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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