The Washington Post, February 23, 2004

Ahmad Shah Massoud links with CIA

"The CIA had pumped cash stipends as high as $200,000 a month to Massoud and his Islamic guerrilla organization"

By Steve Coll

Massoud+Hekmatyar+Pak-Arab Masters
Massoud (2nd from left) signing agreement with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the most wanted criminal in Afghanistan, in presence of their Pakistani and Arab masters.

A team of CIA operators from the agency's Counterterrorist Center flew to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, in October 1999. Code-named JAWBREAKER-5, the group was led by the chief of the center's Osama bin Laden unit, known to his colleagues as Rich, a veteran of CIA postings in Algiers and elsewhere in the developing world.

They went to a secluded airfield, boarded an old Soviet-made Mi-17 transport helicopter, and swooped toward the jagged, snow-draped peaks of northern Afghanistan.

Their aim was to revive secret intelligence and combat operations against bin Laden in partnership with guerrilla commander Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance, a ragged coalition of Afghan fighters, many of them veterans of the war against the Soviets. Massoud's hardened militiamen clung to their positions in the stark Panjshir Valley.

"We have a common enemy," the CIA team leader told Massoud, according to participants, referring to bin Laden. "Let's work together."

Massoud remained Afghanistan's most formidable military commander. A sinewy man with penetrating dark eyes, he had become a charismatic, popular leader, especially in northeastern Afghanistan. There he had fought and negotiated with equal imagination during the 1980s, punishing and frustrating Soviet occupation forces. He was an impressive tactician, an attentive student of Mao and other guerrilla leaders.

He was above all an independent man. He surrounded himself with books. He prayed piously, read Persian poetry and studied Islamic theology. During the mid-1990s his militia forces had at times engaged in horrendous massacres, however. American and British drug enforcement officials continued to accuse his men of opium and heroin smuggling.

A series of clandestine CIA teams carrying electronic intercept equipment and relatively small amounts of cash -- up to $250,000 per visit -- began to visit Massoud in the Panjshir Valley. The first formal group, code-named NALT-1, flew on one of Massoud's helicopters from Dushanbe to the Panjshir Valley late in 1997.
The Washington Post, February 23, 2004

By 1999, Massoud was seen by some at the Pentagon and inside the Clinton Cabinet as a spent force commanding bands of thugs. An inner circle of the Cabinet with access to the most closely guarded secrets was sharply divided over whether the United States should deepen its partnership with him. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Henry H. "Hugh" Shelton -- reflecting the views of professional analysts in their departments -- argued that Massoud's alliance was tainted and in decline.

But at the CIA, especially inside the Counterterrorist Center, career officers passionately described Massoud by 1999 as the United States' last, best hope to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan before his al Qaeda network claimed more American lives. Massoud might be a flawed ally, they declared, but bin Laden was by far the greater danger.

This article, detailing the CIA's pursuit of bin Laden from 1999 to 2001, is based on several dozen interviews with participants and officials in the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as documents, private records and memoirs about the CIA covert action program in Afghanistan.

A Deal Is Made

Frightened by swelling intelligence reports warning that al Qaeda planned new terrorist strikes, President Bill Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel R. "Sandy" Berger, and his counterterrorism director, Richard Clarke, approved the JAWBREAKER-5 mission. They were uneasy about Massoud but said they were ready to try anything within reason that might lead to bin Laden's capture or death.

Massoud was at war across northern Afghanistan against the Taliban, whose puritan mullahs had allied themselves with bin Laden's al Qaeda fighters in a drive to control all Afghan territory and destroy Massoud's coalition. Massoud's men often maneuvered in battle against bin Laden's brigade of Arab volunteers, as well as al Qaeda-sponsored Pakistani volunteers and Chechen fighters. Ultimately, Cofer Black, then director of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, hoped Massoud would capture bin Laden during one of these engagements and either kill him or hand him over for trial.

