Are the Taliban distancing themselves from al Qaeda?

November 28, 2010

nuristanThe question of whether the links between the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda can be broken has been discussed at length over the past year or so, and will be a major factor in any eventual peace settlement with insurgents in Afghanistan.

So it’s interesting to see this post by Alex Strick van Linschoten highlighting what he calls the first semi-official acknowledgement from a Talib – former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef - of Osama bin Laden’s involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

He cites the following quotes from an interview with Zaeef, in response to a question about bin Laden and his relations with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar after Sept. 11:

“Following the September events, the Commander of the Faithful Mullah Omar met with Bin Laden in the presence of a large number of Taliban leaders and Al-Qaeda members, and asked him if they were behind the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon.

“Osama denied the allegations but I now believe that Bin Laden planned the attacks without informing the Commander of the Faithful and then lied to him by denying his involvement in the attacks after they took place.”

According to Alex, who co-edited Zaeef’s memoirs, “this admission is a crucial first step in tackling the issue of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Let’s hope it’s part of a larger political development.”

Last week I asked senior Pakistani politician Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman, who is sympathetic to the Taliban, what would happen to al Qaeda in the event of a political settlement.  

“Once stakeholders are ready for a solution, this would squeeze the room for al Qaeda,” he said. ”Al Qaeda will have to fall in line or leave the region.”

The Taliban leadership have been saying for a while now that they would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a base to attack foreign countries if they returned to power.  But so far they have not publicly repudiated al Qaeda by blaming them for the Sept. 11 attacks; nor have they talked about them having to leave the region.

So it would be worth watching if there is any more on that theme.  It might even indicate progress in the real Taliban talks, as opposed to the fake talks with a Taliban imposter in Kabul.  That said, if it does indicate progress, there is no reason to assume this will happen in a manner or timing designed to suit the western narrative on the war in Afghanistan.

27 comments

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I would never trust the Islamic radicals and Pakistani army. Both can deceive others without any sense of guilt and build rational filled with lies to cover their acts. From what I am reading, Taliban itself is made up of different factions. No one knows who represents their collective views. Some like the one eyed Mullah Omar would swear by Bin Laden. And if Al Qaeda is squeezed, where is Bin Laden going to go? He cannot sneak out of Pakistan’s safe havens without being caught. He is going to stay there until he dies. So will all his side kicks. As long as they are there, global Islamic terrorists will treat the place like a holy shrine to visit and get their blessings.

The current plan, as I sense it, is to delay American efforts as long as possible and drag everything. At some point they will leave as American leaders have other domestic priorities. So they are playing the waiting game, facilitated by Pakistan’s military. This is a tug of war and at this point no one knows who will be able to pull the other side. The Jihadists are hoping on weakening of America on many fronts, economic, political and global ones. War in the Korean waters will look like Allah’s blessings for them.

If America gives up, it will not mean the end of Islamic terrorism. Peace will not return. It will mean more vicious attacks and brazen acts that will make today look like a picnic. I hope the world understands this. Whatever might be the reason for today’s mess, but this is no time for blame games. The world has to unite against Islamic radicals and finish them off for good. It does not matter if countries and militaries are involved on their side. They all need to go down for bringing peace to the world.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

Myra:
“He cites the following quotes from an interview with Zaeef, in response to a question about bin Laden and his relations with Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar after Sept. 11:

“Following the September events, the Commander of the Faithful Mullah Omar met with Bin Laden in the presence of a large number of Taliban leaders and Al-Qaeda members, and asked him if they were behind the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon.

“Osama denied the allegations but I now believe that Bin Laden planned the attacks without informing the Commander of the Faithful and then lied to him by denying his involvement in the attacks after they took place.”

***Should I cry or laugh? US/NATO are here since a decade and today we are still asking whether Osama bin Laden is linked to 9/11 or not.

Is that all you got? Is there no evidence of OBL-9/11 link? You really need to tell us.

This war was lost long time ago. Let us not forget that the primary reason for ISAF to be in Afghanistan was Bin-Laden-blessed A-Q linked to 9/11 and Taliban saying no to handing over Bin Laden without evidence. I hate to say Mullah Omar is right.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@rehmat….I think you either misunderstood or misread the article. There is nothing in there that questions Bin Laden’s role in 9/11.

