Al-Qaeda, the terrorist group blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks, received training in Pakistan back in the 1980s, but the aim was to fight the Soviet Army in Afghanistan, Imran Khan has said.
Speaking to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Monday, the prime minister was asked if Islamabad had carried out an investigation into how Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was allegedly able to live in Pakistan for years before being found and killed by US Navy Seals in 2011.
“There has been an investigation, but… I don’t know what the conclusion was,” Khan replied. He then hinted that bin Laden’s living arrangements might have been the result of “links” between Pakistan’s military and the terrorist group.
“The Pakistani Army, ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence], trained Al-Qaeda and all these groups to fight [the Soviet Union] in Afghanistan,” Khan said. “There were also links between Pakistan [and Al-Qaeda] – there had to be links – because they trained them. After 9/11, when we did a 180 degree turn and went after those groups, you know, not everyone agreed with us. In the army people didn’t agree with us.”
Responding to a separate question, Khan stated that the US helped Pakistan to “organize the resistance” to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. He argued that back in the 1980s, “jihadis were heroes,” but that after the conflict ended, Islamabad was “left with” the extremist groups it had helped create.
Al-Qaeda was founded in 1988, toward the end of the Soviet-Afghan War. The group was part of the once-lionized Mujahideen, which received support from the US, Pakistan, and other nations in their insurgency against the Soviets.