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For those who keep insisting that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein had no operational ties, the work of Ray Robison has provided explicit evidence in rebuttal. Fox News reports on the latest efforts of Robison in translating the documents captured by US forces but never translated by the CIA or Pentagon. His recent translation of a series of documents shows that AQ jihadists had negotiated with the Iraqi Intelligence Services for training facilities in Tajikistan or in Baghdad:
Newly declassified documents captured by U.S. forces indicate that Saddam Hussein's inner circle not only actively reached out to the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan and terror-based jihadists in the region, but also hosted discussions with a known Al Qaeda operative about creating jihad training "centers," possibly in Baghdad.
Ray Robison, a former member of the CIA-directed Iraq Survey Group (ISG), supervised a group of linguists to analyze, archive and exploit the hundreds of captured documents and materials of Saddam's regime.
The documents show that the IIS met with Taliban officials using a Pakistani mediator in 1999. The meeting has separate confirmation in other al-Qaeda documents captured in Afghanistan. The notebook Robison translated details two more meetings as well. The second meeting took place between Gulbulddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan member of Islamic Jihad, and the IIS. Hekmatyar, Fox notes, recently pledged his allegiance to AQ. The third meeting involved this IIS agent and a Bangladeshi jihadist, likely Fazlur Rahman Khalil, an AQ associate and a signatory to Osama bin Laden's fatwa against the United States in 1998.
Of the three meetings, the second has the most interesting information. Hekmatyar wanted Saddam's assistance in training jihadis for their holy war against the West, and apparently Baghdad found the idea intriguing:
6. “Iran helped us at the beginning and we brought 2,000 fighters but things changed at the time being. Also the Russians called to help but we do not trust them. Moscow and Iran want the war to drag on.” (RR: this is probably the Taliban vs. Northern Alliance conflict). This is why he is coming to Baghdad for help. Asked Baghdad to help open a center in Tajikistan or in Baghdad and they will bring them (translator’s note: not clear what them refers to) in through Iran or Northern Iraq.
He asked for help in printing Afghani money in Baghdad or help in printing it in Moscow.
Fox then quotes a State Department document from 1996 stating that Hekmatyar ran training and indoctrination facilities for foreign fighters coming to Afghanistan. Among those who came to his camps were jihadis in Tajikistan, supplying foreign fighters for those terrorist networks that suffered heavy losses in the mid-1990s. Because of the expansion of jihadism in Afghanistan, the continuing civil war with the Northern Alliance, and the efforts in the Caucasus to turn separatist rebellions into Islamist holy wars, Hekmatyar needed more training camps for foreign jihadis. He wanted them either in Tajikistan or Baghdad, or both if he could get them -- and the IIS appeared open for business. They certainly continued their contacts with the Taliban and Osama's jihadis as well.
Those ties look a lot stronger as more of these documents get translated and linked together. We have already seen operational ties between Saddam and terrorists in the region, and the evidence of his assistance to the same jihadi network that launched repeated attacks on American assets up to 9/11 grows stronger. We need a high-powered effort to get the rest of the thousands of IIS documents translated in order to gain the clearest picture of Saddam's connections to the terrorists arrayed against us.
UPDATE: We've mentioned it before, but ABC reported on evidence linking Osama and Saddam operationally back in 1999. You can see the video here. (Hat tip to CQ reader Andy B)Sphere It View blog reactions
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