It was about a member of the Taliban (or more correctly a faction there of) and his interview for his memoirs.

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

Myra,

You seem to be prejudiced against the “Western narrative” of the war on terror.

9/11 was a REAL evenr. Al Qaeda’s involvement in that atrocity is REAL.

Yet we have to wait this long for someone remotely connected to the Taliban to admit the obvious?

And you expect the civilized world to believe that a disgraced, former Taliban official speaks for the Talibs of today?

The Taliban are currently using the same brutal tactics that Al Qaeda use. They have evolved in the post-9/11 years into group with an ever tightening embrace of Al Qaeda. Indeed the Taliban owe a huge part of their success to Al Qaeda.

You have ignored all of that and keep posting these platitudes that support your point of view.

Sad.

Posted by SilverSw0rd | Report as abusive

” There is nothing in there that questions Bin Laden’s role in 9/11.”
***There is a lot between the lines that does that. I would like to see OBL confession.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

Myra

Before the war is over, can you write an article on all the available evidence –official/unofficial/tapes/interviews etc that
1. tell that A-Q did 9/11
2. OBL’s involvement in 9/11

I am not a conspiracy theorist by nature. But I would like to see the link of Afghanistan-based Al-qaida to 9/11. It is time to ask the fundamental questions.

you might have done this in the past, but it is good to update with new info.

Taliban are turning American way of writing books after retirement.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

A good question? Were the leaders of the so called Taliban were neare to Al Quaeda? Has Mr Zaeef been fully treated for his injuries from the USA torture camp?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@rehmat are you suggesting that OBL is innocent becuase he hasn’t made a formal confession? Isn’t that the same as saying that Stalin was innocent of sending untold thousands to gulags becuase he never formally declaired to the world he did it?

@ pakistan do you have some kind of evidence that he was tortured? you do realize that only 3 people were subjected to the enhanced interogations?! Unless you have some proof then perhaps you should look at your beloved pakistans questioning practices

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo

“rehmat are you suggesting that OBL is innocent becuase he hasn’t made a formal confession? Isn’t that the same as saying that Stalin was innocent of sending untold thousands to gulags becuase he never formally declaired to the world he did it?”

***No I am not suggesting that AT ALL. Saddam’s, Stalin’s, Hitler’s crimes are well known since they were rulers. Cases against them are quite clear without them owning their crimes. Same cannot be said about OBL-9/11 link. OBL case is very different who is declared terrorist with huge influence on Al-qaida and allegedly involved in 9/11. All people in the region would like to know of evidence of any kind. I wish OBL is involved in 9/11 so that this war could be justified at some level.

Analogies are a slippery slope and lead no where. Each case should be dealt without referring to the other. If you want to compare some one with Stalin, it would be George W bush commander-in-chief of the “shock and awe” operation and Iraq war that led to thousands to a million dead, unsettling the region, starting terrorism that never saw one. It is hard to trust an administration that invaded Iraq with false evidence. Bush Admn chose to run away to Iraq which they thought to be more important than Afghanistan, which is hardly an indication of the importance of OBL.

This war needed arm twisting the Saudis so hard that they feel their bones breaking. They needed to be asked about 9/11 hijackers and pushed to work with Pakistan to rein in Taliban and clean up Afghanistan. But then Saudis are allies.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

1) The point of the post was not to discuss whether AQ were involved in 9/11 but rather to highlight that Zaeef’s remarks may have been the first time a former member of the Taliban government acknowledged this.

2) The “western narrative” reference applied to the fake Kabul peace talks, as you will see if you click on the link

Posted by Myra1 | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo
We are the dumb audience and watching the theatrical acts of the Govts. and the so called radicals terrorists. After the show both parties tell us who was responsible and who was not. You are the cleverest one, stating that only three of the inmates were subjected to the enhansed interrogations!

Bravo, the man, who gave the illegal orders for torture, admits openly and justifies it to save american lives. Mr Obama has ordered that the officials who tortured the prisoners should not be tried since they were simply following the orders. The new administrator has not got the guts to bring George W before the court and you are asking for the evidence?