In dimly lit Panjshir Valley safe houses in October 1999, Massoud told the JAWBREAKER-5 team that he was willing to deepen his partnership with the CIA, but he was explicit about his limitations. Bin Laden spent most of his time near the southern city of Kandahar, in the eastern Afghan mountains, far from where Massoud's forces operated. Occasionally bin Laden visited Jalalabad or Kabul, closer to the Northern Alliance's lines. In these areas Massoud's intelligence service had active agents, and perhaps they could develop more sources.

Massoud also told the CIA delegation that U.S. policy toward bin Laden and Afghanistan was doomed to fail. The Americans directed all of their efforts against bin Laden and a handful of his senior aides, but they failed to see the larger context in which al Qaeda thrived. What about the Taliban? What about the Taliban's supporters in Pakistani intelligence? What about its financiers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates?

"The CIA had pumped cash stipends as high as $200,000 a month to Massoud and his Islamic guerrilla organization, along with weapons and other supplies. Between 1989 and 1991, Schroen had personally delivered some of the cash. But the aid stopped in December 1991."
"Ghost Wars", by Steve Coll

"Even if we succeed in what you are asking for," Massoud told the CIA delegation, his aide and interpreter Abdullah recalled, "that will not solve the bigger problem that is growing."

The CIA officers told Massoud they agreed with his critique, but they had their orders. The U.S. government rejected a military confrontation with the Taliban or direct support for any armed factions in the broader Afghan war. Instead, U.S. policy focused on capturing bin Laden and his lieutenants for criminal trial or killing them in the course of an arrest attempt. If Massoud helped with this narrow mission, the CIA officers argued, perhaps it would lead to wider political support or development aid in the future.

"What was irritating was that in this whole tragedy, in this whole chaotic situation," recalled one of Massoud's intelligence aides who worked closely with the CIA during this period, "they were talking about this very small piece of it: bin Laden. And if you were on our side, it would have been very difficult for you to accept that this was the problem. For us it was an element of the problem but not the problem."

Still, Massoud and his aides agreed they had nothing to lose by helping the CIA. "First of all, it was an effort against a common enemy," recalled Abdullah. "Second, we had the hope that it would get the U.S. to know better about the situation in Afghanistan."

Cautioned by History

Massoud had a long and checkered history with the CIA. Among those with the proper security clearances, the accusations and stories of perfidy had become legend.

The CIA first sent Massoud aid in 1984. But their relations were undermined by the CIA's heavy dependence on Pakistan during the war against the Soviets. The Pakistani intelligence service despised Massoud because he had waged a long and brutal campaign against Pakistan's main Islamic radical client, the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. As the war against the Soviets ended, Pakistani intelligence sought to exclude Massoud from the victory, and the CIA mainly went along. But under pressure from the State Department and members of Congress, the agency eventually reopened its private channels to Massoud.

In 1990 the CIA's secret relationship with Massoud soured because of a dispute over a $500,000 payment. Gary Schroen, a CIA officer then working from Islamabad, Pakistan, had delivered the cash to Massoud's brother in exchange for assurances that Massoud would attack Afghan communist forces along a key artery, the Salang Highway. But Massoud's forces never moved, so far as the CIA could tell. Schroen and other officers believed they had been ripped off for half a million dollars.

Schroen, who has now agreed to be publicly identified, renewed contact with Massoud during a solo visit to Kabul in September 1996. By then bin Laden had found sanctuary in Afghanistan, and the CIA sought allies to watch and disrupt al Qaeda. Schroen and Massoud settled their old dispute. (Massoud claimed he had never received the $500,000.) The guerrilla leader agreed to cooperate on a secret CIA program to repurchase Stinger antiaircraft missiles. He sold the agency eight missiles he still possessed and began to talk sporadically with Langley about intelligence operations against bin Laden.

