Thursday, January 04, 2007

Taliban's Mullah Omar: Haven't seen Osama

First the story, then I'll give my take on it.

Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar has added to the mystery over Osama bin Laden, saying he hasn't seen his ally and fellow fugitive since U.S.-backed forces ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001.

"No, I have neither seen him, nor have I made any effort to do so, but I pray for his health and safety," Omar said in an e-mailed response to questions sent by Reuters.

This story will probably get some play on the news, but it is pretty much a non-story. After all, both men are very much wanted, and as such would avoid meeting each other. If one or the other were being tracked at all, having both of them in the same place at the same time would present an incredible kill opportunity for their enemies.

Secondly, the Taliban and al Qaeda may have been aligned but it doesn't mean they were tightly aligned. In fact, at some of the pre 9-11 camps in Afghanistan, it could be a tense arrangement. The Taliban would try to help themselves to terrorist camp weapons, and some ideologues in the camps didn't believe the Taliban was fighting the right jihad (see Inside Al Qaeda, A Spy's Story). They were able to scratch one another's backs at one time in Afghanistan, but that just isn't the case right now. There has been very little reason for the two of them to meet or even carry on contacts with each other. So Mullah Omar having not seen Bin Laden for several years really doesn't say much of anything about Bin Laden.

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