The Taliban Moves; The World Simply Watches

As stated, no other nations wanted to be involved in Afghanistan. It had proven many times to be most assuredly The Graveyard of Empires, as its long-held nickname implies. To be fair, some in the US Congress wanted to continue involvement there until the country had recovered somewhat, but the rest of the country just didn't buy into it. Russia had been defeated and humiliated, and politically, that's all we (America) were interested in.

While it is true, we hoped Omar would be a benevolent leader, but we did little more at the time than “hope." Our only interest in the country at that time was bin Laden's presence there. Though our intelligence agencies and the FBI had competing interests in what he was doing, few people argued against the assertion that he was going to be trouble. He had already proven his intent to be "just that."

Saudi Arabia's intentions vis-à-vis the Taliban were more intrinsic and perhaps slightly narcissistic. It was very obvious that The House of Saud was intent on living vicariously through the Taliban (the Taliban's intent of instituting "true Islam" and harsh punishment for those who didn't comply, which being synonymous with Wahhabism fit the desired outcome of the Saudi Royal family though they didn't themselves want to be seen as imposing such on another sovereign nation).

As such Saudi Arabia was one of only three nations who recognized the Taliban as the legitimate ruler of Afghanistan.1 The religious ideology of the Taliban mirrored Wahhabism in almost every way, allowing the royal family to see just how things could be had they not decided that a closer relationship with the west would make life more comfortable for them. Their involvement, however, extended to no more than funneling money into the country to assist Mullah Omar.

As far as gathering intelligence on bin Laden, though we had been using some local individuals, that wasn't working out well, and we certainly weren't going to put American intelligence operations on the ground there. The closest formal operations were in Pakistan, and as it worked out, we were often at odds with the intelligence services in that country. The country of Pakistan was and still is more in alignment with the religious ideology of the Taliban and Al Qaeda (fundamentalist Islam) than we would like. We decided our best bet to keep really close tabs on bin Laden and use the best opportunity to, at some point, take him out. We were working closely with the Northern Alliance, specifically at that time (before his assassination) with the leader Ahmad Shah Masood (Figure 7.5).

For America, the plan ostensibly was simple. We would provide Masood with the resources he needed, to a point, to fight the Taliban, resources that incidentally would include radios encrypted to communicate directly with Langley, to pass encrypted intelligence on Al Qaeda. As he pressed his war against the Taliban, his men would also monitor the movements and activities of bin Laden's Al Qaeda. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn't, but it did keep our involvement in Afghanistan to a minimum. Remember, we not only had a reluctant

Ahmad Shah Masood, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance Consortium

Figure 7.5 Ahmad Shah Masood, the Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance Consortium.3

congress back home, but a President of the United States who was in no position to take political risks, due to the Lewinsky situation. The problem with this arrangement is that Masood didn't share our concern for the activities of Al Qaeda, and he had a full plate dealing with the Taliban (though history would prove, he should have been more concerned). As a result, other than funneling some money to the Northern Alliance, we just watched and waited for an opportunity in which the President could/would act.

In the interim, the Taliban was getting stronger and bin Laden's people were in various stages of planning the attacks of 9/11. Of note, during this period of time is the fact that there was very little involvement between Omar and bin Laden, and it is highly likely that Mullah Omar had no idea who Musab Zarqawi was, and even though Zarqawi would at some point be the "face of terrorism" in the Middle East. Osama bin Laden had probably forgotten all about Zarqawi at this time, as well.

As a side note: at the writing of this text, the United States signed a peace deal with the Taliban for our troops to withdraw from Afghanistan. This is a highly anticipated process and has been years in the making. The details include a United States withdraival from Afghanistan within 14 months of signing the treaty. The deal, to a degree, officially recognizes the Taliban as a legitimate political entity in the country. Every effort is being taken to assure the Taliban does not return to its former mission of subjugating the country through brutality. The agreement states that the Taliban are not to let any other group have control in the area, that is, Al Qaeda, ISIS, etc. A subsequent attack on a maternity ward in Kabul, on behalf of ISIS, in which over 20 mothers and neivborn babies were killed, is putting the deal in jeopardy. Of interest, however, is the push from the United States and the Afghan government to obtain concessions from the Taliban leadership, which assure, they will never harbor or provide safe haven to any terrorist organization. This obvious concentration of effort is being made with the memories of the presence of Al Qaeda, in mind. Of consideration, hoivever, is that the Taliban never intended to harbor Al Qaeda or any other terror group for that matter, from its inception. As ive have stated earlier in this book, bin Laden cajoled and forced his presence in the country on Mullah Omar and ivas successful in large part as a result of the American "demand" that Omar refuse him refuge and safe haven (stated earlier, Omar's independence and ego forced him to dismiss a "demand"). The Taliban did not then desire or encourage, nor has it ever desired or encouraged, the presence of amj other organized group such as Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The Taliban is a perfect example of a regional, domestic terror group in that they never intended to act outside the borders of Afghanistan. Such a move (harboring another terror organization) would be detrimental to their efforts of being the leader and most formidable force in Afghanistan with an eventual, "deity ordained" mission of establishing a thoroughly fundamental Islamic, nation controlled by shariah. Harboring or offering safe haven to some other group, especially if they were going to bring outside pressure on you, as did Al Qaeda, is the last thing the Taliban want to do, especialhj at a time when the United States was planning to withdrazv forces. Exacting such a promise or pledge from the Taliban leadership, especially if a quid pro quo is offered, is definitely a "red herring" effort.


  • 1 Rashid, A. (2010). Taliban. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • 2 Buddhas of Bamyan, (n.d.). In Wikipedia. Retrieved May 31,2020, from https://
  • 3 Ahmad Shah Massoud. (n.d.). In Wikipedia, Ahmad_Shah_Massoud.


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