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Normaly,I do not believe in the conspiracy theories concerning sept.11. The story is straightforward; a group of arab students went over to the USA, took flying lessons in the USA and then hijacked the planes and caused the deaths of plain inniocent people. Everyone around the world condemned the act.
Then the story is hazy, afghanistan came under attack and the war on terror started.
We are now told about the Portland drama that FBI was all along involved with the young Somali and provided him full support in the preparation of the explosion. Did the sept.11 terrorists receive similar support from the FBI and perhaps at the last minute things got out of control?
We are not hell sayers, how should we know that the FBI is on alert or not? Even the alleged shoe bomber was allowed to board the plane despite his father informing the authorities of his son’s intentions.

Rex Minor

PS Is Wikeleak the new angel who is after the truth and leaking classified documents? And how should we compare wikeleak with New York Times and Washington Post truth, who also claim to have the inside info.? My own conclusions are that do not believe in any one except once own common sense and judgement.

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

Pakistan: “Did the sept.11 terrorists receive similar support from the FBI and perhaps at the last minute things got out of control? We are not hell sayers, how should we know that the FBI is on alert or not? Even the alleged shoe bomber was allowed to board the plane despite his father informing the authorities of his son’s intentions.”

On the same lines, can we say that the ISI has worked with the Al Qaeda and Taliban to get Americans involved in a war? Can we say that Pak military is trying to weaken the US as an agent of China? Conspiracy theories can be extended because they are based on one’s imagination. If your logic is right, then everyone else’ is right as well.

Posted by KPSingh01 | Report as abusive

@Rehmat

“This war needed arm twisting the Saudis so hard that they feel their bones breaking. They needed to be asked about 9/11 hijackers and pushed to work with Pakistan to rein in Taliban and clean up Afghanistan. But then Saudis are allies.”

Then how would US quench its thirst of oil? I have always maintained that its not about religions but of oil. What we are witnessing are great oil wars. And this can end only if mankind finds an alternate green and sustainable source of energy. Otherwise its doom for all mankind irrespective of religions.

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

@ pakistan
where is your rightous indignation against the finger nail factories in Pakistan or China or Russia? The enhanced interrogations were the same things that I went through in S.E.A.R.S. school. So I fail to see how it was “illeagal”.
But something tells me that no matter what is said you will maintain the mantra of US bad anyone who opposes the US is good.

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@rehmat
no offense but where is the grey area? The hijackers were trained by AQ. The funding for the op came from AQ. I fail to see what is so questionable about it.

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo

“The hijackers were trained by AQ. The funding for the op came from AQ. I fail to see what is so questionable about it.”

***Questionable? Iraq war for one. OBL is not the pope of A-Q and A-Q is spread globally as I see from the analyses. Don’t you think there is a scope that someone else in A-Q from some other part of the world can do it?

Perhaps you do not find it impressive enough that no one in Bush Admn was in a big hurry to tighten the noose around OBL and his fellows. I am sure you know that Iraq war was decided in first week post-9/11. Wonder why? I am not in any big rush than the American admn to go after OBL. I am not betting my life on it either. Where are the evidence again?

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo

““The hijackers were trained by AQ.”
***Did any 9/11 hijacker take training in Af-Pak? They were from Saudi Arabia and none of them visit Af-Pak but were trained in the USA.

“The funding for the op came from AQ.”
***The funding ultimately is from Saudi money.

“I fail to see what is so questionable about it.”
***My recommendation as I suggested earlier is arm twisting Saudis who legitimized Taliban govt along with UAE and Pakistan. Both Taliban and Pakistan need money from Saudis and would listen to them.

Rather the approach was killing the mosquito with a bunker buster.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@777

I tend to agree with the war for oil and energy resources or geo-strategic reasons.

Imagine the USA successfully defeating Taliban and a US-friendly govt comes into power. One country away in Iraq, assume the same. Iran nuclear talk and the possibility of Iran facing Iraq and then imagine Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India all in one line with pro-US govts. Theoretically not a bad scenario, especially China #2 now.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@Myra
The article is very clear and well understood. This is the first time that a former member of the so called taliban Govt. believes AQ involvement in sept 11 plot and lying to mullah Omar. The interview was in arabic language and one assumes that the translation is accurate.

I would take his comments with a pinch of salt and without forgetting that Mr zaeef was kept in gitmo and has probably received a full does of the treatment, namely extreme interrogations, torture and was most probably a complete Brainwash.

It is very difficult to diagnose his health conditions from a distance but they are not very clear.

