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View Full Version : Ghost Soldiers: Osama bin Laden's Chechen Legion



Lunatock
04 Apr 04,, 17:53
Russian claims as outlandish as the PDF Mullah's at thier most whacked out. If the Estonian women on ski's doesn't have the tin foil crinkling...then Ibn ul-Khattab's plane trip will.


IS THE CHECHEN RESISTANCE REALLY ALIGNED WITH OSAMA BIN LADEN? IF NOT, WHY HAVE WE HEARD REPORTS OF THEIR INVOLVEMENT WITH AL-QA'IDAH IN AFGHANISTAN? DR. ANDREW MCGREGOR TRIES TO SEPARATE MYTH FROM REALITY.




Dr. Andrew McGregor

Throughout the US-led military campaign in Afghanistan North Americans heard reports almost daily about 'thousands of Chechen fighters' in Afghanistan. News agencies and war correspondents competed with each other in their descriptions of these Chechens as a kind of rabid hard core of al-Qa'idah, executing faltering Taliban fighters much like the SS death squads dealt with German deserters during the fall of Berlin.

Osama Bin Laden (left)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Despite the fact that these Chechens were reported present at every major battle in the campaign, proof of their presence remains elusive. What began as isolated second-hand reports from Northern Alliance spokesmen allied with the Russians soon became a mainstay of Pentagon press briefings. Despite the emphatic denials of both the Chechen government of Aslan Maskhadov and even the Islamist faction of the Chechen mujahidin of any links to al-Qa'idah, the following are a sample of alleged Chechen activities during the campaign:


Large numbers of Chechens were reported leading the resistance at the November siege of Kunduz against the Northern Alliance, yet none turned up when the city was captured. Russian news sources explained this by reporting that 60 Chechen mujahidin managed a break-out from Kunduz, went north to the Amu Darya River, and then drowned themselves. Chechen fighters have frequently fought to the death or volunteered themselves for suicide missions, but none have ever been reported as simply killing themselves in despair (much less 60 at a time).
Amir Ibn al-Khattab, the late Saudi-born commander of the international volunteers in Chechnya, was reported to have flown into Kunduz with a force of Arab guerrillas, despite total domination of Afghan airspace by the United States. At the same time the Americans were denying Indian and Northern Alliance reports (later confirmed) of a Pakistan-conducted airlift of thousands of Taliban and al-Qa'idah fighters from besieged Kunduz. When Kunduz was taken, al-Khattab was nowhere to be found, nor were his commandos.
We have frequently been told that Chechnya was a prime destination for the fugitive Bin Laden. A look at an atlas will quickly reveal the immense difficulties present in trying to move unseen overland between Afghanistan and Chechnya, not to mention the cold reception Bin Laden would meet from Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov (though the possibility of trading an unwanted Bin Laden for American support for the Chechen cause would no doubt appeal to him).
Only days after the September 11 attacks, Russian intelligence was reported as having seized a 'Boeing' jetliner training CD during a raid on a Chechen hide-out. Despite efforts of the GRU (Military intelligence) and the FSB (Internal security) to implicate the Chechens in the terror attacks in America, no other evidence of Chechen involvement has been produced. None of the hijackers were Chechen, nor did they have any ties with the Chechen resistance.
Chechen rebels were reported to have provided Osama Bin Laden with nuclear suitcase bombs obtained from Russian sources. This story, now several years old, can be traced to Yossef Bodansky's fanciful biography of Bin Laden where it is attributed to the usual 'un-named sources'.
American news sources now routinely refer to the Chechen independence fighters as 'terrorists', taking their lead from the Bush government, which bargained away its already lukewarm support for the Chechens in return for Russian assent to the use of bases in the former Soviet republics of Central Asia as staging grounds for the 'war on terrorism'. The depth of the name-challenged US president's understanding of the Chechen problem was revealed during an exchange with President Putin during the recent summit in Moscow. During a long discussion of bilateral issues, President Bush dutifully suggested that Putin negotiate with the Chechens. The Russian president agreed entirely, noting that he was already in negotiations with Khadyrov, which appeared to satisfy the American president. Khadyrov, of course, is the Kremlin's ineffectual puppet governor in Chechnya, relentlessly hunted by the rebels. How does one negotiate with an employee?
At any one moment, the Chechen rebel army in the field could easily fit into a small-town Canadian hockey rink, yet with thousands of hard-core veteran Chechen fighters (supposedly) in Afghanistan, it is extremely odd that the mighty Russian army could not finish off the troublesome Chechen resistance.

Andrei Babitsky, a journalist in the employ of American government-owned Radio Liberty, dismissed the reports of Chechen fighters in Afghanistan as similar to repeated Russian reports of the 'White Tights', a mythical team of female Estonian snipers who cross Chechnya on skis in support of the Chechen rebels. After the fall of Kunduz, however, Babitsky reported meeting a Chechen taken prisoner by the Northern Alliance. The veteran reporter failed to take a photograph or take the man's name. This constitutes the sole first-hand report of Chechens fighting on behalf of the Taliban or al-Qa'idah. 'One' also represents the number of Americans found fighting for the Taliban. There are five Russian citizens among the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

Russia became enraged with the Taliban when it became the first (and only) government to recognize Chechen independence. It was impossible, however, for the Taliban to directly provide material aid to the Chechen resistance. Russian threats to attack Afghanistan over this issue were met with characteristic Taliban bravado, reminding the Russians of their previous defeat in Afghanistan, and suggesting that they might invade Russia before the Russians could invade Afghanistan.

Russian attempts to link the Chechens with Bin Laden met a cold reception in Washington until the first post-9/11 meeting between Bush and President Putin of Russia. President Mashkadov has repeatedly urged that international law be applied to the Chechen conflict, and that Russian state terrorism, involving the alleged torture and deaths of thousands of civilians, be recognized. At one point Maskhadov signed on to the Geneva Conventions as a successor state to the Soviet Union in an effort to quell the descent into ruthlessness on both sides. Maskhadov later renounced his action when it failed to raise any will in the international community to pressure Russia to observe the same rules of war.

The Chechen resistance, which began as a movement for secular democracy in an independent Chechnya in 1991, is being gradually forced into the Islamist camp through the failure of both the West and most Islamic nations to aid and recognize their movement. The Islamist volunteers from the Gulf states, North Africa, Turkey and other parts of the Caucasus represent the only material help that the Chechens have received from the Islamic world, though like the mujahidin volunteers in Bosnia, these fighters come with an agenda for the post-independence period. It's not the help the Chechens need, but in their desperation, they are unable to refuse it. Now in their third bloody century of resistance to Russian rule, the Chechens do not require the inspiration of Osama Bin Laden to continue their fight for independence. Nor are the cave and forest dwelling Chechen guerrillas in any condition to mount military expeditions to foreign countries. It's time to send these 'ghost soldiers' back to their barracks.



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Dr. Andrew McGregor is a graduate of the University of Toronto's Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations. He is currently director of Aberfoyle International Security Analysis, a small agency specializing in the international relations of the Islamic world, and may be reached at mcgregor116@hotmail.com.