Schroen met Massoud again in the spring of 1997 at his new headquarters in Taloqan, in Afghanistan's far north. By then, the Taliban had stormed into Kabul and seized the capital as Massoud withdrew. Looking to win American favor for his prolonged war against the Taliban and its foreign Islamic militant allies, Massoud began to buy up Stingers across the north for the CIA. He also agreed to notify the agency if he got a line on bin Laden's whereabouts.

A series of clandestine CIA teams carrying electronic intercept equipment and relatively small amounts of cash -- up to $250,000 per visit -- began to visit Massoud in the Panjshir Valley. The first formal group, code-named NALT-1, flew on one of Massoud's helicopters from Dushanbe to the Panjshir Valley late in 1997.

In 1990 the CIA's secret relationship with Massoud soured because of a dispute over a $500,000 payment. Gary Schroen, a CIA officer then working from Islamabad, Pakistan, had delivered the cash to Massoud's brother in exchange for assurances that Massoud would attack Afghan communist forces along a key artery, the Salang Highway. But Massoud's forces never moved, so far as the CIA could tell. Schroen and other officers believed they had been ripped off for half a million dollars.
The Washington Post, February 23, 2004

Three other teams had gone in by the summer of 1999. The electronic intercept equipment they delivered allowed Massoud to monitor Taliban battlefield radio transmissions. In exchange the CIA officers asked Massoud to let them know immediately if his men ever heard accounts on the Taliban radios indicating that bin Laden or his top lieutenants were on the move in a particular sector.

Given the doubts about Massoud inside the Clinton administration, the CIA's push to deepen its partnership with him faced close scrutiny at the White House. The National Security Council's intelligence policy and legal offices drafted formal, binding guidance.

Massoud was at war with the Taliban. The United States had declared a policy of official neutrality toward that war as a co-sponsor of all-party peace talks, which dragged on inconclusively. Clinton enacted economic sanctions against the Taliban but was unwilling to fund or arm Massoud. The White House sought to ensure that the CIA's counterterrorism mission in the Panjshir Valley concentrated only on bin Laden. The administration did not want the CIA to use its intelligence-collection and counterterrorism partnership with Massoud for a secret, undeclared war against the Taliban.

Clinton told his top national security aides that he was prepared to work with Massoud on intelligence operations, despite what he saw as a record of brutality, but he was not ready to arm the Northern Alliance, participants recalled. The Pentagon and the intelligence community both provided secret analysis to Clinton arguing that Massoud had all the weapons he needed from other suppliers, the president recounted later to colleagues. In any event, Clinton recalled, Massoud would never be able to defeat the Taliban or govern Afghanistan from Kabul.

At the White House, some national security aides briefed on the CIA's missions feared that, as with the Salang Highway operation in 1990, Massoud would just take the CIA's cash and sit on his hands.

In the end, the National Security Council approved written guidance to authorize intelligence cooperation with Massoud. But the highly classified documents made clear that the CIA could provide no equipment or assistance that would, as several officials recalled its thrust, "fundamentally alter the Afghan battlefield."

Afghans Seize the Moment

A few months after the JAWBREAKER-5 team choppered out, the CIA's Counterterrorist Center picked up intelligence that bin Laden had arrived in Derunta Camp, in a jagged valley near the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.

It was a typical bin Laden facility: crude, mainly dirt and rocks, with a few modest buildings protected by ridges. Massoud's sources reported that no Afghans were permitted in Derunta, only Arabs. Testimony from al Qaeda defectors and interrogation of Arab jihadists showed that Derunta was a graduate school for elite recruits. The Defense Intelligence Agency had relayed reports that bin Laden's aides might be developing chemical weapons or poisons there. The White House's Counterterrorism Security Group, led by Richard Clarke, routed satellites above the camps for surveillance.

