trade fair in Switzerland about atomic weapons. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 54]
Agha Hasan Abedi. [Source: Terry Kirk / Financial Times]Investigative journalist Joseph Trento will later report that in 1976, the Safari Club, a newly formed secret cabal of intelligence agencies (see September 1, 1976-Early 1980s), decides it needs a network of banks to help finance its intelligence operations. Saudi Intelligence Minister Kamal Adham is given the task. “With the official blessing of George H. W. Bush as the head of the CIA, Adham transformed a small Pakistani merchant bank, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), into a world-wide money-laundering machine, buying banks around the world to create the biggest clandestine money network in history.” BCCI was founded in 1972 by a Pakistani named Agha Hasan Abedi, who was an associate of Adham’s. Bush himself has an account at BCCI established while still director of the CIA. French customs will later raid the Paris BCCI branch and discover the account in Bush’s name. [Trento, 2005, pp. 104] Bush, Adham, and other intelligence heads work with Abedi to contrive “a plan that seemed too good to be true. The bank would solicit the business of every major terrorist, rebel, and underground organization in the world. The intelligence thus gained would be shared with ‘friends’ of BCCI.” CIA operative Raymond Close works closely with Adham on this. BCCI taps “into the CIA’s stockpile of misfits and malcontents to help man a 1,500-strong group of assassins and enforcers.” [Trento, 2005, pp. 104] Soon, BCCI becomes the fastest growing bank in the world. Time magazine will later describe BCCI as not just a bank, but also “a global intelligence operation and a Mafia-like enforcement squad. Operating primarily out of the bank’s offices in Karachi, Pakistan, the 1,500-employee black network has used sophisticated spy equipment and techniques, along with bribery, extortion, kidnapping and even, by some accounts, murder. The black network—so named by its own members—stops at almost nothing to further the bank’s aims the world over.” [Time, 7/22/1991]
After returning from the Netherlands, where he had stolen secrets to help Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program but was under investigation by the authorities (see March-December 15, 1975 and November 1975), Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is formally hired to assist with Pakistan’s program to build nuclear weapons. The hiring results from a report by Khan to Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto about the state of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program. After touring the country’s enrichment facility, Khan tells Bhutto that the program is in a bad state, and Bhutto offers Khan a managerial position. When Bhutto is told that Khan has accepted the position, he reportedly pounds his fist on the table and declares, “I will see the Hindu bastards now.” Because of the knowledge Khan has gained during his time in Europe, he soon becomes well respected within the project. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 56-57]
US intelligence discovers that Pakistan has begun a “crash program” to build a nuclear weapon. The weapon is to be a plutonium bomb made using fuel from a reprocessing plant that will be built in Pakistan by the French and financed by Libya. The Ford administration attempts to pressure Pakistan to give up these attempts, and in a meeting in August 1976 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger will offer Pakistan over a hundred fighter planes in return for its giving up the efforts. He will also threaten to “make a horrible example” of Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. Pakistan will not respond to these threats, but will eventually abandon this program in favor of attempts to build a uranium bomb by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 62-63]
The NSA maintains a watch list of high-tech companies based in Germany and Switzerland that are suspected of helping Pakistan with its nuclear weapons program. The companies’ telexes and faxes are “routinely intercepted and translated for signs of nuclear trafficking with Pakistan.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Abdus Salam, a procurement agent for the A. Q. Khan nuclear network, misdials a number for US-based machine tool giant Rockwell, instead calling the British agent of its power tool division, Scimitar, in Wales. Salam wants to buy $1 million in power tools and the person on the other end of the line, sales manager Peter Griffin, is surprised by the request, but happy to ship such a large order. This chance encounter will lead to an extremely long relationship between Griffin and Khan, with Griffin supplying a very large amount of equipment for Khan’s efforts. Griffin initially travels to London to meet Salam, who had been put in touch with Khan through a mutual acquaintance. Overcoming his initial wariness about the business, Griffin leaves Scimitar to set up a company called Weargate Ltd, which works with an electrical shop called Salam Radio Colindale to supply Khan’s needs. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later comment that Salam Radio Colindale is a “down on its luck electrical shop which proved terrific cover for such a discreet business,” and that it “would become one of dozens run by expat Pakistanis from similarly unassuming corner stores, supplying components to Khan.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 38-39] Griffin becomes a director of the company in 1977 or 1979, when it changes its name to SR International. However, he is not an owner of the company, which is held by Salam and his wife Naseem. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 38-39; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 101]
Frits Veerman. [Source: atoomspionage(.com)]Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan asks a former European associate, Frits Veerman, to help him with Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, but Veerman refuses and informs officials at his employer, Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory (FDO). The request is made in a letter hand-delivered by two Pakistani scientists on a business trip to the Netherlands and “very confidentially” asks Veerman to provide assistance “urgently” for a “research program.” Khan wants Veerman, who is already suspicious of Khan (see Mid-1975), to provide him with drawings of tiny steel ball bearings used in centrifuges, as well as some sample bearings, metal membranes, and steel springs used to dampen centrifuges. Realizing that this information is secret, Veerman refuses to provide it. He also alerts FDO, which in turn informs the Dutch authorities. The Dutch begin to harass Veerman as a result (see (August 1976)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 6]
Pakistan nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains more information from employees at the Dutch company Physical Dynamics Research Laboratory about centrifuges it is developing for the European nuclear power industry. Khan needs the information for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan previously worked for the company (see May 1, 1972), stole secrets from it (see October 1974), and the Dutch authorities are aware of this (see Mid-October 1975). The Dutch government learns that company staff have been visiting Pakistan no later than the second half of 1976. While the Dutch discuss what information may have been stolen, Khan continues to receive help from two Pakistani quality inspectors at the company who will later be found to be “active helpers of Khan.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is appointed director of Pakistan’s uranium enrichment program, replacing Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. The program is also separated from the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC), and Khan is to report directly to the prime minister. The changes are a result of complaints Khan made about Mahmood and PAEC chief Munir Khan. In letters to both Munir Khan and Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Khan had threatened to resign and said that progress with uranium enrichment was very slow: “Each week passing is putting the project behind by at least two to three months.” In a meeting with Bhutto, Khan calls the PAEC chief and his associates “liars and cheats,” and points out there is no way they can carry out a promised test for a plutonium bomb by the deadline they have set. The separation of the plutonium bomb project under Munir Khan and the uranium bomb project under A. Q. Khan does have a benefit for Pakistan: the world is focused on frustrating Munir Khan’s plutonium project, and for a short while A. Q. Khan can “move forward relatively unhindered.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 57-59]
Pakistan’s Project 706, an effort to build nuclear weapons headed by Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan, begins work on a facility in Kahuta, about 20 miles southeast of Islamabad. The facility, later renamed Khan Research Laboratories, will be the chief site in Pakistan’s attempts to build a nuclear weapon. Khan believes the location is a big asset, as skilled employees will have access to good education and health care in Islamabad, and he will be close to the seat of the government. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 59]
A. Q. Khan concludes a deal with Gotthard Lerch, the sales manager of the German firm Leybold Heraeus, to purchase equipment he needs for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan knew of the company because it had supplied such equipment to the Dutch firm URENCO, with which Khan had worked previously. Khan is worried that Lerch might go to the authorities, but authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say he need not have been: “Lerch was eager to do some deals on the side and began selling surreptitiously to Pakistan.” Lerch will be arrested by German customs authorities for these transactions in the early 1980s. It will be discovered that he has already sold Khan equipment worth DM 1.3 million (about $650,000), but he will not be convicted of any charges. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 41, 467]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan writes to fellow Pakistani scientist Abdul Aziz Khan and asks him to return to Pakistan to help with its nuclear weapons program, a “project of national importance.” Abdul Aziz Khan declines, but agrees to collect technical information in North America to help the program, and to travel to Pakistan during his vacations to help train scientists there. Abdul Aziz Khan will later go on to play a key role in a scheme to send US-made equipment used in centrifuges to Pakistan via Canada. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 67]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and people related to him start to travel to Britain to purchase components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Khan’s link to the program is already known to Western intelligence agencies, but it is unclear how closely he and his associates are followed at this time. On one trip in August 1977, Khan meets British businessmen Peter Griffin and Abdus Salam, who supply equipment for Khan. The meeting is also attended by a number of Pakistanis: Brigadier Sajawal Khan Malik, a civil engineer building a nuclear facility for Khan, Dr. Farooq Hashmi, his deputy, Dr. G. D. Alam, Khan’s computer expert, and a brigadier general named Anis Nawab. Griffin will become a key supplier for Khan, and Pakistanis will frequently visit him in London. Khan sometimes comes himself if a large order is to be placed, but most times he sends a representative, Colonel Rashid Ali Qazi, and other scientists. After each visit, Griffin receives a telex specifying exactly which parts Khan wants. Griffin also becomes friends with Khan and is invited to visit him at his home in Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 39-40]
Two retired Pakistani Army officers travel to Britain for the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They are Major Mohammed Sadiq Malik, a procurement officer, and Captain Fida Hussein Shah, an assistant administrative officer. When interviewed by British officials, they say that Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is their project director. Khan is currently leading an effort to build a uranium bomb. They also say they will visit a company called SR International, which is a front for Khan’s technology procurement efforts linked to two of his associates, Abdus Salam and Peter Griffin (see Summer 1976). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 101]
A group of Pakistani companies headed by Pakistani businessman Shaik Mohammad Farooq assists the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling ring, although details are sketchy. According to the book The Islamic Bomb, in 1979, a procurer for the network uses one of Farooq’s companies, Asiatic Chemical Industries Ltd., “as a conduit for the Pakistani Atomic Energy Commission.” According to a US State Department cable, another of Farooq’s companies, Arshad Amjad & Abid (Pvt.) Ltd., purchases a coordinate measuring machine from Japan and resells it to the Pakistan Chemical Corp., a front for Khan. MI5 will also list Arshad Amjad & Abid as a company of “proliferation concern” due to its participation in “weapons of mass destruction programs.” In addition, Khan’s biography will thank Farooq and Arshad Amjad & Abid for playing “a very commendable and daring role” in obtaining equipment for Khan from a long list of mostly European countries. Farooq serves as the chairman of the A. Q. Khan Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering and is on the board of other institutions with Khan. He will also host a reception for Khan in 2001 and accompany him during an altercation over a mental hospital in 2002. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 185] Khan will also visit one of Farooq’s companies in Dubai (see Late March 2000).
