Authors: Gérard de Villiers
Gérard de Villiers (1929–2013) is the most popular writer of spy thrillers in French history. His two-hundred-odd books about the adventures of Austrian nobleman and freelance CIA operative Malko Linge have sold millions of copies.
Malko Linge, who first appeared in 1964, has often been compared to Ian Fleming’s hero James Bond. The two secret agents share a taste for gunplay and kinky sex, but de Villiers was a journalist at heart, and his books are based on constant travel and reporting in dozens of countries.
On several occasions de Villiers was even ahead of the news. His 1980 novel had Islamists killing President Anwar el-Sadat of Egypt a year before the event took place.
The Madmen of Benghazi
described CIA involvement in Libya long before the 2012 attack on the Benghazi compound. In the same way,
Chaos in Kabul
mixes fact and fiction to vividly reflect the current upheaval in Afghanistan.
The Madmen of Benghazi
A VINTAGE CRIME/BLACK LIZARD ORIGINAL, OCTOBER 2014
Translation copyright © 2014 by William Rodarmor
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Vintage Books, a division of Random House LLC, New York, and in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto, Penguin Random House companies. Originally published in France in two separate volumes as
Sauve-qui-peut à Kaboul
by Éditions Gérard de Villiers, Paris, in 2013. Copyright © 2013 by Éditions Gérard de Villiers.
Vintage is a registered trademark and Vintage Crime/Black Lizard and colophon are trademarks of Random House LLC.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
The Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication data
Villiers, Gérard de, 1929–2013.
[Sauve-qui-peut à Kaboul. English]
Chaos in Kabul : a Malko Linge novel / by Gérard de Villiers ; translated
from the French by William Rodarmor.
pages cm.—(A Malko Linge novel)
1. Undercover operations.
2. Spy stories. I. Rodarmor, William, translator. II. Title.
PQ2682.I44S46 2014 843′.914—dc23 2014030511
Vintage Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8041-6933-2
eBook ISBN: 978-0-8041-6934-9
Cover design by Evan Gaffney Design
The sun was just rising when the Qatar Airways flight
from Islamabad landed at the Doha airport. It was 6:03 a.m. The plane had taken off from Pakistan a little more than three and a half hours earlier.
There were now four flights a week on a brand-new Airbus between the capitals of Pakistan and Qatar. This was a big improvement over Pakistan International Airlines’ old puddle jumpers and their haphazard schedules. As a result, the plane was full of Pakistanis, rich businessmen and poor job seekers. The Qatari rarely traveled to Pakistan. With only a quarter of a million native-born citizens, Qatar focused on exploiting its gas reserves and the one and a half million Pakistanis, Indians, Filipinos, and Bengalis who did the work that kept the country running.
One of the first passengers to reach the immigration counter was a young man with a neatly trimmed beard wearing an ill-fitting suit, no tie, and a brown coat. He was tall and thin, with a
shock of black hair, a prominent nose, high cheekbones, and a sharp, heavy-lidded gaze.
The Pakistani passport he handed the Qatari immigration officer was in the name of Gulbuddin Askari, businessman from Quetta, in Baluchistan.
“Where are you staying, sir?” asked the officer.
“At the Four Seasons,” the traveler answered in excellent Arabic.
A rich businessman, then. Located on the corniche along West Bay, the Four Seasons was the best hotel on the peninsula. The immigration agent smartly stamped Askari’s passport. Wealth was appreciated in Qatar. Besides, the black crocodile leather attaché case the Pakistani was carrying showed definite class.
Pulling a small roller suitcase, the man calling himself Gulbuddin Askari made for the taxi stand, yawning widely. He was short of sleep. He’d come from Quetta the evening before and slept only three hours in a small hotel near the Islamabad airport before getting up at one thirty in the morning for his flight. He barely noticed downtown Doha’s skyscrapers glittering in the morning sun.
At the Four Seasons, Askari was grateful to reach his room. The first thing he did was to unfold a small prayer rug, face Mecca, and spend a long time praying. Then he got undressed, took a shower, and stretched out on the bed.
