American Hiroshima: Part 2 of an Interview with Journalist Hamid Mir
War on Terror David Dastych
May 9, 2006
A prominent, internationally acclaimed Pakistani journalist, Hamid Mir, was the last newsman to meet and interview Osama bin Laden. In this interview, granted to Dr. Paul L. Williams, Ph.D., the award-winning author of "The Dunces of Doomsday," and David Dastych, an international journalist and former intelligence operative, Mir discusses the political and military situation in Pakistan and Afghanistan, terrorist threats to the USA and Europe and future plans of bin Laden's al-Qaida. (read part one of the interview by clicking here)
Williams & Dastych: Is support for al-Qaida and the jihad against the U.S. and the West gathering momentum throughout the Muslim world?
Mir: Honestly speaking, yes. Osama bin Laden is becoming the hero of anti-American Muslim youth by default. Many Muslims are of the view that America played a role in implementing the UN resolutions on East Timor. This Christian majority province of Indonesia got independence through the UN, but the Muslim majority Kashmir area of India is denied the same right because West is biased against the Muslims. Now the Muslim youth is getting allergic of Islamic clerics who oppose al-Qaida. More than 1,500 tribal elders and Islamic clerics have been assassinated by pro-al-Qaida militants in south Waziristan area of Pakistan in the past two years. These 1,500 elders and clerics cooperated with Pakistan army and opposed the presence of foreign fighters in their area.
Now this area is unofficially controlled by the Taliban. I have visited 12 provinces in east and south of Afghanistan recently. The Taliban is controlling all the rural and mountain areas of Khost, Paktia, Paktika, Ghazni, Zabul, Helmand, Oruzgan and some areas of Kandahar in east and south of Afghanistan. People cannot enter these territories on government vehicles. Men without beard have to make some explanation. District Taliban commander and provincial Taliban commander is the real ruler. Afghan police is weak. Coalition troops are limited in number and Pashtun population is supportive to the Taliban. The Taliban has become some kind of a Pashtun nationalist movement.
You can see the same situation in the Pakistani south Waziristan. The Taliban is becoming popular there because America is unpopular and the Pakistan army is busy in north Waziristan. The Taliban is trying to control some regular areas of Pakistan, too. But they failed because ordinary Pakistanis are ready to raise slogans against America but they don't like the Taliban's hold on their lives. The Taliban has no ability to attract common Pakistanis. They can only lead and motivate some youngsters to fight against America.
If the president of Pakistan and the president of Afghanistan are not ready to accept my claims, they should accompany me to these areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan with some international media personalities, and the world will come to know who is right and who is wrong. This is my challenge.
Osama bin Laden has become more popular only after 9/11. Incidents like the mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib jail, the desecration of holy Quran in Guantanamo Bay prisons, and then the publication of the blasphemous caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in Denmark spread a lot of hatred against the West in the Muslim world. This hatred is the real strength of bin Laden.
Williams & Dastych: How widespread is the support for Osama bin Laden now? Is it true that Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, and not OBL, is the real "brain" of al-Qaeda and its strategic planner?
Mir: Osama bin Laden is the most popular man in Saudi Arabia today. He is popular in many other Muslim countries. I don't agree with the theory that Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri is the brain behind Osama. He is a close associate of Osama, but not his "brain." Dr. Zawahiri was not aware about the 9/11 planning. He was not present in the meeting of Osama and Mullah Omar, which took place in Southern Afghanistan in August 2005. Suicide bombings in Afghanistan were approved by Mullah Omar in that meeting. How can Zawahiri be the brain of Osama? The real brain was Muhammad Atef who was killed in November 2001 in Ghazni by American predators. Osama himself has a very sharp mind. America has failed to nab him. The failure of America proves that Osama is clever.
Williams & Dastych: This opinion contradicts your previous opinion about Dr. Zawahiri, expressed in an interview for the Australian ABC TV, screened on March 22, 2004. What made you change your mind?
Mir: Yes, you are absolutely right. I changed my opinion about Zawahiri in the last six months. I traveled thousands of kilometers in East and South Afghanistan in August 2005, and then in the North and South Waziristan in Pakistan, through September and October of the same year. I met many Taliban and al-Qaida operatives in these remote mountain areas. During my interviews with them, and after doing lots of research, I came to the conclusion that Dr. al-Zawahiri is not the brain behind Osama bin Laden. Definitely, he is close to him even now, but these days Abdul Hadi (also an Egyptian, based in Southern Afghanistan) is more important. He is heading the Shura (Grand Consultative Council) of al-Qaida. I also met some other very important al-Qaida leaders in Kunar. They told me that Zawahiri came to know about the 9/11 attacks through them, as he was not aware about the plans of these attacks earlier. Dr. al-Zawahiri is actually an important al-Qaida link to Iran. He has old connections in the Iranian intelligence. In the last four years, he has spent lots of time in Iran. For the last two years, Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are not together for security reasons; but they are in touch.
Williams & Dastych: There were many diverging reports about the supposed whereabouts of OBL (Afghanistan, Pakistan's Tribal Territories, Chinese Muslim territories, Iran). What is your guess? And do you get news from them from time to time, as before?