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan obtains 20 high-frequency inverters, a key piece of machinery for producing enriched uranium, from Europe. The inverters are ordered by a German contact called Ernst Piffl, based on Canadian literature apparently supplied by an associate of Khan’s named A. A. Khan. They are supplied by Emerson Industrial Controls, a British subsidiary of the US giant Emerson Electrical. Emerson had supplied the same equipment to a British nuclear plant, but does not raise the alarm over such equipment being shipped for Pakistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53-54]
Pakistani military dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq disbands the civilian committee that oversees operations at Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL), a facility working on producing a nuclear weapon for Pakistan. The committee had been put in place by Zia’s predecessor, civilian ruler Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, to keep the military away from the project, but the deposed Bhutto has recently been sentenced to death. The committee’s role is taken over by Army Chief of Staff General Khalid Mahmud Arif. Zia tells Arif that KRL’s uranium enrichment program needs to be successful not only for Pakistan, but for all Muslim countries. Arif and KRL chief A. Q. Khan already know each other, having worked together on the construction of Kahuta. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 52-53]
A team of Pakistani scientists working under A. Q. Khan enriches a small quantity of uranium for the first time. Pakistan is enriching uranium in order to build a nuclear weapon, but will apparently not produce weapons-grade uranium for another three years (see (March-April 1981)). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98] The enrichment was performed using a P-1 centrifuge. Khan reveals that he has accomplished this to his wife Henny on April 4, 1978, so presumably it first happens some time shortly before this or on this day. The next day, Khan sends a memo on the enrichment to Ghulam Ishaq Khan and Agha Shahi, Pakistan’s ministers of finance and foreign affairs. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 51]
A. Q. Khan launches a worldwide recruiting campaign with ads in newspapers around the world to lure expatriate Pakistani scientists back home to help him with his nuclear weapons work. The campaign is the result of Khan’s prior failure to lure scientists, such as the Canada-based A. A. Khan (see 1977), to Pakistan, and is approved by Pakistani military dictator General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. The ads promise large salaries and new homes in Islamabad. Applicants should contact their local Pakistani embassy and say they are applying to work at the Institute of Industrial Automation (IIA). Khan writes to A. A. Khan about the campaign and asks him to recommend people, which he does. The IIA address is the same as that used by Khan for deliveries of components for his nuclear work. For example, Henk Slebos, a European procurement agent, will later say he uses the address for deliveries. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54, 471] Presumably, after A. A. Khan is arrested and his correspondence with Khan seized (see August 29, 1980), investigators learn that the address is linked to Khan’s operations.
A team of Pakistani scientists working at Kahuta Research Laboratories and led by A. Q. Khan produces more enriched uranium. “June 4 was a historical day for us,” Khan will later write in a coded letter to his associate A. A. Khan. “On that day we put the ‘Air’ [uranium hexafluoride] into the machine and the first time we got the right product [enriched uranium] and its efficiency was the same as the theoretical.” He will add: “We had to see our big bosses so that we could get some more money for the budget. When this news was given to them they were quite happy and congratulated us.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
A Swiss company named CORA Engineering delivers a gasification and solidification plant to Pakistan for use in A. Q. Khan’s nuclear weapons research. The plant is delivered aboard three C-130 transport aircraft. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
The A. Q. Khan network that is attempting to build a nuclear weapon for Pakistan conducts procurement operations in Japan. The existence of the Japanese activities will be revealed in a letter from Khan to a correspondent, the Canada-based scientist A. A. Khan, dated June 13, 1978 and later obtained by Canadian authorities. Although a substantial amount of information is available about some of Khan’s operations in other countries, little is known about what he purchases in Japan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
The A. Q. Khan network that is attempting to build a nuclear weapon for Pakistan conducts procurement operations in Germany. The existence of the German activities at this time will be revealed in a letter from Khan to a correspondent, the Canada-based scientist A. A. Khan, dated June 13, 1978 and later obtained by Canadian authorities. The German operations involve the company Siemens and Gunes Cire, a Turkish associate of Khan’s. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sends a member of his team named Javid Mirza to the US. According to a letter Khan writes to a correspondent on June 13, Mirza has “gone to get the training for the control room of the air conditioner plant [at Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL)].” Khan adds, “Now he will finish the control room of [a building at KRL known as number] ‘54.’” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53]
A. Q. Khan writes his first letter to a correspondent, the Canada-based Pakistani scientist A. A. Khan. In the letter, which is written in a code, A. Q. Khan mentions successful uranium enrichment in Pakistan (see June 4, 1978), procurement operations in Germany and Japan (see Before June 13, 1978, Spring 1978, and Before June 13, 1978), the delivery of equipment to his headquarters (see Before June 13, 1978), and the dispatch of a team member for training to the US (see Before June 13, 1978). The correspondence between A. Q. Khan and A. A. Khan will go on for some time and authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will describe it as “an intense and literary friendship, always expressed in handwritten Urdu script, the most sensitive thoughts of the man behind one of the world’s most clandestine program[s], wafting through the unsecured mail for anyone to intercept.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 53] The correspondence will be seized by Canadian authorities upon A. A. Khan’s arrest (see August 29, 1980).
A. Q. Khan and one of his suppliers, the British businessman Peter Griffin, agree that Griffin will provide more equipment for Khan’s work. The agreement follows a purchase of 20 inverters by Khan from another European supplier, Ernst Piffl (see Spring 1978). However, Khan comes to feel that Piffl cheated him over the price of the inverters and asks Griffin, through his company Weargate Ltd., to take care of future business instead of Piffl. Griffin has already been working with Khan’s purchasing network for some time (see Summer 1976). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54, 471] Piffl will be unhappy that he has lost the business and will alert a British member of parliament to what is going on (see July 1978).