His meeting wasn’t until that evening, but it was essential that he be clearheaded. His soul at peace after a fervent prayer, he quickly fell asleep.
The fuselage of the private Grumman jet bore no markings beyond “Brown & Root, Inc.” in small blue letters above the airstairs. The plane landed at Doha airport at 5:45 p.m., twenty minutes ahead of the flight plan given to the Qatari authorities. A business flight from Dallas, with a refueling stop in Madrid.
Besides the crew, there were two men on board. On landing, they handed the immigration service American passports in the names of Carl Gorman and James Ganlento. A pair of ordinary businessmen, a little weary after their seven-thousand-mile trip.
Less than an hour later, they were settling into their rooms—at the Four Seasons.
At 7:30 p.m., Askari appeared at the entrance of the bar and was immediately spotted by the two Americans. The white-haired man calling himself Ganlento stood and approached him.
The men exchanged a long handshake. They had already met three times before, and they liked each other.
“I’ve reserved a private dining room in the Fortuna,” said Ganlento. “Shall we go there, or would you like to have a drink here first?”
“Let’s go to the restaurant,” said Askari. He didn’t drink alcohol and was uncomfortable in public spaces with scantily dressed foreign women.
The men headed for the Italian restaurant, the pride of the Four Seasons. Their table was already set, with wine, mineral water, and fruit juices. Before sitting down, Ganlento turned to his companion.
“Carl, I’d like you to meet Mullah Abdul Ghani Beradar. He’s a member of the
in Quetta and has Mullah Omar’s full trust.”
He then turned to the young Pakistani.
“Mullah Beradar, this is Carl. I’m not authorized to reveal his identity, but I can say that he has come from Washington especially to meet you. He’s very close to the president and is here on his behalf.”
The two men shook hands. The white-haired man—who was actually Clayton Luger, the CIA deputy director in charge of clandestine
operations—gestured toward the dining table. The men sat down and helped themselves to drinks. Luger had asked the restaurant that they not be disturbed and had a silent buzzer under the table to summon the waiter.
Luger now turned his blue eyes to the mullah. He was a big man, taller even than the young Afghan, and his white hair inspired respect.
“Who on your side knows about this meeting?” he asked.
“I was sent by Mullah Omar himself. Nobody in the supreme
knows about it.”
“What about the Pakistanis?”
Beradar hesitated slightly before answering. It was an open secret that the Taliban’s Quetta assembly was carefully monitored by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency. It was even said that an ISI officer sat in on all its meetings.
“They know I’m here, of course,” he admitted.
“What do you plan to tell them?”
“That I came here to meet some Americans to ask that the drone strikes in the tribal areas be stopped, as part of an eventual accord. They know that this is under discussion.”
Luger nodded approvingly. It was a credible cover story. As the CIA deputy director, he was in charge of the supposedly clandestine program of killing al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders with drone strikes. The program cost far less than traditional military operations, produced better results, and was strongly endorsed by the White House. President Obama never hesitated to sign an executive order in support of the operations, though unofficially they didn’t exist.
With the Pakistan question resolved to the two Americans’ satisfaction, the men started on their appetizers.
They had chosen to meet in Doha instead of Dubai because the ISI didn’t have a network here, whereas the Pakistanis were particularly
well informed in Dubai. Given what was to come, it was essential that no one know of National Security Advisor John Mulligan’s presence here.
Mullah Beradar had finished his plate of fried vegetables, and Luger gave him time to drink some mango juice before asking, “What’s your opinion of the Chantilly meeting a few weeks ago?”
At the initiative of the French government, representatives of various factions in the Afghan conflict had met in a Chantilly hotel for informal talks in late December 2012. They included representatives of the Quetta Taliban, the Massoud Tajiks, the Afghan government, and the Karzai opposition, but no one from the Haqqani network, and no Pakistanis or Uzbeks. The goal had been to find a way to resolve the conflict without too much damage.