‘Searching For the Enemy’
The startling revelation that the Taliban’s founder Amir and its supremo, Mullah Mohammad Omar, had lived and died in Afghanistan’s Zabul province – not in Pakistan as international media has relentlessly propagated – has created many ambiguities, and has also put a big question mark against the performance of many international agencies focusing on Afghanistan during the last two decades. More disturbing news is that his residence was located at a walking distance from an American military base in that area. One positive development about his presence in Afghanistan is that it will definitely disprove the widespread perception that Mullah Omar had been operating from a safe haven inside Pakistan.
Bette Dam, a Dutch journalist, in her latest book ‘Searching for the Enemy’ – it involves five years of research and interviews with former and current members of the Afghan Taliban – has exposed, inter alia, the failure of US intelligence in finding out its most wanted person even in the vicinity of their military base. Many things in the book, however, can be contested as a single source of information may not be enough to deny the existing facts and realities.
The book has been published on 21st February 2019 at a time when the United States is inching closer to concluding an agreement with Mullah Omar’s Taliban in Afghanistan. The author herself has categorically pointed out towards the ongoing peace process in Doha and has stressed for the need of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban. One can perceive from the language used in the book that the work is not her sole desire and achievement, rather there seems to be a hidden agenda behind breaking the news at this crucial point of time.
The author has tried to present a different and acceptable picture of the Taliban’s founding leader. Mullah Omar, who once was a villain for the West, is now being portrayed as a saint, sufi and a benign personality, having no links with the ongoing insurgency and militancy in Afghanistan. No doubt, Mullah Omar and his organization were exaggeratedly presented as wolves, terrorists and extremists in the Western media for a long time, but with the passage of time, right and wrong become apparent to all. Once Taliban was enemy number one for the United States and today, it is a top us priority to mainstream them through a negotiated settlement.
The affiliation and affection of Mullah Omar with Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama Bin Laden is known to everyone but the author has astonishingly revealed that Mullah Omar showed no omens of sorrow or grief on the killing of Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. Although Mullah Omar was reportedly a simple and a humble human being, the revelation that he remained secluded from worldly life and his organization’s activities is questionable. He had issued Eid messages and other important directives recorded in his own voice for his followers and commanders which testifies that he was well aware of the ground realities and field activities.
According to the author, Taliban’s supreme leader remained cut off from his family throughout his life in seclusion. This assertion may be accepted up to a certain extent but, again, it has not been confirmed by members of his family. Moreover, the author has portrayed Mullah Omar as having no links or ties with Pakistan during his rule in Afghanistan, but the world knows that it was Pakistan that supported Taliban regime to pursue the interests of its own stability and integrity. The study of bilateral history reveals that Pakistan and Afghanistan have enjoyed cordial relations in real sense during the Taliban regime, so negating the notion that Mullah Omar was not pro-Pakistan is contradictory to available facts.
One thing which confirms the ineptness and inefficiency of US-led NATO forces to counter the insurgency is the failure of American agencies to locate Mullah Omar even in their vicinity. Many researchers have pointed to the fact that Americans have failed in Afghanistan – even though they have fought for about two decades – due to the fact that they were not accustomed to the local culture, norms and values. They couldn’t justify their presence in Afghanistan and fought against an unknown enemy with unclear and undefined aims and objectives as is evident from some of the Donald Trump’s speeches regarding American presence in Afghanistan.
Ms Dam has tried to show that Americans and the world community will be on a wrong side if they didn’t accept Taliban as a legitimate entity in Afghanistan. The analysts had already pointed out that Taliban is a reality and a credible force fighting for Afghans and their legitimate rights, but the US and its allies were not ready to accept this reality until they were compelled by circumstances to talk to Taliban for a negotiated peace settlement.
The book is basically an interview with Mullah Omer’s former aide Jabbar Omeri who was very close to him during Taliban regime until 2001. But, the content of the interview is yet to be confirmed – and, it may dent the credibility of the author. The Afghan government has also rejected her claim that Mullah Omar had lived and died in Afghanistan. Furthermore, the claim that he lived in Jabbar’s house for four years without being exposed and unknown to the hosts is not possible in a village environment where an alien is known to everyone as a guest, but here the case has been presented otherwise.
Ms Dam has revealed many things but her news will be negating the already present reports, news, and write-ups which assert otherwise. The book has got the attention of international media in a very short time due to its relevance and cruciality added by its content. It has indeed created sensation and craze for knowing the new realties, yet academically, the book adds more to conspiracy theories and opens more avenues for the researchers and investigative journalists as well.
To conclude, it can be stated that the United States of America is searching for every possible avenue which may soften the Taliban’s stance on US and its allies. It will try through propaganda or hybrid warfare to present Taliban as humans, legitimate political entity in Afghanistan and a group that will not be involved in any future adventure against America. The book of Bette Dam can be included as an integral part of the said project. Nevertheless, what may be the secret agenda, streamlining of Taliban and bringing peace to Afghanistan through negotiated settlement is the need of the hour. Hopefully, Doha Peace Talks between the US and the Taliban will conclude in the near future with the pleasant gift of an everlasting stability and prosperity for Afghanistan and the region.
- Until the announcement of his death, the United States portrayed Mullah Omar as a terrorist mastermind, closely allied with al-Qaeda and meticulously plotting America’s demise.
- After 2001, Mullah Omar never stepped foot in Pakistan, instead opting to hide in this native land – and for eight years, lived just a few miles from a major US Forward Operating Base that housed thousands of soldiers.
- This finding, corroborated by the Taliban and Afghan officials, suggests a staggering U.S. intelligence failure, and casts even further doubt on America’s claims about the Afghan war.
- U.S. forces came close to the Qalat house twice in the four years Mullah Omar stayed there. One night, soldiers appeared in the vicinity. Jabbar Omari and Mullah Omar, who had been outside, hid behind a tall pile of firewood as soon as they heard footsteps approaching. But the soldiers never came inside and quickly moved on.
- Soon after Mullah Omar’s arrival in Siuray, the Americans built Forward Operating Base Wolverine, about three miles from his new home.16 F.O.B. Wolverine was equipped with offices in prefab containers, a canteen, and a gym, and housed around one thousand U.S. soldiers carrying out counterinsurgency operations under the banner of Operation Enduring Freedom.
- Zabul authorities informed Hamid Karzai of their suspicion that Mullah Omar was present in their province. Karzai informed the Americans that they should search in Zabul, but, Atta Jan claims, the Americans “did not believe Karzai. They said: he is in Pakistan.”