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan mentions inverters, a piece of equipment he needs for his nuclear weapons work, in a letter to an associate named A. A. Khan, who is based in Canada (see June 13, 1978). A. Q. Khan writes: “Perhaps you must have read in some newspapers that the English government is objecting about the inverters. Work is progressing but the frustration is increasing. It is just like a man who has waited 30 years but cannot wait for a few hours after the marriage ceremony.” The reference to the “English government” concerns the suspension of exports to Khan by Great Britain (see Before July 1978). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 54] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
The US embassy in Delhi, India, sends a cable to Secretary of State Cyrus Vance about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The cable states that Pakistan will be able to explode a bomb within “two or three years”—most likely by 1981. However, Pakistan’s progress will not be that fast and it will not actually manage to produce even a small amount of weapons-grade uranium until the spring of 1981 (see (March-April 1981)). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86] The cable will be intercepted by India’s Research and Analysis Wing and shared with Israeli intelligence (see 1979).
Israel considers attacking a key part of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. The idea is sparked when the Indian intelligence service Research and Analysis Wing intercepts a US cable saying that Pakistan will be able to explode a bomb within two or three years (see 1979). The Israelis knew that Pakistan was working on a nuclear weapons project, but thought it was not close to making such progress. Shocked by the Pakistani advances, they begin to plan a pre-emptive strike against one of the Pakistani facilities, the laboratory of scientist A. Q. Khan in Kahuta. However, the US learns of the plan and pressures the Israelis to put it on ice, which they do. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86]
By 1979, Pakistan’s economy is on the brink of collapse. Pakistan owes large debts to international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), but lacks the money to pay off its loans. The criminal BCCI bank led by Agha Hasan Abedi comes up with a scheme to save Pakistan’s economy. In 1979, the IMF says that if Pakistan increases its hard currency reserves by at least $50 million for 90 days, Pakistan’s State Bank can raise the lending limits for commercial banks. With banks able to make more loans, the economy will be able to perform better. BCCI secretly loans the State Bank the hard currency until the 90 days are over and then takes it back. Having established this system, BCCI helps Pakistan’s State Bank numerous times in subsequent years to avoid financial limitations placed on Pakistan. BCCI will finally collapse in 1991 (see July 5, 1991). [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 292-293]
According to a 1992 Congressional investigation led by Congressman Charles Schumer (D-NY), between 1979 and 1991, federal law enforcement agencies receive more than 700 tips about BCCI’s criminal activities. The criminal BCCI bank will finally be shut down in 1991 (see July 5, 1991). The tips include BCCI involvement in:
Promoting political unrest in Pakistan.
Smuggling arms to various countries, including Syria, Libya, and Iran.
Financing terrorist groups.
Links to organized crime in the US and Italy.
Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne will later comment in a book: “Too many people knew too much about BCCI, and they knew it long before the bank spun itself into bankruptcy and scandal.… That [CIA Deputy Director] Robert Gates could jokingly refer to it in a conversation with Customs chief William von Raab as the “bank of crooks and criminals” three years before the scandal broke merely reflects the run of knowledge around Washington. Indeed, it would probably have been difficult to find very many people with real power who did not know about the bank, based on the wide distribution of CIA reports.” Schumer will later conclude: “At the very least, there was nobody putting together all the pieces.… You could make a credible case that somebody told them not to do anything about BCCI.” [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 346]
A. Q. Khan writes a coded letter to his Canada-based associate A. A. Khan about his nuclear weapons research, saying that he is attempting to link together several centrifuges, creating a mini-cascade. This is an important step in building a nuclear weapon, as it is necessary in order to enrich uranium to weapons grade. A. Q. Khan also says that construction work is progressing on a larger facility at his main research site, Kahuta Research Laboratories, and adds that there is “mistrust and apprehension” in the air in Pakistan over the trial of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 56] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
The Pakistani nuclear weapons facility Kahuta Research Laboratories, headed by A. Q. Khan, succeeds in starting a centrifuge cascade. This cascade is very important in the construction of a nuclear bomb, as it is necessary for enriching uranium to weapons grade. However, Khan cannot take full advantage of the cascade, as he does not have a regular supply of uranium hexafluoride. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 56-57]
A. Q. Khan writes a coded letter to his Canada-based associate A. A. Khan about progress with his nuclear weapons research. “By the end of the year the factory should start working, and should start providing ‘cake and bread.’ There is a shortage of ‘food’ and we need these things very badly,’” he writes. The “factory” is Kahuta Research Laboratories, “cake and bread” are enriched uranium, and “food” is uranium hexafluoride, so A. Q. Khan is saying that he will soon start producing enriched uranium, but currently lacks the raw material to produce it to his satisfaction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 57] A. A. Khan’s papers will subsequently be seized when he is arrested by the Canadian authorities for assisting the export of nuclear-weapons-related items to Pakistan (see August 29, 1980), and this letter will presumably be among the papers the Canadians obtain.
The West German television station Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) broadcasts a documentary naming A. Q. Khan as the head of the Pakistani nuclear weapons program. It also reports that the program is using blueprints stolen from a Dutch plant where Khan had previously worked (see May 1, 1972, October 1974, and March-December 15, 1975). Prior to the documentary, Khan had been a relatively obscure figure, but the story of his activities now becomes big news in both Europe and North America. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 57]
As the US mobilizes for covert war in Afghanistan (see 1978 and July 3, 1979), a CIA special envoy meets Afghan mujaheddin leaders at Peshawar, Pakistan, near the border to Afghanistan. All of them have been carefully selected by the Pakistani ISI and do not represent a broad spectrum of the resistance movement. One of them is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a drug dealer with little support in Afghanistan, but who is loyal to the ISI. The US will begin working with Hekmatyar and over the next 10 years over half of all US aid to the mujaheddin will go to his faction (see 1983). Hekmatyar is already known as brutal, corrupt, and incompetent. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 475] His extreme ruthlessness, for instance, his reputation for skinning prisoners alive, is considered a plus, as it is thought he will use that ruthlessness to kill Russians. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 267-268]
Export control measures put in place by British and US authorities begin to have an effect on the efforts of Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to build a nuclear weapon. The measures were adopted to prevent Khan from purchasing in the West the equipment he needs to produce enough uranium to make his project succeed. Authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will later comment, “Khan’s supply network had been interrupted, and he was now having difficulty obtaining critical centrifuge components and other equipment for [his research facility in Pakistan].” Khan himself will write to an associate in Canada, “They are even stopping screws and nails.” By October 1979, reports are starting to surface saying that Khan’s research facility has come to a standstill. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98]
According to a story in the New York Times, the Carter administration is considering its options for dealing with Pakistan’s secret nuclear weapons program. One possibility is a covert operation aimed at destroying the Pakistani nuclear research facility in Kahuta, where uranium is being enriched to make a nuclear bomb. However, no such strike will be carried out and US policy will become more favorable to Pakistan after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan at the end of the year. [New York Times, 8/12/1979; Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 98]
British authorities intercept telexes between Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and British businessman Peter Griffin, who has been supplying parts for Khan’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 1976). Griffin will comment: “I would get my usual telex from Khan and the next day a telex from [British] Customs with lists of all the new things going on to the export control list, which coincidentally were all the things that Khan had just asked for.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55]
Front row: Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq (left) and President Carter (right). Zbigniew Brzezinski is in the center of the back row. [Source: Wally McNamee / Corbis]National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski writes a memo to President Jimmy Carter about the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, which has just begun (see December 8, 1979). Brzezinski focuses on fears that success in Afghanistan could give the Soviets access to the Indian Ocean, even though Afghanistan is a landlocked country. He suggests the US should continue aid to the Afghan mujaheddin, which actually began before the war and spurred the Soviets to invade (see 1978 and July 3, 1979). He says, “This means more money as well as arms shipments to the rebels and some technical advice.” He does not give any warning that such aid will strengthen Islamic fundamentalism. He also concludes, “[W]e must both reassure Pakistan and encourage it to help the rebels. This will require a review of our policy toward Pakistan, more guarantees to it, more arms aid, and alas, a decision that our security problem toward Pakistan cannot be dictated by our nonproliferation policy.” Carter apparently accepts Brzezinski’s advice. Author Joe Trento will later comment, “With that, the United States agreed to let a country admittedly in turmoil proceed to develop nuclear weapons.” [Trento, 2005, pp. 167-168] Trento and fellow author David Armstrong will add: “Once [Pakistan] became a partner in the anti-Soviet Afghan campaign and the Carter administration adopted a more lenient view of Pakistan’s nuclear activities, the [procurement] network [run by A. Q. Khan] expanded its operations dramatically. It would soon evolve into a truly global enterprise, obtaining the vast array of sophisticated equipment with which Pakistan would eventually build a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 99]