The CIA recruited Afghan agents who traveled or lived in the region, an area of heavy smuggling and trade and relatively weak Taliban control. Through their liaison in the Panjshir, CIA officers pushed intelligence-collection equipment to Massoud's southern lines, near Jalalabad. Besides radio intercepts, the technology included an optical device, derived from technology used by offshore spy planes, that could produce photographic images from a distance of more than 10 miles. Massoud's men, with help from CIA officers, set up an overlook above Derunta and tried to watch the place.

The Counterterrorist Center's bin Laden unit relayed a report to Massoud that bin Laden had arrived in Derunta. Massoud ordered a mission. He rounded up "a bunch of mules," as a U.S. official who was involved later put it, and loaded them up with Soviet-designed Katyusha rockets. He dispatched this small commando team toward the hills above Derunta.

After the team was on its way, Massoud reported his plan to Langley: He was going to batter bin Laden's camp with rocket fire.

The CIA's lawyers convulsed in alarm. The White House legal rules for liaison with Massoud had not addressed such pure military operations against bin Laden. The Massoud partnership was supposed to be about intelligence collection. Now the CIA had, in effect, provided intelligence for a rocket attack on Derunta. The CIA was legally complicit in Massoud's operation, the lawyers feared, and the agency had no authority to be involved.

The bin Laden unit shot a message to the Panjshir: You've got to recall the mission.

Massoud's aides replied, in effect, as a U.S. official involved recalled it: "What do you think this is, the 82nd Airborne? We're on mules. They're gone." Massoud's team had no radios. They were walking to the launch site. They would fire their rockets, turn around and walk back.

Langley's officers waited nervously. Some of them muttered sarcastically about the absurd intersections of U.S. law and secret war they were expected to manage. Massoud's aides eventually reported back that they had, in fact, shelled Derunta. But the CIA could pick up no independent confirmation of the attack or its consequences. The lawyers relaxed and the incident passed, unpublicized.

Taking On the Taliban

During 2000 Massoud planned an expanding military campaign against the Taliban and al Qaeda. His strategy was to recruit allies such as the guerrilla leaders Ismail Khan and Abdurrashid Dostum and seed them as pockets of rebellion against Taliban rule in northern and western Afghanistan, where the Taliban was weakest. As these rebel pockets emerged and stabilized, Massoud explained, he would drive toward them with his more formal armored militia, trying to link up on roadways, choking off Taliban-ruled cities and towns.

Once he had more solid footing in the north, Massoud planned to pursue the same strategy in the Taliban heartland in the south. He hoped to aid ethnic Pashtun rebels such as Hamid Karzai, a former Afghan deputy foreign minister from a prominent royal tribal family who had been forced into exile in Pakistan. By 1999 Karzai had turned against the Taliban and wanted to lead a rebellion against the militia in its southern homeland around Kandahar. Massoud dispatched aides to meet with Karzai and develop these ideas.

In private talks in person and by satellite telephone, Karzai told Massoud he was ready to slip inside Afghanistan and fight. "Don't move into Kandahar," Massoud told him, Karzai later recalled. "You must go to a place where you can hold your base." Massoud invited Karzai to the north. "He was very wise," Karzai recalled. "I was sort of pushy and reckless."

A Flying Miracle

To pursue his plans in a serious way, Massoud needed helicopters, trucks and other vehicles. Some CIA officers working with Massoud wanted to help him by supplying the mobile equipment, cash, training and weapons he would need to expand his war against the Taliban and al Qaeda. Yet as 2000 passed, the CIA struggled to maintain the basics of its intelligence liaison with Massoud.

It was difficult and risky for the agency's officers to reach the Panjshir Valley. The only practical route was through Tajikistan. From there CIA teams usually took one of the few rusting, patched-together Mi-17 transport helicopters the Northern Alliance managed to keep in the air. On one trip, the Taliban scrambled MiG-21 jets in an effort to shoot down Massoud's helicopter. If successful, the militia would have discovered American corpses in the wreckage.