Mir: I don't believe in guessing games. Osama escaped from Tora Bora in December 2001, came to Pakistan, and then entered again in Afghanistan from Khost. He was moving in between Pakistan and Afghanistan very carefully. U.S. Military Commander General Richard Meyers told me the same thing in an interview some time ago.
Two years ago, he was seen in Kunar province of Afghanistan, One year ago he was seen in Pakistani tribal areas. I think he is changing his positions but still hiding in the difficult areas of eastern Afghanistan and tribal areas of Pakistan. Local population is very cooperative with Al Qaeda. Not only for money but also out of conviction. He is the beneficiary of American occupation of Iraq. Now that Americans have reduced their troops from Afghanistan, they are busy in Iraq. They got Saddam Hussein with 150,000 troops in Iraq. How can they get Osama from Afghanistan with only 16,000 American troops?
He is also the beneficiary of differences between Musharraf and Karzai. I got CDs from al-Qaeda in Kunar in 2004, and also in North Waziristan in 2005. They provide their messages on CD and they record their military actions on camera.
Williams & Dastych: Do you think that the Bush administration refuses to make any attempt to capture or kill bin Laden a top priority? Why?
Mir: I think that Americans are scared of sending their troops to Afghanistan in big number. Afghanistan is more difficult than Iraq. Americans are involved in Iraq. They are fighting Osama also in Iraq; they know that he would be more deadly in Afghanistan.
Williams & Dastych: Did you ever see any of the tactical nuclear weapons mentioned by bin Laden and al-Zawahiri? When and where?
Mir: I have not seen any nuclear weapons in the hands of Osama or Zawahiri, but their close associates told me, in November 2001 in Kabul, that they had bought some suitcase nuclear bombs from the Russian black market many years ago. I asked a question about the nukes to Osama bin Laden in 1998. He ignored my question. When I asked this question again, in November 2001, he said: "Yes, we have nuclear weapons as deterrence." In 2004, I visited one mountain area in Kunar province of Afghanistan, where al-Qaida reportedly tested a nuclear "dirty bomb" in 2000.
Williams & Dastych: What was (in your opinion) the extent of the assistance al-Qaida received from A.Q. Khan Research Laboratories? How close was the relationship between OBL and Dr. A.Q. Khan?
Mir: It was difficult for Dr. Qadeer [Khan] to cooperate with al-Qaida openly. Dr. Qadeer was under permanent surveillance of the CIA. I came to know through some sources that one captured al-Qaida leader, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, had claimed to the CIA that he met Dr. Qadeer in 2003, but it was not confirmed. Americans have not come out with any video or audio statement of K.S. Muhammad. Another important point: Dr. Qadeer is a metallurgist; he can enrich uranium and you know that its enrichment needs lot of logistics which were not available in Afghanistan. Dr. Qadeer was only in a position to provide some technical drawings but I didn't find out any details on that either.
Williams & Dastych: What is your assessment of al-Qaida's nuclear arsenal today?
Mir: I think they must have smuggled nuclear materials, including dirty bombs to Europe and America. They are waiting for some appropriate time, and they might be waiting for a U.S. attack on Iran for giving a signal to their "sleepers" to begin their action. Al-Qaida and Iran have a long secret relationship.
Williams & Dastych: What do you know about the plans for an "American Hiroshima"? Are they still being considered by Osama bin Laden, or abandoned as unrealizable?
Mir: Osama bin Laden planned deadly attacks against his enemies already in 1998. I actually met a person in Afghanistan, who visited Moscow many times, between 1998 and 2001, with Jumma Namangani (an ex-soldier of the Russian army, who joined al-Qaida in 1989). They were in touch with Russian underworld, through some Chechen leaders. These Chechens have organized the smuggling of at least three nuclear "suitcase bombs" for al-Qaida from Moscow to Georgia, and from there to Italy. I was also introduced to a Ukrainian scientist in Kandahar, in 1998. One al-Qaida operative, known to me as Saad, told me that this Ukrainian scientist was working for al-Qaida.
Some of the Osama's fighters left for the targets in Europe and America even before the fall of the Taliban in November 2001.These are hard-core militants; most of them are Algerians and Chechens bearing European passports with false Christian and Jewish names. I will give more details in my coming book.
Williams & Dastych: Was al-Qaida involved in the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995?
Mir: No, I don't think so. You should not underestimate Osama bin Laden. He was always planning bigger attacks, even bigger than 9/11. He has not abandoned his plans for an "American Hiroshima," and he is very, very patient.
I think there's an urgent need to engage al-Qaida in talks. I really predict that the West will begin to talk to al-Qaida one day. Why to delay these talks? Why not to begin them now? Should we wait for more destruction and more bloodshed?
Williams & Dastych: If you could meet Osama bin Laden and Dr. al-Zawahiri, and interview them again, would you risk your life, as in November 2001?
Mir: Yes, I would, but it seems very, very difficult now.
David M. Dastych, 64, is a veteran international journalist, former intelligence operative (the Polish Intelligence and the CIA). He is presently a free-lance author and David's Media Agency owner, based in Warsaw, Poland.