A computer specialist working for Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan is hired by British intelligence to inform on Khan’s nuclear proliferation network. According to long-time Khan associate Peter Griffin, this occurs during negotiations with a British mainframe computer supplier to which Griffin introduced Khan. The computer specialist comes over to Britain and, while meeting with one of the computer company’s owners, admires his Bentley, a car he could not afford on his Pakistani salary. According to Griffin, the owner says, “You can have one just like it if you agree to work for the British.” Presumably, this indicates that the computer company owner has already had contact with British intelligence. The specialist agrees, but Khan finds out he has been turned and fires him in 1980. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 55-56]
Some fighters opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan begin training in the US. According to journalist John Cooley, the training is done by Navy Seals and Green Beret officers who have taken draconian secrecy oaths. Key Pakistani officers are trained, as well as some senior Afghan mujaheddin. Much of the training takes place in Camp Peary, near Williamsburg, Virginia, which is said to be the CIA’s main location for training spies and assets. Other training takes place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Harvey Point, North Carolina, and Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. Subjects are trained in how to detect explosives, surveillance, how to recruit new agents, how to run paramilitary operations, and more. They are taught to use many different weapons as well, including remote-controlled mines and bombs, and sophisticated timers and explosives. Cooley claims that “apparently [no] Arab or other foreign volunteers” are trained in the US. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 70-72] However, in the late 1980s, US consular official Michael Springmann will notice fighters from many Middle Eastern nations are getting US visas, apparently to train in the US for the Afghan war (see September 1987-March 1989). Additionally, more training takes place in other countries. For instance, Cooley will note, “By the end of 1980, US military trainers were sent to Egypt to impart the skills of the US Special Forces to those Egyptians who would, in turn, pass on the training to the Egyptian volunteers flying to the aid of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan.” Cooley will further note, “Time and time again, these same techniques reappear among the Islamist insurgents in Upper Egypt and Algeria, since the ‘Afghani’ Arab veterans began returning there in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” [Cooley, 2002, pp. 70-72] It is not known how long these training programs continue.
Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. [Source: Associated Press]General Muhammad Zia ul-Haq seized power in Pakistan in a 1977 coup and declared himself president. The US stopped all economic and military aid to Pakistan as a result of the coup and Zia ruled cautiously in an attempt to win international approval. But immediately after the Russian invasion of Afghanistan (see December 8, 1979), the US allies with Zia and resumes aid. This allows Zia to use Islam to consolidate his power without worrying about the international reaction. He passes pro-Islamic legislation, introduces Islamic banking systems, and creates Islamic courts. Most importantly, he creates a new religious tax which is used to create tens of thousands of madrassas, or religious boarding schools. These schools will indoctrinate a large portion of future Islamic militants for decades to come. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 138-142] Zia also promotes military officers on the basis of religious devotion. The Koran and other religious material becomes compulsory reading material in army training courses. “Radical Islamist ideology began to permeate the military and the influence of the most extreme groups crept into the army,” journalist Kathy Gannon will write in her book I is for Infidel. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 138-142] The BBC will later comment that Zia’s self-declared “Islamization” policies created a “culture of jihad” within Pakistan that continues until present day. [BBC, 8/5/2002]
Bin Laden, dressed in combat fatigues, in Afghanistan during the 1980’s. (Note the image has been digitally altered to brighten the shadow on his face.) [Source: CNN]Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001] Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, believe he was handpicked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence (see Early 1980 and After). [New Yorker, 11/5/2001; Sunday Times (London), 8/25/2002] The Pakistani ISI want a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency fails to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family’s influential ties, is good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald, 9/24/2001] (Clarke will argue later that the Saudis and other Muslim governments used the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers.) This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 52]
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf. [Source: BBC]As Osama bin Laden gets involved with the mujaheddin resistance in Afghanistan, he also develops close ties to the Saudi intelligence agency, the GIP. Some believe that Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal plays a middleman role between Saudi intelligence and mujaheddin groups (see Early 1980). Turki’s chief of staff is Ahmed Badeeb, and Badeeb had been one of bin Laden’s teachers when bin Laden was in high school. Badeeb will later say, “I loved Osama and considered him a good citizen of Saudi Arabia.” Journalist Steve Coll will later comment that while the Saudi government denies bin Laden is ever a Saudi intelligence agent, and the exact nature of his connections with the GIP remains murky, “it seems clear that bin Laden did have a substantial relationship with Saudi intelligence.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 72, 86-87] The GIP’s favorite Afghan warlord is Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, while Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is the Pakistani ISI’s favorite warlord. Bin Laden quickly becomes close to both Sayyaf and Hekmatyar, even though the two warlords are not allies with each other. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 268] Some CIA officers will later say that bin Laden serves as a semi-official liaison between the GIP and warlords like Sayyaf. Bin Laden meets regularly with Prince Turki and Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif. Badeeb will later say bin Laden developed “strong relations with the Saudi intelligence and with our embassy in Pakistan.… We were happy with him. He was our man. He was doing all what we ask him.” Bin Laden also develops good relations with the ISI. [Coll, 2004, pp. 72, 87-88] Bin Laden will begin clashing with the Saudi government in the early 1990s (see August 2, 1990-March 1991).
Acting on a tip-off from British authorities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police monitors two officials working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear purchasing ring as they enter Canada. The officials are Anwar Ali and Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission. They come to Canada on diplomatic visas to purchase parts to make inverters—equipment that Khan needs to be able to produce weapons-grade uranium in Pakistan. The parts were formerly purchased in Britain, but that country is more aware of Khan’s attempts now, so he is forced to send people to Canada. Unaware of the close surveillance, Ali and Bhatti make contact with a local purchasing network of three naturalized Canadian citizens, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad, and A. A. Khan, who has been an associate of Khan’s since 1977 (see 1977). Over the next few weeks, the Canadians watch as the three men use a shopping list given them by Ali and Bhatti to buy resistors, capacitors, condensers, and other equipment through two electrical supply shops in Montreal. The gear comes from the US, from companies including General Electric, Westinghouse, RCA, and Motorola. The two shipping agents for moving it to Pakistan include Khalid Jassim General Trading, a Khan front organization operating out of the United Arab Emirates (see Before September 1980). The trio make at least 10 shipments of parts and equipment to Pakistan, with a total value of over half a million Canadian dollars. However, they are arrested in late August (see August 29, 1980). [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 103]
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police arrests a trio of purchasing agents working for the A. Q. Khan nuclear proliferation ring. The three men, Salam Elmenyami, Mohammad Ahmad, and A. A. Khan, had been under surveillance since July (see July-August 29, 1980). Almenyawi and Ahmad admit purchasing equipment, but say they did not know what it was for. Released the next day, A. A. Khan goes to Montreal railway station, where he removes a suitcase from a locker, takes some documents out of it, and rips them up. The documents will later be found and reassembled. One of them is a paper by an American scientist on the use of centrifuges for enriching uranium. A. A. Khan will tell investigators he was taking the article to another scientist. After ripping the documents up, he goes to the airport, but is arrested. The trio’s two contacts, Pakistani officials Anwar Ali and Imtiaz Ahmad Bhatti, will not be arrested at all. Bhatti will become a senior official at A. Q. Khan’s research facility in Pakistan; Ali will become chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission in 2006. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 103, 106] The three men will later be put on trial, but A. A. Khan will be acquitted and Almenyawi and Ahmad will receive light sentences (see Late 1980 or After).