Even on the best days, the choppers would shake and rattle and the cabin would fill with the smell of fuel. The overland routes were no better. When a CIA team drove in from Dushanbe, one of its vehicles flipped over and a veteran officer dislocated his shoulder.

...US kept Massoud and his resistance at arm's length, perhaps because they were receiving weapons from Iran, with logistical aid from Russia and the Central Asian republics. According to a Human Rights Watch report on the regional weapons trade, one Iranian shipment seized in Kyrgyzstan in 1998 contained ammunition for T-55 and T-62 tanks, antitank mines, 122mm towed howitzers and ammunition, 122mm rockets for Grad multiple launch systems, 120mm mortar shells, RPG-7 rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and small arms ammunition.
Paul Wolf,, September 14, 2003

These reports accumulated on the desk of Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt, who had overall responsibility for CIA espionage. Pavitt was a blue-eyed, white-haired former case officer and station chief who had served in Europe during the Cold War. Like Director George J. Tenet, who had appointed him, he was a spy manager with a feel for politics. Pavitt began to ask why CIA officers were taking such huge physical risks to work with Massoud. Were they getting enough to justify the possibility of death or injury?

Those opposed to the Panjshir missions argued, as one official recalled it, "You're sending people to their deaths."

The agency sent out a team of mechanics knowledgeable about Russian helicopters. When Massoud's men opened up one of the Mi-17s, the mechanics were stunned: They had patched an engine originally made for a Hind attack helicopter into the bay of the Mi-17 transport. It was a flying miracle.

Afterward Tenet signed off on a compromise: The CIA would secretly buy its own airworthy Mi-17 helicopter, maintain it properly in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and use CIA pilots to fly clandestine teams into the Panjshir.

But the helicopter issue was a symptom of a larger problem. By the late summer of 2000, the CIA's liaison with Massoud was fraying on both sides.

Frustrated by daunting geography and unable to win support for Massoud in Cabinet debates, the CIA's officers felt stifled. For their part, Massoud's aides had hoped their work with the agency would lead to clearer recognition of Afghanistan's plight in Washington and perhaps covert military aid. They could see no evidence that this was happening.

Instead they were badgered repeatedly about mounting a "Hollywood operation," as one of Massoud's intelligence aides put it, to capture bin Laden alive. The aide likened the mission urged on them by the CIA to a game of chess in which they would have to capture the king without touching any other piece on the board.

Massoud's men asked their CIA counterparts, as this intelligence aide recalled it: "Is there any policy in the government of the American states to help Afghanistan if the people of Afghanistan help you get rid of your most wanted man?"

Disappointments for Massoud

Massoud, Lion of the Kremlin

Massoud's veneration by leftists in the French press as the fabled "Lion of the Pansher" would be laughable were it not for the desperate condition of the Afghan people. The truth be known, Massoud is not a Lion of the Pansher but a Lion of the Kremlin.

At this point in history, there exists more than 25 books written by Russian, Afghan, British, Finnish, Ukrainian and American journalists and authors that attests to Massoud's collaboration, treason and butchery against his own Afghan people.

We all realize the fact of Massoud's support from the French press during the Jihad period and we all realize and understand the motivation behind this support. Massoud understood public relations and imagery and was clever enough to receive French journalists and bestow gifts of lapis lazuli and emeralds upon them understanding full well that this would warrant positive reports from them in their respective journals. It has often been argued by Massoud's supporters that these enterprising journalists did not witness Massoud's agreements with the Soviets and therefore they must not have taken place. But I would argue that the evidence dictates otherwise. Massoud did sign agreements with the Soviets as early as 1980 and not only gave written assurance to protect their lines of supply and communication but to also fight other Mujahideen groups who were atacking Soviet targets. I would also argue that Massoud would not conduct negotiations or sign agreements with the Soviets when Western journalists were in attendance in order to maintain his personna as the mythical Lion of the Panjsher.

