The deadly 2008 terror attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul was sanctioned and monitored by senior officials of Pakistan’s ISI, according to a new book.
The suicide car bomb attack on the Indian Embassy in Kabul on July 7, 2008 left 58 people – including two top Indian officials – killed and over 140 injured.
“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,” wrote senior journalist Carlotta Gall in her latest book ‘The Wrong Enemy: America in Afghanistan 2001-2004‘, to be out next month.
Blast outside Indian Embassy in Kabul
The then Bush Administration, that received advance intelligence information, mainly through intercepts of phone calls, could not prevent the deadly attack, wrote Gall, one of the only women Western reporters on the ground in Afghanistan after 9/11 and covered the Af-Pak conflict for 10 years.
The bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul “revealed the clearest evidence of ISI complicity in its planning and execution”, according to excerpts from the book provided to sources.
“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 official in promoting a terrorist attack was clear.”
“The evidence was so damning that the Bush 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,” she said.
“Investigators found the bomber’s cell phone in the wreckage of his exploded car. They tracked down his collaborator in Kabul, the man who had provided the logistics for the attack. That facilitator, an Afghan, had been in direct contact with Pakistan by telephone,” Gall wrote.
“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,” she claimed in her book, running into more than 300 pages.
While Pakistan has repeatedly denied its involvement in the Indian Embassy attack, several mainstream US newspapers, including The New York Times, and the Governments of India and Afghanistan have accused the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) of being behind the attack.
In her book, Gall said the choice of attack was revealing.
She wrote: “An attack on the Indian Embassy and the military attache, longtime foes of Pakistan, could be explained by Pakistan as stemming from 60 years of antagonistic relations.”
Suicide bomber shot dead near Indian embassy in Kandahar
“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 not just to India but to the forty-two countries that were contributing to the NATO-led international force to rebuild Afghanistan.”
“The aim was to make the cost too high for everyone to continue backing the (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai Government. The ISI wanted them all to go home,” she wrote.
According to Gall, as the Afghan Government investigated the attack on the Indian Embassy, they became convinced that the “ISI was working with al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqanis, and Pakistani groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba,” which was behind most of the attacks on Indian targets.
“You think after so many years of this, we don’t know who our enemy is?” a senior Afghan security official retorted when I questioned his findings. His American counterparts knew as well but just could not admit what Pakistan was doing, out of hubris, he said.
“They always have the evidence, but they think the viability of Pakistan is more important,” Gall wrote.
However, Pakistan denied all this, she said.