On a trip to New York, Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq meets with former US President Richard Nixon. The meeting is to discuss the Soviet-Afghan War, but Pakistan’s nuclear program also comes up. General Khalid Mahmud Arif, who accompanies Zia, will later say that Nixon makes it clear he is in favor of Pakistan gaining nuclear weapons capability. Nixon does not say that he is acting for Republican presidential candidate Ronald Reagan, but, according to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke, “his comments signal […] the way ahead,” as the future Reagan administration will enable Pakistan to continue work on its nuclear weapons program without being sanctioned. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 76]
Much of the billions of dollars in aid from Saudi Arabia and the CIA to the Afghan mujaheddin actually gets siphoned off by the Pakistani ISI. Melvin Goodman, a CIA analyst in the 1980s, will later say, “They were funding the wrong groups, and had little idea where the money was going or how it was being spent.” Sarkis Soghanalian, a middleman profiting from the aid, will later say, “The US did not want to get its hands dirty. So the Saudis’ money and the US money was handled by the ISI. I can tell you that more than three quarters of the money was skimmed off the top. What went to buy weapons for the Afghan fighters was peanuts.” Sognhanalian claims that most of the money went through various accounts held at the notoriously corrupt BCCI bank, then was distributed to the ISI and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. [Trento, 2005, pp. 318] Robert Crowley, a CIA associate director from the 1960s until the 1980s, will also refer to the aid money going to Khan’s network, commenting, “Unfortunately, the Pakistanis knew exactly where their cut of the money was to go.” An early 1990s congressional investigation led by Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) will also come to the same conclusion. [Trento, 2005, pp. 314, 384]
At some time in 1981, Pakistan begins digging some tunnels under the Ras Koh mountains. The work is apparently related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, which begins preparation for a cold test of a nuclear weapon this year (see Shortly After May 1, 1981). This work is noticed by both India and Israel, who also see other signs that work is continuing on Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program. Tunnels in these mountains will be used when Pakistan tests nuclear weapons in 1998 (see May 28, 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86, 275]
Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq initiates a second program to design a warhead to deliver Pakistani nuclear weapons. The program is to be headed by nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan and is to be based at his research facility in Kahuta. It will compete with another warhead design team that has been working since 1974 (see March 1974), but has not yet completed its task. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 91]
Norman Bailey, a member of the National Security Council (NSC) whose specialty is monitoring terrorism by tracking finances, will later reveal that in the early 1980s the NSC learns that BCCI is not just a bank but is engaged in widespread criminal activity. “We were aware that BCCI was involved in drug-money transactions,” he will later say. “We were also aware that BCCI was involved with terrorists, technology transfers—including the unapproved transfer of US technology to the Soviet bloc—weapons dealing, the manipulation of financial markets, and other activities.” The main source for the NSC about this are reports from the CIA. From 1981 on, the NSC learns of BCCI’s role in illegal technology deals for Pakistan, Iraq, Libya, Iran, and other countries. A clear picture has emerged by the start of 1984. But neither the CIA nor the NSC take any action against the bank. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 291, 315]
State Department intern Richard Barlow. [Source: Richard Barlow]Richard Barlow, an intern at the State Department’s Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA), finds that Pakistan has been attempting to build a nuclear bomb since the early 1970s, but his superiors do not follow up and he loses his job in a reorganization. Barlow, who has recently graduated from university after writing a thesis on counter-proliferation intelligence, is concerned about the burgeoning black markets in nuclear weapons technology. He will later comment, “Everywhere I looked I kept coming up against intelligence about Pakistan’s WMD program. I thought I was telling them what they needed to hear, but the White House seemed oblivious.” One reason the White House appears deaf is that Pakistan is now an important US ally, as it is a major supply point for the CIA-backed anti-Soviet Afghan mujaheddin. In addition, a group of “Republican hawks,” including Paul Wolfowitz, has convinced President Ronald Reagan that America needs a new strategy against potential nuclear threats, since long-term policies such as détente and containment are supposedly not working. When Reagan starts to build up US arms, the staff at ACDA is cut by a third and Barlow is one of the employees who loses his job. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Pakistani finance minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan (left) and A. Q. Khan. [Source: Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke]In 1981, the criminal BCCI bank sets up a charity called the BCCI Foundation. Pakistani Finance Minister Ghulam Ishaq Khan grants it tax-free status, and it supposedly spends millions on charitable purposes. Khan serves as the chairman of the foundation while also running the books for A. Q. Khan’s Kahuta Research Laboratories. Ghulam Ishaq Khan will be president of Pakistan from 1988 to 1993. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 126-127] BCCI founder Agha Hasan Abedi announces that he will donate up to 90% of BCCI’s profits to charity through the foundation, and he develops a positive reputation from a few well-publicized charitable donations. But the charity is actually used to shelter BCCI profits. Most of the money it raises goes to A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program and not to charitable causes. For instance, in 1987 it gives a single $10 million donation to an institute headed by A. Q. Khan. Millions more go to investments in a front company owned by BCCI figure Ghaith Pharaon. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 290-291] An investigation by the Los Angeles Times will reveal that less than 10% of the money went to charity. [Los Angeles Times, 8/9/1991] BCCI uses other means to funnel even more money into A. Q. Khan’s nuclear program (see 1980s).
The Israeli intelligence service Mossad begins a bombing and intimidation campaign in Europe targeting people linked to A. Q. Khan’s nuclear proliferation network, which is helping Pakistan build a nuclear weapon. After Israel bombs an Iraqi nuclear reactor in Osirak in June 1981, the campaign intensifies. Attacks are carried out and warnings given in Europe against Khan’s suppliers and middlemen (see Early 1981, February 20, 1981, Early 1981, November 1981, and 1981). The bombings are investigated by the police forces in the countries in which they occur and are traced to a group of apparent fronts for Mossad: the Group for Non-Proliferation in South Asia, the Committee to Safeguard the Islamic Revolution, and the League for Protecting the Sub-Continent. European police realize that a state-backed group is probably behind the bombings and suspect Mossad, due to the problematic relations between Israel and the Islamic world. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will also say that Mossad was behind the bombings, partly based on interviews of “senior intelligence sources” in Israel in 2006. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 87-8, 476]
A briefing by Pakistani scientist Ishrat Usmani saying that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is experiencing difficulties is published in the influential European nuclear publication Nucleonics Week. According to Usmani, a former head of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission, the program faces “severe difficulties” and is unlikely ever to be capable of producing even the crudest of nuclear devices. However, Usmani, who has worked for the United Nations and is a trusted figure in the West, knows that Pakistan’s program is actually going well and several operational cascades have already been built. It appears the misleading information finds its way into print as part of a plan to convince US lawmakers to enable a change to America’s policy towards Pakistan. The Pakistanis are to be given increased aid by the incoming Reagan administration despite their nuclear weapons program, in return for their support against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 79]
Saudi Arabia offers the Pakistani government $800 million to help develop a nuclear bomb, according to the London Sunday Times. Reportedly, the offer is contingent on Pakistan not sharing the technology with Iraq or Libya, and Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan is involved in the negotiations. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248]
Alexandre de Marenches, head of French intelligence and leader of the Safari Club, a secret cabal of intelligence agencies, meets President Reagan at the White House shortly after Reagan’s inauguration. De Marenches proposes a joint French-American-ISI operation to counter the Soviets in Afghanistan, and dubs it Operation Mosquito. As de Marenches will later explain in his memoirs, he suggests making fake Russian newspapers with articles designed to demoralize Soviet troops, and other propaganda. He also suggests the US take drugs seized by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other agencies that would normally be destroyed and secretly supply them to Soviet soldiers fighting in Afghanistan instead. According to de Marenches, the idea is ultimately rejected because of fear of media leaks. But in fact, fake issues of the Soviet army newspaper later do appear in Kabul, Afghanistan. And large qualities of hashish, opium, and heroin are made available to Soviet soldiers, resulting in widespread addiction. Such addiction to local drugs would have taken place to some degree in any case, but intriguingly, some quantities of cocaine also appear in Afghanistan. At the time, cocaine is only grown in South America. A team of Russian military historians will later write a candid book on the Afghan war and one will say, “there certainly was circumstantial evidence for some kind of systematic program” to addict Soviet soldiers. [Cooley, 2002, pp. 106-108] In 1982, a secret memo will exempt the CIA from reporting on drug smuggling conducted by CIA officers or assets (see February 11, 1982). Mathea Falco, head of the State Department’s International Narcotics Control program, will later allege that the CIA and ISI worked together to encourage the mujaheddin to addict Soviet troops. And a book cowritten by two Time magazine reporters will allege that “a few American intelligence operatives were deeply emeshed in the drug trade” during the war. [Scott, 2007, pp. 124-125]
Pakistan produces its first weapons-grade uranium. The sample is produced by a team led by scientist A. Q. Khan that is working on building a nuclear weapon. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will later call this “a colossal breakthrough on the path to manufacturing a nuclear bomb.” Khan informs Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq of the breakthrough. Zia then visits the facility where Khan works, renaming it after Khan in May. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84] Khan had first enriched uranium three years previously, but that apparently had not been weapons grade (see Shortly Before or on April 4, 1978).
