extracted from Tom Burghardt, Global Research
[…]That al-Qaeda attacks Western targets and visits outrages upon innocent civilians does not mean it is not also a blunt-edged weapon selectively deployed by imperialism to stoke ethnic and religious tensions in areas deemed vital to US geostrategic interests. As investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss has documented,
Sixty years earlier, when the United States began its odyssey in the Middle East, there were other voices who wanted conservative Islam, and early fundamentalist groups associated with the nascent Islamic right, to do battle with the secular left, with Nasser, with Arab communists and socialists. Now, six decades later, the Bush administration is pursuing a strategy in the Middle East that seems calculated to boost the fortunes of the Islamic right. The United States is counting on Shiite fundamentalists in Iraq to save its failed policy in that country, and a major theoretician of that campaign explicitly calls for the United States to cast its lot in with the ayatollahs and the Muslim Brotherhood. (Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, New York: Metropolitan Books, 2005, p. 342)
Long after the Bush administration has sailed off into the proverbial sunset, policies launched across the decades by successive Democratic and Republican governments will continue along the same imperial trajectory: war and covert operations as the preferred instruments for capitalist resource extraction and global domination.
Al-Qaeda: Asset and Adversary
One need only review the role played by al-Qaeda in the Balkans during the 1990s when the United States and their NATO allies, particularly Germany and the United Kingdom, provided entrée to demobilized Afghan-Arab mujahedin fighters as the West dismembered the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, culminating in 1999 with NATO’s murderous 78-day bombing campaign of Serbia to “liberate” Kosovo.
Earlier in the decade, thousands of Islamist fighters flooded Bosnia-Herzegovina, directly recruited by former Waffen SS Handzar Division foot soldier and Islamist ideologue, Alia Izetbegovic, the President of Bosnia and darling of liberal interventionists such as Bernard-Henri Lévy. In calling for Western intervention, Lévy shamelessly described Izetbegovic’s neofascist statelet as an exemplar of “modern, secular Islam”! Quite naturally, Izetbegovic’s Nazi past was covered-up by Western interventionists intent on smashing multiethnic Yugoslavia into smithereens.
Indeed, intelligence analyst and senior lecturer at the University of Amsterdam, Cees Wiebes, documents in Intelligence and the War in Bosnia 1992-1995, how Western intelligence agencies, including the CIA, MI6 and BND assisted major arms transshipments into Bosnia despite a UN arms embargo, often in concert with the reactionary Iranian regime. Some estimates claim that by 1994, as many as 4,000 mujahedin fighters were present in Bosnia. Indeed, none other than Osama bin Laden himself visited Izetbegovic in Sarajevo. As a gesture of appreciation for his support, Izetbegovic gave bin Laden a Bosnian passport. And, a November 1, 2001 account in the European edition of the Wall Street Journal claimed that bin Laden continued to visit the Balkan region as late as 1996.
By 1995 as Wiebes documented, American Hercules C-130 transport planes accompanied by jet fighters began landing at the Tuzla Air Base in eastern Bosnia laden with arms, ammunition and communications equipment destined for Izetbegovic’s Islamist brigades. Similar arms pipelines were opened between Albania, Bosnia, Croatia and later in the decade Kosovo, where Albanian narcotrafficking networks rule the roost and continue to wreck havoc across the region.
As I documented in “Welcome to Kosovo! The World’s Newest Narco State,” beginning in 1998 and perhaps earlier, the London-based cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, the “emir” of the al-Qaeda-linked al-Muhajiroun began a recruitment drive for aspiring mujahedin for the “holy war” in Kosovo at London’s notorious Finsbury Park Mosque.
In 2005, in the wake of the July 7, 2005 terrorist attacks in London, it was revealed that Bakri, a probable MI6 asset and simultaneously an al-Qaeda operative, was the “spiritual” force behind the deadly attacks that claimed 52 lives and wounded hundreds of others. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed reported that,
The reluctance to take decisive action against the leadership of the extremist network in the UK has a long history. According to John Loftus, a former Justice Department prosecutor, Omar Bakri and Abu Hamza, as well as the suspected mastermind of the London bombings Haroon Aswat, were all recruited by MI6 in the mid-1990s to draft up British Muslims to fight in Kosovo. American and French security sources corroborate the revelation. The MI6 connection raises questions about Bakri’s relationship with British authorities today. Exiled to Lebanon and outside British jurisdiction, he is effectively immune to prosecution. (“Sources: August terror plot is a ‘fiction’ underscoring police failures,” The Raw Story, Monday, September 18, 2006)
During NATO’s Kosovo aggression, analyst Michel Chossudovsky wrote,
Mercenaries financed by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait had been fighting in Bosnia. And the Bosnian pattern was replicated in Kosovo: Mujahadeen mercenaries from various Islamic countries are reported to be fighting alongside the KLA in Kosovo. German, Turkish and Afghan instructors were reported to be training the KLA in guerrilla and diversion tactics. … According to a Deutsche Press-Agentur report, financial support from Islamic countries to the KLA had been channelled through the former Albanian chief of the National Information Service (NIS), Bashkim Gazidede. “Gazidede, reportedly a devout Moslem who fled Albania in March of last year , is presently  being investigated for his contacts with Islamic terrorist organizations.” (“Kosovo ‘freedom fighters’ financed by organised crime,” World Socialist Web Site, 10 April 1999)
As I documented, the Kosovo Liberation Army’s links to both narco-trafficking networks and al-Qaeda was a defining feature of Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia. Indeed, Hashim Thaci’s KLA served as the militarized vanguard for the Albanian mafia whose “15 Families” control virtually every facet of the Balkan heroin trade. Thaci is currently Kosovo’s Prime Minister. Kosovar traffickers ship heroin originating exclusively from Asia’s Golden Crescent. At one end lies Afghanistan where poppy is harvested for transshipment through Iran and Turkey; as morphine base it is then refined into “product” for worldwide consumption. From there it passes into the hands of the Albanian syndicates who control the Balkan Route.
US destabilization programs and covert operations rely on far-right provocateurs and drug lords (often interchangeable players) to facilitate the dirty work. Throughout its Balkan operations the CIA made liberal use of these preexisting narcotics networks to arm the KLA and provide them with targets. Today, similar features are visible for all the world to see as the U.S. warlord state in Afghanistan battles the Taliban and al-Qaeda for control of the lucrative opium growing and processing regions of that destroyed nation.
As a sometime Western intelligence asset, al-Qaeda is not simply a puppet of the United States and NATO as some believe. Such simplifications mask a harder and crueler reality. In the opinion of this writer, the 9/11 cover-up, rather than burying the Bush administration’s alleged orchestration of the attacks (the “inside job” thesis), concealed something far more sinister: U.S. imperialism’s decades-long collaboration with Islamist extremists to achieve geopolitical advantage over their capitalist rivals.
As with neo-Nazi networks that were reconstituted by the West for war against their domestic leftist adversaries during the Cold War, al-Qaeda and related terror organizations will, at times, share limited tactical goals with the West, such as the destruction of secular, leftist opponents in the Middle East, or as a force for destabilization operations in target countries such as Iran, as investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has reported in The New Yorker.
That al-Qaeda has reconstituted its military-political-mafia structures along the Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands and continues to attack targets across the region at will, is testament to the resilience of the organization and the appeal of its reactionary ideology. There is a deadly irony here, since its murderous “tradecraft” was quite literally bequeathed to it by Western intelligence services and America’s preeminent regional allies, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. […]