‘Endless Afghan war, based on untruths’

This 22 August 2017 video from the USA says about itself:

Endless War In Afghanistan

Institute for Policy Studies’ Phyllis Bennis and Paul Jay discuss war without end in Afghanistan.

Translated from an interview in Belgian center right daily De Standaard by Corry Hancké, 21 February 2019:

‘The unnecessary war’

For eighteen years already, foreign troops have been in Afghanistan. They have invaded the country to catch Osama bin Laden and to topple the Taliban government. According to journalist Bette Dam, the Taliban had surrendered in 2001, but the Americans have never done anything with that. And the media are not blameless. ‘Leading American and European media based themselves for seventy to ninety percent on Western [establihment] sources.’ …

Today, her book In Search of the Enemy, the story of a terrorist who wanted to be a friend, appears. It is about Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban on whose head the US Americans had put a bounty of 10 million dollars. Dam has been conducting research for five years. She talked to his close associates, with ministers, with Omar bin Laden, who lived with his father in Afghanistan, and other key figures.

Bette Dam went to the Jamia Uloom-ul-Islamia Binori Town-madrassa in Karachi, where Mullah Omar supposedly had been radicalized. She spoke to the son of the founder of the school. ‘The people who have become famous in the media as students of this school have not studied here. I have never seen Mullah Omar here”, she says in her book, confirming what she had heard from many others.

Almost illiterate Koran teacher

During a conversation in Amsterdam, Dam gives her view of the man who is such a mystery. “Mullah Omar stayed in Afghanistan all the time, he was a simple, almost illiterate Koran teacher in a small school in Deh Rawod, in the southern province of Uruzgan.” In 1994, at the request of Haji Bashar, a local businessman, Mullah Omar became leader of an uprising that wanted to get rid of the tax collectors along the roads that cost the businessmen a lot of money. Omar hated the chaos and the lawlessness in his country. He felt that Pakistan was responsible for this because, in cooperation with the CIA and the new Afghan president Burhaniddin Rabbani, it had supported warlords to conquer the country against the Soviets. Because of their internecine conflicts they then landed the country in a civil war. …

For me, Mullah Omar is a stubborn villager who prefers not to go have to do much with unknown organizations. … He did not have an international jihad agenda‘, says Bette Dam. …

“At first the Americans were not so negative about the Taliban, because they brought order”, says the journalist. “But those [Taliban] courts sometimes decided that someone should be hanged. The image of the battered and hanged former president [pro-Soviet] Mohammad Najibullah was bad news for Mullah Omar. He had wanted Najibulllah to appear in a court of law. He was also against women being beaten. Yet a video appeared on which the religious police beat women. That was disastrous for the image of the Taliban. The criticism was hard on Mullah Omar. In 1994, the Americans had signed a blueprint for an Islamic state. “This is what you wanted, isn’t it?”, said Mullah Omar.”

‘The US American embassy in Pakistan got all its information from secondary sources. They had none among the leaders in Kandahar. Their information was determined by Afghans who had gone to the Pakistani city Quetta and by the people around the warlord Massoud. I find it amazing that they only relied on sources from one group’, Dam notes. …

According to American diplomatic notes that Dam could study, Mullah Omar had met Osama bin Laden every month in Quetta or in the villages on the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. That is not true, the Dutch journalist discovered. She writes, under the authority of bin Laden’s son, that his father met Mullah Omar only a year after his arrival in Afghanistan, when he was summoned and was told that he had to keep a low profile. ‘Mullah Omar had indeed fought in the same fight against the Russians, but he had a different ideology than bin Laden. Mullah Omar had an Afghan agenda. Bin Laden had an Al-Qaeda agenda. …

But that made the situation more difficult for Mullah Omar, because he did not want to expel the Al Qaeda man from the country. If he were to surrender Bin Laden, he would, like those other fighters who had fought against the Soviets in Afghanistan, disappear or be shot in a foreign prison. Dam writes that Mullah Omar intended to have Bin Laden on trial in Afghanistan and that he had unsuccessfully asked the US to give evidence [about Al Qaeda attacks]. “There was no evidence”, a US diplomat said to Dam years later. …

Bette Dam is convinced, based on conversations with some former Taliban ministers, that Mullah Omar was not aware of the 9/11 attacks either. When Mullah Omar again refused to expel Osama bin Laden, the Americans invaded Afghanistan on October 7, 2001. A few weeks later they had Kabul in their hands.

Furious Rumsfeld

Bette Dam describes in her book the last meeting of the Taliban leadership, in which Mullah Omar on December 5, 2001 hears that the Taliban commanders no longer want to fight. He hands over power to Mullah Obaidullah and disappears. Abdul Salam Rockety, a commander who was there, later told Dam: “We were so glad that the war would soon be over. Nobody wanted the Taliban to continue fighting, everyone wanted to focus on the future, on cooperation with future President Hamid Karzai. Maybe with the Americans.”

The next day Mullah Obaidullah drove to Kandahar, where he told Karzai that the Taliban were laying down their arms. After Karzai had told the good news to some international newspapers, he got a phone call from an angry Donald Rumsfeld. The US Secretary of Defense demanded that Karzai revoke his words. “The Taliban and Mullah Omar are as big enemies to the US as Al-Qaeda,” Rumsfeld had said. The Taliban, who had first received clemency, became hunted wildlife.

Mutasim Agha Jan, a close friend of Mullah Omar, and a few Taliban leaders with whom Bette Dam spoke, say that it was not until 2004, possibly even until 2006, that the Taliban started to carry out organized attacks. Let us recall that NATO, including Belgian army troops, has been present in Afghanistan since 2003. All the while, the Western mantra was that we were fighting the rebellious Taliban there.

Oil and weapons industry

‘After 9/11 fear has gripped us, and that has made us stupid. The Taliban and Al Qaeda were generalized about. After the towers had collapsed, we did not take time and think rationally to investigate who was really responsible for this’, says Dam. ‘The great steps taken at a rapid pace and the war strategy that was outlined at that time have never been corrected in the last 18 years.’

Some people claim that the US is going to continue this war for the oil and weapons industry, but the Dutch journalist thinks that the way of decision-making in Washington is decisive. “The team around Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton contains many military experts who constantly think about security issues: am I being attacked, yes or no? After 9/11, the diplomatic route was switched off. Eg, the State Department, responsible for foreign policy, did not know that the Taliban wanted to surrender. It has only been discovered years later. An unnecessary war has therefore been fought. “It’s a crusade“, George Bush said in 2001.”

Bette Dam is not pleased with the way in which the United States got away with this narrative. There were, with a few exceptions, no journalists who had an eye for the other side of the story. ‘Research shows that many American and European leading media have relied on anonymous officials, embedded reporting and seventy to ninety percent on Western [establishment] sources. We are actually talking about that conflict to ourselves.”

Dam believes that the media should take a good look in the mirror. ‘I think we should do a hard reset and evaluate our work. Maybe we should deploy as many people inside the war on terror areas as in Washington or Brussels. You must be able to cross check every story. If you can not invest in such journalists, then you should not write about it either. Then just say: we do not know.”

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