As we know, the West loves a hero. Massoud, aided and abetted by his propagandists and the French press, gave them precisely what they wanted, a mythical Afghan hero who stood in defiance to the mighty Red Army. Thus the beginning of the fable as our intrepid correspondents returned home to write glowing articles oblivious to their distortion of history.

Each day brings new revelations about Massoud's link to Moscow. This link in my view is irrefutable.

Bruce G. Richardson, July 4, 2001

After the terrorist bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000, in which 17 sailors were killed at Aden, Yemen, the CIA's Panjshir teams tried to revive their plan to supply Massoud with more extensive and more lethal aid. CIA officers sat down at Langley in November and drew up a specific list of what Massoud needed. In addition to more cash -- to bribe commanders and to counteract a Taliban treasury swollen with Arab money -- Massoud needed trucks, helicopters, light arms, ammunition, uniforms, food and maybe some mortars and artillery. He did not need combat aircraft. Tanks were not a priority.

The list of covert supplies they proposed for Massoud would cost between $50 million and $150 million, depending on how aggressive the White House wanted to be.

Under the plan, the CIA would establish a permanent base with Massoud in the Panjshir Valley. Rich, the bin Laden unit chief at the Counterterrorist Center, argued that the agency's officers had to be down around the campfire constantly with Massoud's men.

The CIA wanted to overcome the confusion and mutual mistrust that had developed with Massoud over operations designed to capture or kill bin Laden. The plan envisioned that CIA officers would go directly into action alongside the Northern Alliance if they developed strong intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts. There would be no more embarrassments like the mission against Derunta.

In the late autumn, Clarke sent a memo outlining the CIA's proposal to Berger, Clinton's national security adviser. But they were worse than lame ducks now at the White House. The November presidential election had deadlocked; White House aides were enduring the strangest post-election transition in a century just as the CIA's paper landed on their desks.

The word went back to the Counterterrorist Center: There would be no new covert action program for Massoud.

As the Bush administration took office early in 2001, Massoud retained a Washington lobbyist. He wrote a letter to Vice President Cheney urging the new administration to reexamine its policy toward Afghanistan. He told his advisers he knew he could not defeat the Taliban on the battlefield as long as the ruling militia was funded by bin Laden and reinforced from Pakistan. He sought to build up a new political and military coalition within Afghanistan to squeeze the Taliban and break its grip on ordinary Afghans. For this, sooner or later, he told visitors, he would require the support of the United States.

His CIA liaison had slackened, but his intelligence aides still spoke and exchanged messages frequently with Langley. That spring they passed word that Massoud had been invited to France to address the European Parliament.

Gary Schroen and Rich flew to Paris to meet with Massoud. They wanted to reassure him that even though the pace of their visits had slowed because of the policy gridlock in Washington, the CIA still intended to keep up its regular installment payments of several hundred thousand dollars as part of their intelligence-sharing arrangements. They also wanted to know how Massoud felt about his military position.

Massoud told them that he thought he could defend his lines in the northeast of Afghanistan, but that was about all. The United States had to do something, Massoud told the CIA officers quietly, or eventually he was going to crumble.

"If President Bush doesn't help us," Massoud told reporters in Strasbourg a few days later, "then these terrorists will damage the United States and Europe very soon{ndash}and it will be too late."

A Fatal Blow

Early in September 2001, Massoud's intelligence service transmitted a routine classified report to the CIA's Counterterrorist Center about two Arab television journalists who had crossed Northern Alliance lines from Kabul.

The intelligence-sharing between Massoud and the CIA concentrated mainly on Arabs and foreigners in Afghanistan. In this case officers in the bin Laden unit at the Counterterrorist Center took note of the movement of the two Arab journalists. It did not seem of exceptional interest.

Members of the Bush Cabinet met at the White House on Sept. 4. Before them was a draft copy of a National Security Presidential Directive, a classified memo outlining a new U.S. policy toward al Qaeda, Afghanistan and Massoud.