Pakistan Foreign Minister Agha Shahi and General Khalid Arif visit Washington to discuss the new Reagan administration’s plans for the Soviet-Afghan War. The new administration is aware that Pakistani support is crucial if it wants to keep up US aid to anti-communist fighters in Afghanistan. However, the Pakistanis impose a number of conditions on their participation, one of which is that the US does not complain about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons development program. According to former State Department official Dennis Kux, Shahi and Arif tell US Secretary of State Alexander Haig that Pakistan will not compromise on its nuclear program. Haig replies that if Pakistan conducts a nuclear test, this will cause trouble in Congress and “make it difficult to cooperate with Pakistan in the way that the Reagan administration hoped.” However, if Pakistan does not perform a test, the nuclear program “need not become a centerpiece of the US-Pakistani relationship.” State Department South Asia specialist James Coon will comment that there is “a tacit understanding that the Reagan administration could live with Pakistan’s nuclear program as long as Islamabad did not explode a bomb.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118, 248] Over the next few months, Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley and other US officials travel back and forth between Washington and Pakistan, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “refining the back-channel deal on the Pakistan nuclear program,” and reassuring the Pakistanis that the Reagan administration will allow their work on the bomb to continue. On one occasion, Arif meets Buckley and they discuss the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan. Arif then raises the nuclear issue, but, Arif will later say, “The Americans suggested there was no need to talk about Pakistan’s [nuclear] program any more.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 88-89]
Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq orders nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan to prepare for a cold test of a nuclear weapon. The instruction is given shortly after Khan tells Zia that he has managed to enrich uranium to weapons grade (see (March-April 1981)), and after Zia visits the facility where Khan works, re-naming it after him. The CIA will soon learn of this instruction. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 84-85, 90]
In response to information it has received about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see June 2, 1981), Israel begins planning a pre-emptive strike against one of Pakistan’s main nuclear facilities. The complex to be targeted is in Kahuta, near Islamabad, and houses Pakistan’s uranium enrichment centrifuges. However, the plan is not implemented due to US pressure, applied due to friendly US relations with Pakistan and Pakistani co-operation on anti-Soviet efforts in Afghanistan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 86]
Israel’s permanent representative to the UN, Yehuda Blum, tells the UN General Assembly that “there is abundant evidence indicating that [Pakistan] is producing nuclear weapons.” He adds that “at the Engineering Research Labs… Pakistan is secretly constructing a plant for the production of weapons-grade enriched uranium by centrifuges” based on a technology “stolen from the URENCO plant in the Netherlands.” He also says that Pakistan has established front companies in 14 countries to acquire components, and that Pakistan is close to building a cascade of at least 1,000 centrifuges. In addition, the Pakistanis intend to build more than 10,000 of them, “which in turn could produce about 150 kg of enriched uranium a year, sufficient for seven nuclear explosive devices every year.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will write that this information is “what the US had known for several years but had chosen not to share with the rest of the world.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 85-86]
The US State Department writes a cable to Israel to allay Israeli fears about Pakistan’s nuclear program (see June 2, 1981). However, the communication contains information the US must know to be untrue. The cable says, “We believe that the Pakistanis have so far been unable to make their centrifuge machines work and that they have not yet produced any significant quantities of enriched uranium.” Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say this is a “blatant lie,” as the US knows the opposite is true. The cable concludes, “Even if the Pakistanis do manage to eventually overcome their problems in the enrichment area, it would likely take them a few years of successful operations to produce sufficient fissile material to fabricate a single device.” It also estimates that it will take Pakistan another decade before it has a suitable missile system to go with warheads. Levy and Scott-Clark will add, “Not only was the US misrepresenting the available intelligence, but it was also ignoring several articles published by Khan himself in Western nuclear gazettes in which he had explicitly laid out the hurdles his centrifuge construction program had overcome.” Moshe Ya’alon, later head of Israeli military intelligence, will say that the Israelis are stunned by this response. “The US was glib on Pakistan,” he will add. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 85-86]
Reagan administration official James Buckley. [Source: Biographical Directory of the US Congress]James Buckley, an undersecretary for security in the Reagan administration, tells the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Pakistan is unlikely to progress with its nuclear weapons program if it receives US aid. He will repeat the argument in the New York Times three months later: “In place of the ineffective sanctions on Pakistan’s nuclear program imposed by past administrations, we hope to address through conventional means the sources of insecurity that prompt a nation like Pakistan to seek a nuclear capability in the first place.” Len Weiss, an aide to anti-proliferation Senator John Glenn, will later comment, “It seemed highly unconventional to reward a country bent on becoming nuclear with extra funding and jets.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 82, 88]
A 5,000-lb shipment of zirconium, a grey-white metal that is commonly used to lag fuel rods in nuclear reactors, is seized at JFK Airport in New York. The metal had been checked in for a Pakistan International Airways flight in a container marked “climbing gear.” When airline staff ask to see inside, the passenger traveling with it runs off. It is later determined that he is a retired Pakistani Army officer and close friend of Pakistani dictator Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. The metal had been purchased in Oregon by an American business on behalf of a Pakistani-based company called S. J. Enterprises. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 90]
The US Senate approves an aid package for Pakistan worth $3.2 billion. This makes Pakistan the third largest recipient of US assistance after Israel and Egypt, and is in response to Pakistani support for the anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan. The aid is granted despite the fact that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program, as Congress is assured that the aid is conditional on Pakistan stopping this program (see September 1981). However, Pakistan does not do so and informs the Reagan administration of this (see Mid-December 1981). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89] Due to an amendment introduced by Congressman Stephen Solarz (D-NY), aid for any country that detonates a nuclear device will be cut off. Author Dennis Kux will note that this makes “the ‘tacit’ understanding about Pakistan’s not testing (see April 1981)… a legal requirement for US aid.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 118-119]
Pakistani Foreign Minister Agha Shahi meets US Undersecretary of State for Security Assistance James Buckley in Islamabad, Pakistan, following a large grant of US aid to Pakistan (see December 1981). The aid is theoretically conditional on Pakistan stopping its nuclear weapons program, but, according to Agha Shahi: “I mentioned the nuclear caveats and emphasized that if we had a bomb and wanted to test it there was nothing the US could do. Buckley shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘I understand. Yes, we know.’” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 89]
Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, begins its program to recruit Arab fundamentalists fighters from across the Arab world to fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan. [Rashid, 2001, pp. 129]
CIA covert weapons shipments are sent by the Pakistani army and the ISI to rebel camps in the North West Frontier province near the Afghanistan border. The governor of the province is Lieutenant General Fazle Haq, who author Alfred McCoy calls Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq’s “closest confidant and the de facto overlord of the mujaheddin guerrillas.” Haq allows hundreds of heroin refineries to set up in his province. Beginning around 1982, Pakistani army trucks carrying CIA weapons from Karachi often pick up heroin in Haq’s province and return loaded with heroin. They are protected from police search by ISI papers. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] By 1982, Haq is listed with Interpol as an international drug trafficker. But Haq also becomes known as a CIA asset. Despite his worsening reputation, visiting US politicians such as CIA Director William Casey and Vice President George H. W. Bush continue to meet with him when they visit Pakistan. Haq then moves his heroin money through the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). A highly placed US official will later say that Haq “was our man… everybody knew that Haq was also running the drug trade” and that “BCCI was completely involved.” [Scott, 2007, pp. 73-75] Both European and Pakistani police complain that investigations of heroin trafficking in the province are “aborted at the highest level.” [McCoy, 2003, pp. 477] In 1989, shortly after Benazir Bhutto takes over as the new ruler of Pakistan, Pakistani police arrest Haq and charge him with murder. He is considered a multi-billionaire by this time. But Haq will be gunned down and killed in 1991, apparently before he is tried. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 483] Even President Zia is implied in the drug trade. In 1985, a Norwegian government investigation will lead to the arrest of a Pakistani drug dealer who also is President Zia’s personal finance manager. When arrested, his briefcase contains Zia’s personal banking records. The manager will be sentenced to a long prison term. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 481-482]
