(KABUL, Afghanistan) -- For the first time, a senior member of the Taliban government that led Afghanistan until the U.S. invasion has admitted Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11.
In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm, the Taliban’s former ambassador to Pakistan says that after the September 11 attacks, Mullah Omar confronted bin Laden.
“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,” Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador, says in the interview. “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.”
Zaeef’s admission could be his personal reflections, in which case its significance is small. If, however, the admission signifies some kind of public acceptance among senior Taliban leaders that their association with al Qaeda was negative, then his words might be a signal that the Taliban is disassociating itself from al Qaeda – and that would have large implications on reconciliation talks.
It’s not clear which is true.
Zaeef, who was recently taken off the U.N. blacklist, has become a public figure in Kabul; he gives interviews to Western journalists, including ABC News' Miguel Marquez and Nick Schifrin, and he has been courted by aides of Afghan President Hamid Karzai as a possible back channel for reconciliation talks. But it’s not clear that he has any direct channels to the current Taliban leadership.
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