It had been many months in the drafting. The Bush administration's senior national security team had not begun to focus on al Qaeda until April, about three months after taking office. They did not forge a policy approach until July. Then they took still more weeks to schedule a meeting to ratify their plans.

Among other things, the draft document revived almost in its entirety the CIA plan to aid Massoud that had been forwarded to the lame-duck Clinton White House -- and rejected -- nine months earlier. The stated goal of the draft was to eliminate bin Laden and his organization. The plan called for the CIA to supply Massoud with a large but undetermined sum for covert action to support his war against the Taliban, as well as trucks, uniforms, ammunition, mortars, helicopters and other equipment. The Bush Cabinet approved this part of the draft document.

Other aspects of the Bush administration's al Qaeda policy, such as its approach to the use of armed Predator surveillance drones for the hunt, remained unresolved after the Sept. 4 debate. But on Massoud, the CIA was told that it could at least start the paperwork for a new covert policy -- the first in a decade that sought to influence the course of the Afghan war.

In the Panjshir Valley, unaware of these developments, Massoud read Persian poetry in his bungalow in the early hours of Sept. 9. Later that morning he finally decided to grant an interview to the two Arab journalists visiting from Kabul.

As one of them set up a television camera, the other read aloud a list of questions he intended to ask. About half of them concerned bin Laden.

A bomb secretly packed in the television equipment ripped the cameraman's body apart. It shattered the room's windows, seared the walls in flame and tore Massoud's chest with shrapnel.

Hours later, after Massoud had been evacuated to Tajikistan, his intelligence aide Amrullah Saleh called the CIA's Counterterrorist Center. He spoke to Rich, the bin Laden unit chief. Saleh was sobbing and heaving between sentences as he explained what had happened.

Three weeks before the Soviet tanks began to roll, American spy satellites detected movements that allowed agents to warn the rebels of the impending attack. Massoud's radio performance was made possible by the use of more than 40 CIA-supplied portable transmitters. In response to a specific request from Massoud, the CIA also arranged to send hundreds of land mines by plane, ship, truck, camel and pony across three continents and through several intermediaries, so that they got into rebel hands just before Goodbye Massoud began. The thwarting of Goodbye Massoud was the most recent, and perhaps the most daring, success of the CIA's operation to assist the embattled guerrillas.
The Washington Post, February 23, 2004

"Where's Massoud?" the CIA officer asked.

"He's in the refrigerator," said Saleh, searching for the English word for morgue.

Massoud was dead, but members of his inner circle had barely absorbed the news. They were all in shock. They were also trying to strategize in a hurry. They had already put out a false story claiming that Massoud had only been wounded. Meanwhile, Saleh told the Counterterrorist Center, the suddenly leaderless Northern Alliance needed the CIA's help as it prepared to confront al Qaeda and the Taliban.

On the morning of Sept. 10, the CIA's daily classified briefings to Bush, his Cabinet and other policymakers reported on Massoud's death and analyzed the consequences for the United States' covert war against al Qaeda.

Officers in the Counterterrorist Center, still hopeful that they could maintain a foothold in northern Afghanistan to attack bin Laden, called frantically around Washington to find a way to aid the rump Northern Alliance before it was eliminated.

Massoud's advisers and lobbyists, playing for time, tried to promote speculation that Massoud might still be alive. But privately, as Sept. 10 wore on, phone call by phone call, many of the Afghans closest to the commander began to learn that he was gone.

Karzai, who was in Pakistan when his brother reached him, had spoken to Massoud a few days earlier. He was considering a plan to fly into Massoud's territory, work his way south and open an armed rebellion against the Taliban -- with or without U.S. support.

Karzai's brother said it was confirmed: Ahmed Shah Massoud was dead.

Karzai reacted in a single, brief sentence, as his brother recalled it: "What an unlucky country."

Staff writer Griff Witte contributed to this report.

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