WASHINGTON–The government of Azerbaijan had ties with suspected mastermind of the attacks on US Osama bin Laden as early as 1996 if not earlier. The government helped the bin Laden organization with the transfer of arms into the former Soviet Union and was silent as radical Islamist forces expanded their infrastructures within Azerbaijan.
An article entitled "The New Azerbaijan Hub: How Islamist Operations are Targeting Russia–Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh" appeared in the October 1999 issue of "Defense and Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy" journal–detailing a covert operation of understanding between the government of Azerbaijan and radical Islamic factions–tied to bin Laden.
Today–the question arises that if the US intelligence community was aware of such links–why did it not halt such activities? Furthermore–why did the US government continued to do its utmost to support Azerbaijan–especially via overt cooperation with international oil giants? This also calls into questions US efforts to undermine Karabakh peace talks–by putting forth proposals–which went contrary to the right to self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh.
"An ongoing study by Defense & Foreign Affairs has cited a significant number of highly-placed sources in Russia and the Caucasus who advise that radical Islamist forces are expanding their infrastructure in Azerbaijan in preparation for a sustained escalation–both in the Caucasus and at the heart of Russia. Planned terrorist ‘spectaculars’ include the use of suicide bombers," reported Yossef Bodansky–Senior Editor of the "Defense and Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy" journal
"Significantly–these developmen’s are based on long-standing relationships and understandings between Azeri officials and the Islamist leaders involved in Chechnya–Pakistan and Afghanistan. The escalation began in 1997 when the Islamists basically agreed with the Azerbaijan Government of Haydar Aliyev that they would–in exchange for allowing a free flow of people–weapons and ordnance through Azerbaijan–not interfere with or overthrow the Aliyev Government. As well–they committed to providing outside mujahedin to undertake operations against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh which could be credibly denied by the Aliyev Government," added Bodansky.
"This Azerbaijan-based infrastructure is aimed at both pushing arriving mujahedin to the forward training and operational bases in Chechnya–as well as launching operations against Russia and Armenia (including Nagorno-Karabakh) in the event of Russian bombing and raids on the Islamist bases in Chechnya. At present–the most important function of the infrastructure in Azerbaijan is the absorption–handling and initial acclimatization and indoctrination of foreign volunteers–mainly Arabs and Afghans/Pakistanis–as well as growing numbers of Central Asians–before being sent forward to terrorism and military training bases in central Chechnya–mainly the Saudi-born Islamist leader Khattab’s main rear-area base near Urus-Martan–Chechnya. Among the mujahedin presently handled in Azerbaijan are numerous would-be shahids (suicide terrorists) who had been trained in Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan. The Islamist infrastructure in Azerbaijan is built on the experience of bin Laden–Khattab and their companions in not only absorbing volunteers for Afghan jihad during the 1980s–but of transforming them into a cohesive elite corps (which is still cohesive and most active more than a decade after the Afghan jihad)," continued the article.
"The current Islamist build-up constitutes a major expansion of the so-called covert pipeline which has been running since the Winter of 1997-98. The primary objective of the original pipeline was to smuggle weapons–money and people arriving from Pakistan/Afghanistan into Chechnya," stated Bodansky.
"A group of Arabs – all with documen’s from Saudi Arabia–Sudan–Yemen–and Afghanistan–left the Baku area to newly established ‘religious field camps’ in the remote mountains of north-eastern Azerbaijan–on the road to Chechnya and Dagestan. All three Islamist ‘charities’ mentioned above established such camps virtually simultaneously. These are paramilitary camps where the students undergo basic military training as well as equipping before they move on toward Chechnya and Dagestan. Some of the leaders and commanders of these camps have been identified as ‘proxies of terrorist Osama bin Laden,’" explained Bodansky in an effort to illustrate the phases through which this network expanded in Azerbaijan.
The entire article will be republished in the Weekend Edition of Asbarez.