One of the most difficult issues to navigate when discussing recent history with Taliban interviewees (especially those of a political bent) has always been the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. Traditionally any attempt to suggest that Osama bin Laden was involved in the planning and funding of these attacks was met with skepticism as well as a statement along the lines of, “we don’t know, nor have we seen any convincing evidence and it could have been anyone who carried out and planned this attack.”
Now, though, in the first semi-official acknowledgement from a Talib — in this case the former Ambassador to Pakistan, Mawlawi Abdul Salam Zaeef — we have the following statement in an interview:
When asked for his opinion of Osama bin Laden and his relation with Mullah Omar following the events of 11 September, Zaeef said, “Following the September events, the Commander of the Faithful Mullah Omar met with Bin Laden in the presence of a large number of Taliban leaders and Al-Qaeda members, and asked him if they were behind the attacks on the twin towers and the Pentagon.
“Osama denied the allegations but I now believe that Bin Laden planned the attacks without informing the Commander of the Faithful and then lied to him by denying his involvement in the attacks after they took place,” he said.
This is maybe all we’re going to get for the moment, but this admission is a crucial first step in tackling the issue of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Let’s hope it’s part of a larger political development.