Taliban 'Interlocutors': Leaders Were 9/11 Ignorant

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 10:24 AM

In an interview with a well-regarded British foreign policy think tank, one of four unidentified “senior Taliban interlocutors” claimed Taliban leadership “was unaware of the plans” to attack America 11 years ago “when they were hatched on Afghan soil.”

The claim was made in spite of the Taliban running the Afghan government, playing host to al-Qaida within the country for years, and Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s close relationship with al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

A briefing paper entitled “Taliban Perspectives on Reconciliation,” just published by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), finds the Taliban in an uncharacteristically America-friendly mood less than two months before the U.S. presidential election.

Among the concessions two former Taliban ministers, a senior former mujahedeen commander, and an extensively experienced Afghan mediator with the Taliban were eager to make were a willingness “to accept long-term U.S. military presence and bases” — “but not if the Americans launch attacks against neighbors — such as Iran and Pakistan.” That qualification brings such bases’ value into question.

One of the interviewees, “a founding member of the Taliban” according to the institute’s paper, “stressed that there was and is no natural enmity between the Taliban and the Americans.

He claimed that the Taliban originally looked for advice from the Americans (citing experience from three international conferences in the late 1990s)” and said that under a future Taliban regime, “to avoid the country fragmenting . . . the Taliban would need U.S. assistance in order to hold the Afghan National Army together.”

The briefing paper was co-authored by Harvard human rights fellow and former European Union deputy representative to Afghanistan Michael Semple and three terrorism and warfare professors from King’s College, London: Anatol Lieven, Theo Farrell, and Rudra Chaudhuri.

In the weeks and months after 9/11, Americans became keenly aware of the excesses of Sharia law under the Taliban in Afghanistan, especially the mistreatment of women. These interviewees were eager to suggest the Taliban had now changed.

“The Taliban leadership are keen to end all attacks on teachers and health-care workers, as evident in public statements,” the Institute claims to have found in its interviews. “Modern subjects such as mathematics and sciences are encouraged in both madrasas and schools more generally, as underlined in a Taliban policy document on education circulated in early 2012,” the briefing paper added.

Moreover, “The Taliban fully understand that their policies of the 1990s need to be re-configured in the face of rapidly changing social forces within current-day Afghanistan.”

Those promises appear suspect juxtaposed with the picture of Taliban education painted by the New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright in his Pulitzer Prize-winning history of al-Qaida, “The Looming Tower.” Under the Taliban’s “carnival of religious tyranny” as Wright calls it, “Work and schooling for women were halted at once, which destroyed the healthcare system, the civil service, and effectively eliminated elementary education.

Forty percent of the doctors, half of the government workers, and seven out of ten teachers were women. Under the Taliban, many of them would become beggars.”

Another Taliban assurance to America relayed in the RUSI analysis is that “The Taliban leadership and base deeply regret their past association with al-Qaida,” therefore “Once a general ceasefire and/or political agreement are decided, the base would obey a call by Mullah Mohammad Omar — and only him — to completely renounce Al-Qaida.”

But as Wright recounts, after the United States declared war on the Taliban al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden tearfully “made a pledge of personal fealty” to Omar, “much like the one that members of al-Qaida swore to him.” After that, “A friendship developed between them,” “They often went fishing together,” and “Omar proved to be bin Laden’s strongest defender.”

Again and again in the institute’s report, Omar’s dictatorial influence over the Taliban is reiterated. The Taliban, for instance, “would accept the leadership’s call to isolate and eject Al-Qaida as long as the decision came directly from Mullah Mohammad Omar.”

But would Omar really be willing to order this as a permanent policy against the organization founded by his friend and subjugate, bin Laden, after his being killed by U.S. forces per the direct command of the U.S. president?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have just designated the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network a terrorist group, but she is also dangling a $500 million NATO “Peace and Reintegration Trust Fund” under the Taliban’s noses.
Is it really that surprising that the Taliban is saying so many things Americans want to hear?

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012 10:24 AM
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