For example he made a statement some time ago that the taliban leaders would be prepared to talk to the American administration if their names were removed from the terrorists list. It would seem that the Taliban leaders names are no longer on the so called terrorists list! The talibans have not had any talks with the Americans, insisting that the foreign forces must leave first.

Mr Zaeef is now putting out that in his view(belief) Bin Laden lied to Mullah Omar about his involvement in sept 11. Why was he not asked by his interviewer if Bin Laden is still alive and his whereabouts! I get the impression that he is now in the Karzai camp and making statements after clearance with the Afghan and the American Govts.

History tells us that Pashtoons do not negotiate with foreign occupying forces. It also tells that no Pashtoon would ever hand over a fugitive whom he has given the assylum in his house. Any Pashtoon committing this act must leave the land with the fugitive.

In my view Bin Laden has died some time ago.
Mr Karzai is now the spokesman for Taliban leaders, with whom he has had direct and indirect talks.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive

@ rehmat
The hijackers were trained by AQ.”
***Did any 9/11 hijacker take training in Af-Pak? They were from Saudi Arabia and none of them visit Af-Pak but were trained in the USA.

the flight training was done in the US. and yet they attended combat training in Af-Pak

“The funding for the op came from AQ.”
***The funding ultimately is from Saudi money.
Saudi money given to AQ

“I fail to see what is so questionable about it.”
***My recommendation as I suggested earlier is arm twisting Saudis who legitimized Taliban govt along with UAE and Pakistan. Both Taliban and Pakistan need money from Saudis and would listen to them.
Oh I agree that Saudi Arabia is the key. But that is a whole big can of worms. If we the US get involved in the Kingdom we get accused by the world of meddling. If we don’t then we never get rid of the nest of snakes. It is a no win. Not to mention I honestly don’t think that our President has the marbles to do what needs to be done.

Rather the approach was killing the mosquito with a bunker buster

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@ rehmat
***Questionable? Iraq war for one. OBL is not the pope of A-Q and A-Q is spread globally as I see from the analyses. Don’t you think there is a scope that someone else in A-Q from some other part of the world can do it?

AQ is a global organization. But at the end of the day who is that claims to be the head of it? At the end of the day who do the other arms of AQ hail as it’s leader?

Perhaps you do not find it impressive enough that no one in Bush Admn was in a big hurry to tighten the noose around OBL and his fellows. I am sure you know that Iraq war was decided in first week post-9/11. Wonder why? I am not in any big rush than the American admn to go after OBL. I am not betting my life on it either. Where are the evidence again?

As far as Iraq I think that was one of the biggest boneheaded blunders in American Foreign Policy. Trust me, as a soldier who has had in his @$$ in the line of fire, I hate these war more than anyone else. The reason why we went into Iraq….I will leave that topic alone for my own career. If you want to read more about the Tora Bora op read Dalton FUry’s book. He is a former Delta operator and it will open your eyes to the realities of the war and op

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@Rehmat
“Imagine the USA successfully defeating Taliban and a US-friendly govt comes into power. One country away in Iraq, assume the same. Iran nuclear talk and the possibility of Iran facing Iraq and then imagine Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India all in one line with pro-US govts. Theoretically not a bad scenario, especially China #2 now.”

Now you have hit the nail on head. Exactly this is going on. US wants oil and Saudi Royal family wants rule. US already had Kuwait and UAE. Next was Iraq. Then Pakistan occupancy is going on now. Afghanistan (read Taliban) has been softened enough to kneel in front of Saudi rulers (Before this war it was Saudi money not Saudi family). Iran is left and will be next target of US/Saudis. And a pro-US govt in India. YES its very evident, The Great Oil Wars.

But people believing China as super power is ridiculous and as laughable as saying OBL will be next president of US. Look at history. Any nation becomes super power only when it is leading innovation and invention. Is China inventing?????? A BIG NO (font size 40 and Bold). Then how can China be super power. This is a century of chaos and opportunity, both together. Any nation that finds an alternate source of energy which is green and sustainable will be next super power. Race to Green energy is ON. Whosoever wins will rule next century. And if no one wins then mankind will lose (if not losing already).

