‘US army airlifted Karzai to Pakistan after he survived Taliban attack’

* Book reveals how Mullah Omar's death was kept secret * Book also tells tale about verbal dispute between Saudi Arabia's head of intelligence and Mullah Omar

‘US army airlifted Karzai to Pakistan after he survived Taliban attack’


ISLAMABAD: The American military helicopters had airlifted Hamid Karzai to Pakistan in November 2001 after the Taliban attacked on a compound where he stayed.

After the Taliban killed prominent leader Abdul Haq in eastern Nangarhar, who was poised to become Afghan ruler after the US military toppled the Taliban regime, they had launched an attack to kill Karzai in Uruzgan province. Karzai had entered Afghanistan from Quetta when the US started military operations against the Taliban in October 2001.

"Karzai survived and the American helicopters airlifted him along with some fighters and took him to Jacobabad air field in Pakistan on November 4, 2001," i1 has been revealed in the Pashto-language book "Mullah Muhammad Omar, Taliban and Afghanistan". Jacobabad airfield was one of the few air bases military ruler Pervez Musharraf had handed over to the US for operations against the Taliban.

Mutmain has been one of the Taliban's media persons who remained very close to Mullah Omar and as a confidant attended some important confidential meetings. He also remained a witness to the decision making process of the Taliban leaders on major issues. Therefore, his book offers a unique insight into the thinking process of the Taliban, especially on matters of foreign policy and puritanical injunctions.

In the book, the first of its kind, Abdul Hai Mutmain provides new insight into the way Mullah Omar led the Taliban during both its rule in the 1990s and in the period of its re-emergence in the 2000s.

The author says, "Karzai remained with the American military at Jacobabad for two weeks but he would tell the media through satellite phone that he is in Uruzgan."

The US forces again brought Karzai to Harawat district in Uruzgan at a time when the Taliban war machine had been weakened. Taliban fighters were again sent to target Karzai but the US airstrikes killed several fighters and foiled their attempt to reach Karzai, who was later installed as the Afghan interim leader at the Bonn conference.

Embassy attack: Pakistan was angry at the 1995 attack on the embassy that had killed a worker and critically injured several others a day after the Taliban captured Herat as they continued to make advance in the western parts. Burhanuddin Rabbani and his defence minister suspected Pakistan's role in the fall of Herat city into the hands of the Taliban.

Many Panjsheri youths had been killed while defending Ismail Khan, then governor of Herat. Pakistan shut its embassy and severed diplomatic relations with Afghanistan. Pakistan believed the govt had organised anti-Pakistan demonstration. This was a serious setback to then regime of Rabbani and paved the way for contacts between the Taliban and Pakistan. Rabbani govt was upset at the Taliban gains in the south and the western parts.

Rabbani's regime wanted to mount pressure on Pakistan through demonstrations although Pakistan had not extended any support to the Taliban in fighting. However, Pakistan had adopted a soft attitude towards in view of widespread sympathies among Pakistanis for the Taliban.

The burning of embassy disappointed Pakistan and tried to extend hand of friendship to the Taliban who had emerged as a strong force in the south and western parts.

Low-rank Taliban officials met a Pakistani delegation who had arrived in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar to receive Pakistani goods that Taliban had rescued after a trade convoy of Pakistani trucks had been looted by gunmen on Kandahar-Herat highway. Taliban handed over the goods to Pakistan but were very cautious and gave a lukewarm response to Pakistani delegation.

The author claims Taliban officials led by Mullah Abbas, a member of the Taliban leadership council, was not enthusiastic about the Pakistani delegation, said, "Pakistan intends to have good relations with the Taliban."

"Do not create problems among the Afghans," Abbas told the Pakistani delegation in reference to the infighting between Rabbani and Hekmatyar, according to the book.

Taliban leaders realized that their "cool ties" with Pakistan will benefit their opponents. The Taliban also changed mind in view of the support they would receive from the refugees in Pakistan and the arrival of youth to fight alongside with the Taliban against the Rabbani forces. Taliban would also transfer their injured fighters for treatment to Pakistan.

Pakistani rulers also used some religious and political parties to strengthen relations with the Taliban. Pakistan enhanced relations with the Taliban as they expanded their control. Pakistan also strengthened its symbolic consulate in the Taliban-controlled Kandahar and opened consulate in Herat that formalised its relations with the Taliban.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had launched criticism at the Taliban when the US slapped sanctions on the Taliban in July 1999. Nawaz Sharif sought handover of some Pakistani militants who were wanted to Pakistan. Shahbaz Sharif had threatened to close border with Afghanistan. But the Musharraf coup was a sigh of relief for the Taliban regime.

The book discloses Mullah Omar was taken to Quetta after he was injured while fighting against the Soviets. He returned to Kandahar after getting an eye treatment. This was the only visit he had made to Pakistan in his life. Mullah Omar had been injured 4 times while fighting the Soviets.

Foreign relations: Mullah Omar had issued special instructions to the Foreign Ministry during the Taliban 1996-2001 govt to focus on relations with China as China was a good choice with compare to the US and Russia. Chinese were also allowed by the Taliban officials to explore investment opportunities in Afghanistan, the book says.

Omar believed the Chinese never had imperialistic approach towards Afghans. The author disclosed that the Taliban had allowed the Chinese security officials and engineers to examine an unexploded missile that Americans had fired on Afghanistan in August 1998.

The writer has made it explicit in the introduction that he has no formal job at the Taliban currently, and that by writing the book he wanted to write the history - neutrally - of a crucial period of Afghanistan based on his access to sources and his firsthand experience. The author was not only a spokesman for Mullah Omar, but also continued his job as a spokesman or media advisor serving alongside acting Taliban leaders, who led the insurgency throughout one decade of the movement's resurgence.

The 400-page book, according to its publisher, has become one of the best-sellers in the first month of its publication, among Afghans in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Some of the key events about which Mutmain provides fresh insight are as below:

* How Mullah Omar's death was kept secret and how he died?

* Taliban's relations with Pakistan, China and Iran: start and development.

* The circumstances around an Indian plane hijacked to Kandahar in 2000, and the Russian plane hijacked to Kandahar, and then flown by its pilots from detention.

* The verbal dispute between Saudi Arabia's head of intelligence Turki Al Faisal and Mullah Omar. The writer was a witness to that meeting in 1998.