New Delhi : The attack on the Indian consulate in Afghanistan’s Herat Friday brings into sharp focus a book, written by an American journalist and published this year, that traces Pakistan’s link to the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul in 2008.
Written by Carlotta Gall, “The Wrong Enemy – America in Afghanistan 2001-2014” reveals how Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was involved in the July 7, 2008, attack on the Indian mission that claimed 58 lives.
“The Indian embassy bombing revealed the clearest evidence of ISI complicity in its planning and execution,” Gall writes in the 10th chapter, titled “The Taliban Close Their Grip”.
“American and Afghan surveillance intercepted phone calls from ISI officials in Pakistan and heard them planning the attack with the militants in Kabul in the days leading up to the bombing. At the time, intelligence officials monitoring the calls did not know what was being planned, but the involvement of a high-level ISI official in promoting a terrorist attack was clear.”
According to Gall, the evidence was so damning that then US president George Bush’a administration “dispatched the deputy chief of the CIA, Stephen Kappes, to Islamabad to remonstrate with the Pakistanis”.
“The bomber struck, however, before Kappes reached Pakistan. Investigators found the bomber’s cellphone in the wreckage of his exploded car. They tracked down his collaborator in Kabul, the man who had provided the logistics for the attack,” she writes.
According to the book, the collaborator was an Afghan who had been in direct contact with Pakistan over phone.
“The number he had called belonged to a high-level ISI official in Peshawar. The official had sufficient seniority that he reported directly to ISI headquarters in Islamabad. The embassy bombing was no operation by rogue ISI agents acting on their own. It was sanctioned and monitored by the most senior officials in Pakistani intelligence,” Gall states.
According to the author, the attack on the Indian embassy and military attache “could be explained away by Pakistan as stemming from sixty years of antaganostic relations”.
“But this was not a subtle attack needling an old foe. It was a massive car bomb detonated in the centre of a capital city, designed to cause maximum injury and terror. The plan was also to terrify and undermine the confidence of the Afghans and their government, sending a message just not to India but to the forty-two countries that were contributing to the NATO-led international force to rebuild Afghanistan.”
According to Gall, who has reported extensively from Afghanistan and Pakistan from shortly after the 9/11 attacks in the US, the motive behind the attack on the Indian embassy was to make the cost too high for everyone to continue backing the government of President Hamid Karzai.
“The ISI wanted them all to go home.”
However, Gall says that the Afghans realised the overall strategy as it was the same they used, as mujahideen, against the Soviets – “placing a stranglehold on the capital by ambushing the roads and running a campaign of sabotage inside the city to undermine the government and sap the morale of citizens”.
She writes that the Afghan police and intelligence soon realised that “the ISI was working with the Al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqanis and Pakistani groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was behind most of the attacks on Indian targets”.
“The Wrong Enemy” was published in the US by Houghton Mifflin Hartcourt and in India by Penguin Books India.