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Taliban did offer bin Laden trial

Perhaps, by the time the 25th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks arrives, the United States and the world at large would be ready to pose the hard question: ‘Was the American invasion of Afghanistan really necessary?’ The propaganda would have withered away by then and what really happened may become comprehensible. What reinforces this optimism is that in the intellectual climate in the US, it is difficult to obfuscate policies and confuse historians for all time.

Take for instance, the interview given to Al Jazeera by the Taliban FM Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil who was a confidante of Mullah Omar and was most certainly in the know of what happened in the crucial exchanges involving Washington, Islamabad and Kandahar in the days following 9/11 attacks. WAM asserts that Omar was willing to compromise over the US demand to turn in Osama bin laden but the George W. Bush administration was simply not interested since it suited the US to opt for war.

This is also the impression broadly conveyed in the latest bunch of de-classified US diplomatic cables relating to that period. Thus, at a meeting between American ambassador Wendy Chamberlain and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad on Sept 13, 2001, Chamberlain conveyed that the fundamentals of the US discourse on Afghanistan had already changed and there was absolutely no inclination on the part of Washington to have a dialogue with the Taliban any more on the bin Laden issue. Chamberlain effectively declared the Taliban to be the US’s ‘enemy’ along with Al-Qaeda. Hardly 48 hours had passed after 9/11.

By then, of course, the famous 15-minute conversation had already taken place in Washington between the then US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the visiting Pak ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmed, during which Armitage gave the spymaster the “stark choice” – you’re either with us, or you’re not. The very same day (Sept 13), Secretary of State Colin Powell was on the phone cajoling Musharraf: “as one general to another, we need someone on our flank fighting with us. And speaking candidly, the American people would not understand if Pakistan was not in the fight with the US.” The accent was on the impending war.

The big question is whether the US could have gone ahead if Musharraf hadn’t caved in like soft jelly when he heard about Armitage’s conversation. The US invasion of Afghanistan needed Pakistan’s participation and as a military man, Musharraf would know that much. Maybe, some day, he should be made to sit with WAM in a TV studio (in London) and asked the million-dollar question.

After all, if WAM is speaking the truth, Omar would have signalled to Mahmoud Ahmed (during his consultations in Kandahar as US’s emissary in those days) that he was interested in a compromise. A US cable quotes the ISI chief telling Chamberlain after his second visit to Kandahar that Omar was a frightened man. The exchange took place in Islamabad on Sept 24, just 10 days after 9/11. But Chamberlain was dismissive, saying US “could not delay military planning.”

In yet another conversation with the ISI chief 5 days later following his latest visit to Kandahar, Chamberlain reconfirmed that the US “would not negotiate with the Taliban and that we were on a fast track to bringing terrorists to justice.” Of course, that fast track continues to run even today, full ten years after 9/11 — with no end in view. 

Posted in Diplomacy, Military, Politics.

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9 Responses

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  1. Amarakbarantony says

    bhadrakumar’s is an agent of taliban.

  2. kamal kanta mohanty says

    Talking to terrorists after a terrible strike of 9/11 magnitude is a clear sign of weakness. India’s dialogue with Pakistan that sponors terror acts in India is a sign of India’s love for peace in the grave yard. There can be dialogue after a riot, but not after a terror strike. This is the only occasion when force has to be used. US used force and has been safe since then; India depends on dialogue and suffers terror strike without any letup. That’s the reality. US did the right thing after 9/11.
    K.K. Mohanty

  3. himanshu says

    one can’t ignore d crises faced by peoples in america.
    america did this for its people with a good deed.

  4. Zeke Putnam says

    There were several different ways to deal with the events of 9/11 but, as always, the US chose war. Long ago, I departed from my “America is great, good, just and god chosen to run the world” indoctrination to the realization we have always had empire intentions. I haven’t ever thought terrorist intent was to take the US head on. When your adversary is very large and powerful, you defeat by guerilla warfare ie hit and run. For all our power, we haven’t “won” a war since WWII and “we” didn’t win that one despite the constant American bragging.

    I appreciate Balaji Ram’s comment. No mention of the illegal invasion and destruction of Iraq, the hundreds of thousands of deaths and forced refugee status of millions which by any definition was a terrorist act on a massive scale. Illegal acts by the “big guy” are still terrorist. And the same is happening in Afghanistan. Different details in a different country but an occupation with all it’s accompanying destruction. And I know, “we’re in your country with our troops to do good things for you folks”. Such is the story always told by the leaders of an invading empire.

  5. Dogra Narinder says

    The US Govt made the right decision.
    Omar/Pakistan were just considering delay tactics.
    Americans are too smart to fall in that trap.
    It is not over yet till the fat lady sings!

  6. navi_reyd says

    Bhadrakumar does not say whether the Taliban offered Bin Laden trial by sharia law or by any other law. If it was by sharia law, which most people consider to be inhuman, then it is not at all surprising that the USA rejected it.

  7. Mayur Punekar says

    Yes the Talibans who are embodiment of peace would have conducted trial the way Pakistani is conducting 26/11 trial !! but the America basher author doesn’t understand that America is not ruled by coward like India. What America did was necessary and I am more then happy that Pakistani proxys are out of their backyard !

  8. Doc Kuchbhi says

    I agree with a lot of your other articles.

    But the prospect of putting Osama bin Laden on trial hardly instills confidence.
    Even the US of A would find it hard to get clinching evidence against him.
    In the hands of the Taliban, such a thing would be impossible.

    The US did the right thing by getting rid of the Taliban.
    They did the wrong thing by assuming that Pakistan would actually help them.
    They should have obliterated the Taliban at Kunduz rather than let the Pakis escort them out.
    They should have made an example of people in Pakistan that helped the Taliban in the early years rather than sit north of the Durand line and “trust” the ISI and the Paki army.

  9. Balaji Ram says

    Well, the Aghanistan war seems to have worked wonders for the security of the USA. How many innocent lives have been lost to terrorist attacks since 9/11 in the USA Mr Bhadrakumar ?

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