Posted by 777xxx777 | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo

“As far as Iraq I think that was one of the biggest boneheaded blunders in American Foreign Policy. Trust me, as a soldier who has had in his @$$ in the line of fire, I hate these war more than anyone else. The reason why we went into Iraq….I will leave that topic alone for my own career.”
***I have nothing against soldiers in Iraq. It is the Rummy/Bush and American decision. That war lost America its supporters in common people. When Americans landed in Afghanistan, most of the people supported.

“If you want to read more about the Tora Bora op read Dalton FUry’s book. He is a former Delta operator and it will open your eyes to the realities of the war and op”
***I have seen an interview about this guy on TV (face not shown obviously).
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmtPBTybQ 9k&feature=player_embedded

What he is saying is known to common people in the region that you got to fight your own war. Delta had to take Mujahideen support who work in their own strange ways and have shady deals as deltafury also mentions. Add to that delta not being allowed to carry on with their plans by American leadership. Book will tell the details though.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@ rehmat
That book is amazing. Another good one is “Imperial Hubris”.

My own opinion on Rummy is that he tried the “whiz kid” strategy of Mcnamarra. He seemed to view things as a numbers game.
The example I will give is this. Fallujah. We took it. Killed a few thousand insurgent fighters compared to the hundred or so casualties we took. According to the numbers we won the battle. But we left the A.O. And the insurgents came back. So tactically and strategically we lost and had to go back in a number of times.

Posted by theinsaneo | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo

Thanks for the book references.

Since you have real battlefield experience, I have a question for you.

Fallujah battle was hard since those guys were ready to fight to death, as I understand vaguely.

If you replace Taliban with Fallujah type fighters in Afghanistan, a vast and TOUGH terrain spread across Af-Pak, do you think the ISAF will face similar problems as it is facing with Taliban?

It is often heard that Pushtoons have remained undefeated.

Posted by rehmat | Report as abusive

@theinsaneo
Think simple and straight, analyse the words and psyche of the people. Iraq war was not a strategic blunder per say or a thoughtful project. Wars are always crimes against the humanity. You suddenly had a phony billy the kid, who admired the wild west and believed in the stories of the good succeeding against the bad one. George w believed in the CIA info about Sadam Hussain plot to have his father the Bush senior killed. George W went into Iraq for vengance, come what may and to prove to his father that he is worthy to be his son. The Bush senior thought very high of his younger son, the texas Governor, and was not proud of George W’s poor military service.
Comprando! The AQ org. and money and the rest are all made up stories and meant for the birds or people like you and me. This is just one of the make believe stories. Innocents and always innocents and straight forward people get hurt and loose their lives. Saudis have nothing to do with it. They are feeding America every single day, they are also keeping the capitalist system going with the money they earn from the oil sales, and return it to the american and European industry.
They are supporting Pakistan existance, providing aid to many other countries and charity organisations in the world. They are not controlling the actions of any who receive their help. They are no different than the Christian Countries and ngo’s who are equally helping the needy regardless of their religion or political affiliations. The love for the next one is the teaching of Islam,christianity and Judaism.
People who undertook the violent mission in NY .. were arabs and not saudis only. mr Ata was an egyptian. They were studying in Hamburg and some had completed the Engineering course. They were not trained to be terrorists in Afghanistan, nor did they study several years engineering to throw it away and take the mission to take innocent lives of the people. Sometimes things occur and there is no logical explanation. People loose lives, George W was advised that this was a revenge from AQ boss wgho was earlier the target of bill Clinton ordered missiles, which failed. If you have the experience of war, then you should know that if your enemy fires at you and misses, then he is not going to expect mercy form you. This is the game which is being played now. let us hope that the struggle ends in a truce!

Now we have the new President who is in love with the American dream philosaphy and reckons that he is a better chief for decisions. On a personal level I do not blame George W intent to punish Saddam Hussain but why cause the death of so many.
The new President has misunderstood the fall of the so called taliban govt. Mr Karzai is a Pashtoon leader and is an integral part of the Pushtoon taliban family. All of the Pashtoons have a dislike for foreigners unless they are their guests and speak with them at an equal level. They do not accept any Mr above them. Also they do not expect the Govt to handle their private affairs including security. They nominate and elect the Govt. to organise services, schools(yes schools) and essential services such as roads, hospitals etc etc. But this is separate subject.

Rex Minor

Posted by pakistan | Report as abusive