Daily Archives: 15 October 2005

Mullah Omar and Bin Laden: New Friends, Not Old

Since September 2001, Mullah Omar has been widely portrayed as an old friend of Osama bin Laden’s. Richard C. Clarke, the CIA counterintelligence chief, said that Mullah Omar and bin Laden were old friends and that Mullah Omar was anxious for bin Laden to return to Afghanistan from Sudan. [Former Taliban intelligence chief] Khaksar denies this, saying the two had never met until after the Taliban took control of Kabul in September 1996.

Clarke said Bin Laden was encouraged by Mullah Omar to come to Afghanistan from Sudan to build training camps and bring his money. That’s plain wrong. The terrorist training camps flourished under the mujahedeen government [1992-1996], the opponents of the Taliban. Osama bin Laden came to Afghanistan from Sudan with the help of the mujahedeen government.

The Taliban had become, by 2001, a loathsome repressive regime. But that does not justify or explain why the CIA revised history in order to connect bin Laden and Mullah Omar in those early days of the Taliban movement. The CIA should have known that Osama bin Laden’s friends were the men of the Northern Alliance, men like Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the very men it would later choose to help hunt bin Laden.

SOURCE: I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, by Kathy Gannon (PublicAffairs, 2005), pp. 31-32

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Kandahar, 1986: City of Music and Rubble

It’s a bizarre twist that the Taliban movement, with its horrific repressiveness and abhorrence of music and mysticism, should have come out of Kandahar, where ritual worship at shrines is widespread. That region is home to the [Sufi] Pirs, clerics who trace their lineage to Islam’s prophet and have mystical qualities that are revered, their feet and hands kissed.

The severe interpretation of Islam that the Taliban eventually embraced with such vigor came from the outsiders who would take it over, the Afghans trained at Pakistani madrassas, and later by the austere philosophy of Wahabi Islam practiced by Saudi Arabia and the Arab militants who would later wield such control.

Kandahar was not a city of severe Islam in 1986. Kandaharis were not anti-Western ideologues, but in fact just the opposite. The mujahedeen, who arranged my clandestine visit to Kandahar city, were Pashtun tribesmen, kinsmen of Mullah Omar. They drove throughout the region on motorcycles.

In their homes in bomb-shattered villages were old dust-clogged tape recorders that blared Pashtu songs. The most popular singer was a Pashtu chanteuse named Nagma, who sang of love lost, new love.

SOURCE: I is for Infidel: From Holy War to Holy Terror: 18 Years Inside Afghanistan, by Kathy Gannon (PublicAffairs, 2005), p. 33

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