In November 1982, US Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX) travels to Islamabad, Pakistan, and meets with President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq. He promises Zia to deliver a crucial weapons system that has so far been denied by the US—the latest radar systems for Pakistan’s F-16 fighter planes. Wilson also meets with CIA Station Chief Howard Hart, who is in charge of providing support for the Afghan resistance to the Soviets. He urges Hart to expand the program and stresses that vast amounts of money can be made available. [Crile, 2003, pp. 106-129] The next month, President Zia comes to the US to meet with President Reagan. Zia first meets with Wilson in Houston and expresses his gratitude for helping Pakistan acquire F-16 radar systems (see November-December 1982). Wilson then broaches the subject of Pakistan secretly purchasing arms from Israel for the Afghan War. Zia agrees to this in principle. [Crile, 2003, pp. 131-132]
According to Alfred W. McCoy, author of The Politics of Heroin, in 1983 Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq allows Pakistani drug traffickers to deposit their drug profits in the BCCI bank without getting punished. The criminal BCCI bank has close ties to the Pakistani government and the US funding of the Afghan war. It will be shut down in 1991. BCCI also plays a critical role in facilitating the movement of Pakistan’s heroin money. By 1989, Pakistan’s heroin trade will be valued at $4 billion a year, more than all of Pakistan’s legal exports. [McCoy, 2003, pp. 480]
A. Q. Khan (center of picture) at a test. [Source: CBC] (click image to enlarge)Pakistan carries out a successful test of a nuclear bomb minus the fissionable core, an exercise known as a “cold test.” Pakistan is receiving Chinese help with its nuclear program at this time, and the Chinese may assist with the test. The US learns that the test has been carried out around this time. [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 120-1; Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Representative Charlie Wilson (D-TX) travels to Israel where he meets with Zvi Rafiah and other Israeli officials. From Israel he travels to Egypt and then Pakistan, where he secretly negotiates a major weapons deal with Pakistan (see November-December 1982) on behalf of the Israelis in support of the mujaheddin fighting Soviets in Afghanistan. Among other things, the deal includes the delivery of T-55 tanks. Author George Crile will later comment, “The Israelis were hoping this deal would serve as the beginning of a range of under-the-table understandings with Pakistan that the congressman would continue to quietly negotiate for them.” [Crile, 2003, pp. 141]
A young Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. [Source: Public domain]Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar emerges as the most powerful of ISI’s mujaheddin clients, just as Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX) and CIA Director William Casey, along with Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal, are pouring “hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of new and more lethal supplies into ISI warehouses” (see 1983). Hekmatyar is among the most ruthless and extreme of the Afghan Islamic warlords. [Coll, 2004, pp. 119] Casey is said to particularly like Hekmatyar because they share a goal of extending the fighting beyond Afghanistan into the Soviet Union itself. [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 268] Hekmatyar receives about half of all the CIA’s covert weapons directed at Afghanistan despite being a known major drug trafficker (see 1982-1991). He develops close ties with bin Laden by 1984 while continuing to receive large amounts of assistance from the CIA and ISI (see 1984).
Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan sends one of his associates, Peter Griffin, a copy of the book The Islamic Bomb. The book has the dedication, “With kindest regards, my friend, Peter Griffin,” and is signed “Dr. AQ Khan.” It will be seized several years later by British customs agents during a search of Griffin’s home. The book details Khan’s role in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program and the help provided to him by Griffin and one of Griffin’s partners, Abdus Salam. Griffin had earlier claimed he did not understand what Khan was doing with the technical equipment he shipped to him (see 1980), but the book must remove any doubts about the real nature of Khan’s work. Despite this, Griffin continues to work with Khan for a number of years, and will later say, “Anything that could be sent to Pakistan, I sent to Pakistan.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 102]
The US places a high-tech piece of surveillance equipment near Pakistan’s nuclear weapons facility in Kahuta. The device is a boulder made from resin that is moulded and coloured to look like the local rocks. It is transported in on the back of a delivery truck and can transmit intelligence through an array of sophisticated recording and air-sampling technology hidden inside the shell. However, according to Pakistani General Khalid Arif, the device is discovered by chance. A student travelling on the back of another truck falls off and hits his head on the rock. Arif will say: “He opened his eyes and realized that he was still alive and unbruised. The rock, however, had a hole in it and inside were all sorts of whirring and blinking bits. We took it away for analysis and later put it into our museum for trainee spies.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 92-93]
The US sells forty F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan. One of the contractual preconditions of the sale is that Pakistan does not configure them to drop a nuclear bomb. However, US analyst Richard Barlow will conclude that in fact all of them are configured to carry nuclear weapons. [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
Robert Gallucci, a director of the Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs at the State Department, drafts a comprehensive report showing that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program is continuing. The report begins with an overview of Pakistan’s nuclear fuel cycle and a confirmation that Pakistan has built a plant to “concentrate uranium ore,” while another to produce uranium hexafluoride is “already in operation.” The report also details work done at the facility in Kahuta headed by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan and the technology being assembled there based on designs stolen in the Netherlands. In addition, Gallucci warns of the procurement network’s increasing confidence and its use of “false end-use statements.”
'Unambiguous Evidence' - The report, which is marked “secret” and not distributed to security contractors or abroad, finds, “There is unambiguous evidence that Pakistan is actively pursuing a nuclear weapons development program,” and, “Pakistan’s near-term goal evidently is to have a nuclear test capability enabling it to explode a nuclear device if [Pakistani dictator Muhammad] Zia [ul-Haq] decides it’s appropriate for diplomatic and domestic political gains.”
'Nuclear Explosives' - Another section, entitled “Nuclear Explosives,” says that Pakistan is working on an “electronic triggering circuit for nuclear device detonation… as well as experiments on conventional as well as shaped charges.” The Pakistanis have “already undertaken a substantial amount of the necessary design and high explosives testing of the explosive device and we believe that Pakistan is now capable of producing a workable package of this kind.” Gallucci even has drawings given to suppliers by agents for Khan that have been “unambiguously identified as those of a nuclear device.”
Chinese Connection - The report also mentions the Pakistan-China connection, as notes in Chinese and an operations manual from China have been found in circumstances linked to Khan’s operations. US scientists who analysed them concluded they concerned equipment remarkably similar to a device used in a 1964 nuclear test by China, and Gallucci finds, “China has provided assistance to Pakistan’s program to develop a nuclear weapons capability.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 93-94, 478]
Bin Laden first works for Maktab al-Khidamat from this building in Peshawar, a former British government guesthouse. [Source: PBS]Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and helps run a front organization for the mujaheddin known as Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), which funnels money, arms, and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/2000] “MAK [is] nurtured by Pakistan’s state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA’s primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow’s occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/1998] Bin Laden becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar’s opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde (Paris), 9/14/2001] Hekmatyar, who also has ties with bin Laden, the CIA, and drug running, has been called “an ISI stooge and creation.” [Asia Times, 11/15/2001] MAK is also known as Al-Kifah and its branch in New York is called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. This branch will play a pivotal role in the 1993 WTC bombing and also has CIA ties (see January 24, 1994).
Paula Hawkins. [Source: Public domain]In 1984, Senator Paula Hawkins (R-FL) meets with Pakistani President Muhammad Zia ul-Haq in Pakistan. During the meeting, she mentions that she is concerned about a Pakistani bank that is laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Her staff later clarifies to Zia that she was referring to BCCI (which technically is not a Pakistani bank, but almost all of its top officials are Pakistani). As a result, Abdur Sakhia, the top BCCI official in the US, meets with Hawkins in the US a short time later and assures her that BCCI is not laundering money out of the Cayman Islands. Then officials from the Justice Department, State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) meet with Hawkins’s staffers and assure them that BCCI is not the subject of any investigation. Weeks later, the State Department formally notifies the Pakistani government that BCCI is not under investigation. As a result, Hawkins drops her brief interest in BCCI. However, by this time the State Department, Justice Department, and DEA have all been briefed by the CIA about BCCI’s many criminal activities. Apparently, this information is deliberately kept from the senator. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 324-325]
Osama bin Laden, his mentor Abdullah Azzam, and Afghan warlord Abdul Rasul Sayyaf meet two unnamed men in Peshawar, Pakistan. The two men are “supposed to be from somewhere in Europe” and cannot speak Arabic. As a result, Essam al Ridi, an Egyptian who has lived in the US, attends the meeting as a translator. Al Ridi will later say that the two men speak English “with an accent” and that he was invited to the meeting to translate between the men on the one hand and Sayyaf and Azzam on the other, indicating that bin Laden did not need a translator and could speak English. This is the first of several meetings between bin Laden and al Ridi, who purchases equipment for anti-Soviet fighters (see Early 1983-Late 1984 and Early 1989). [United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, 1/14/2001]
By 1984, huge amounts of arms and ammunition for the mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan are pouring into Pakistan. These weapons are funded by the CIA and Saudi government, and generally come into the port of Karachi. The criminal BCCI bank has an enforcement arm nicknamed the “Black Network.” Time magazine reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne will later describe it as “a Karachi-based cadre of bank operatives, paramilitary units, spies, and enforcers who handled BCCI’s darkest operations around the globe and trafficked in bribery and corruption.” By 1984, BCCI and its Black Network takes effective control of Karachi’s port, dominating Pakistan’s customs service there with bribery and intimidation. BCCI is thus in a position to dominate the flow of supplies to the mujaheddin. Pakistan’s military handles the flow of weapons from Karachi to the Afghan border, but once there the supplies have to be carried by mules to reach the mujaheddin fighting in remote Afghan mountain ranges. BCCI controls this part of the supply chain as well. Sometimes BCCI personnel simply transport the supplies across Afghanistan to Iran and then sell them there for a profit. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 66, 315-316] The US government is aware of BCCI’s support role and cooperates with it. For instance, in 1987 USAID asks BCCI to buy 1,000 more mules to help the mujaheddin. [Los Angeles Times, 9/3/1991] At almost every step of the way, BCCI takes a cut of the profits and often steals some of the supplies. [Beaty and Gwynne, 1993, pp. 66, 315-316]
Following a March 1985 directive signed by President Reagan that sharply escalates US covert action in Afghanistan, the Pakistani ISI begins training Afghans to launch strikes directly into Soviet territory. Apparently the idea originated with CIA Director William Casey who first proposed harassing Soviet territory in 1984 (see October 1984). According to Graham Fuller, a senior US intelligence official, most top US officials consider such military raids “an incredible escalation” and fear a large-scale Soviet response if they are carried out. The Reagan administration decides not to give Pakistan detailed satellite photographs of military targets inside the Soviet Union. [Washington Post, 7/19/1992] Mohammad Yousaf, a high-ranking ISI officer, will later claim that the training actually began in 1984. “During this period we were specifically to train and dispatch hundreds of mujaheddin up to 25 kilometers deep inside the Soviet Union. They were probably the most secret and sensitive operations of the war.” He notes that, “By 1985, it became obvious that the United States had got cold feet. Somebody at the top in the American administration was getting frightened.” But, he claims, “the CIA, and others, gave us every encouragement unofficially to take the war into the Soviet Union.” [Dreyfuss, 2005, pp. 286-287] Casey will approve of such attacks and the first attack inside the Soviet Union will take place in 1985 (see 1985-1987).
A. Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s attempt to build a nuclear device, makes comments to a Pakistani journalist indicating the country is engaged in a nuclear weapons program: “Western countries had never imagined that a poor and backward country like Pakistan would end their [nuclear] monopoly in such a short time.… As soon as they realized that Pakistan had dashed their dreams to the ground, they pounced at Pakistan and me like hungry jackals and began attacking us with all kinds of accusations and falsehood.… How could they tolerate a Muslim country becoming their equal in this field.… All Western countries including Israel are not only the enemies of Pakistan but in fact of Islam.… All these activities are part of the crusade which Christians and Jews have been carrying on against Muslims for about one thousand years.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Sheikh Abdullah Azzam and his son-in-law Abdullah Anas in Afghanistan during the 1980s. [Source: History Channel]Osama bin Laden, Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor, and Abdullah Anas, Azzam’s son-in-law, create an organization called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), known in English as the Services Office. It is also known as Al-Kifah. This organization will become a key node in the private funding network for the Afghan war. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 28-30] The US government will later call it the “precursor organization to al-Qaeda.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 89 ] Initially, Azzam runs it while bin Laden funds it. They create a guesthouse in Peshawar, Pakistan, to help foreign volunteers connect with rebel forces in Afghanistan. Prior to this time, the number of such volunteers is very small, perhaps only several dozen. But the number begins to dramatically expand. [New York Times, 1/14/2001; Bergen, 2006, pp. 28-30] Donors will include the Saudi intelligence agency, the Saudi Red Crescent, the Muslim World League, and private donors, including Saudi princes. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/2001] MAK/Al-Kifah begins fundraising in the US one year later (see 1985-1989).
Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), also known as Al-Kifah, is Osama bin Laden’s main charity front in the 1980s. The US government will later call it the “precursor organization to al-Qaeda” (see Late 1984).
In 2005, investigative journalist Joe Trento will write, “CIA money was actually funneled to MAK, since it was recruiting young men to come join the jihad in Afghanistan.” Trento will explain this information comes from “a former CIA officer who actually filed these reports” but who cannot be identified because he still works in Afghanistan. MAK was founded in 1984 (see Late 1984) and was disbanded around 1996 (see Shortly After November 19, 1995). However, Trento will not specify exactly when CIA aid to MAK began or how long it lasted. [Trento, 2005, pp. 342] Bin Laden appears to have other at least indirect contact with the CIA around this time (see 1986).
George Schulz, secretary of state in the Reagan administration, says, “We have full faith in [Pakistan’s] assurance that they will not make the bomb.” However, the US, including the State Department, is already aware that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see 1983 and August 1985-October 1990). [Guardian, 10/13/2007]
The arrest of a Pakistani agent attempting to buy components for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program in the US starts a crisis that could potentially lead to the cutting off of US aid to Pakistan, and an end to US support for the mujaheddin in the Soviet-Afghan War. When Stephen Solarz (D-NY), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs and an opponent of Pakistan, learns of the attempted purchase—of Kryton high-speed triggers that are used to fire nuclear weapons—he calls for hearings to look into the affair. The crisis passes, but it is unclear exactly how. Author George Crile will attribute the resolution to threats made to Solarz by Congressman Charlie Wilson (D-TX), a strong supporter of US involvement in the war: “Wilson understood that this was a battle that could not be won with debating points; reportedly, he went to Solarz armed with certain classified intelligence about India’s nuclear program. He is said to have suggested that India might be more exposed than Pakistan when it came to the issue of the bomb.” [Crile, 2003, pp. 463-4]
Makhtab al-Khidamat offices in the US in the late 1980s. Some of the offices in fact were represented by single individuals. [Source: National Geographic] (click image to enlarge)Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor, makes repeated trips to the US and other countries, building up his Pakistan-based organization, Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), or “Services Office” in English. It is also known as Al-Kifah, which means “struggle.” Azzam founded the Al-Kifah/MAK in 1984 (see Late 1984). Branches open in over 30 US cities, as Muslim-Americans donate millions of dollars to support the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. The most important branch, called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, opens in Brooklyn, New York (see 1986-1993). Azzam is assassinated in a car bomb attack in late 1989 (see November 24, 1989). Bin Laden soon takes over the organization, which effectively morphs into al-Qaeda. His followers take over the US offices and they become financial conduits for al-Qaeda operations. [Lance, 2003, pp. 40-41]
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