Joe 6 Pack's Elegant Coincidence Theory Blog

Commentary: criticism of how 9-11 happened; criticism of how the Bush administration responded to 9-11; and criticism of how the Bush administration is still avoiding efforts to provide the public with the whole truth about September 11, 2001.

Thursday, December 26, 2002


Resplendent in his turban, flowing white robe and neatly combed gray beard, Sultan Amir is indistinguishable from a back-country tribal elder. In Afghanistan, where he practices his profession, it’s an everyday outfit, the local equivalent of a suit and tie. Within his own specialized field Amir is a legend: a veteran Pakistani intelligence officer, schooled in the arts of weaponry, organization, infiltration and indoctrination by Green Beret experts at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His admirers call him Imam – "spiritual leader". He earned the nickname 15 years ago at a desert outpost on the border, where he trained young mujahedin guerillas to resist the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. This was before the really big CIA money began pouring in. His pupils treated him with an almost religious veneration – and they made him proud. Some of his fighters eventually became the nucleus of the Taliban, the armed faction that emerged from obscurity three years ago and now controls most of Afghanistan. "Every Taliban leader personally knows Imam," says Irfan Sidiqqi, a Pakistani writer who knows Amir well. You can say he is their ‘technical adviser’."

The history of the Taliban’s rise has been largely a matter of public conjecture and rumor. Now a detailed Newsweek investigation has traced the group’s mysterious origins and hidden sources of support. Our reporting exposed the truth behind previously unconfirmed suspicions that the Taliban – an Afghan military force unprecedented in its tactics, stamina, sophistication and effectiveness – was built by foreign planning, money and arms. The story involves a strategic alliance between a one-eyed religious zealot and one of the world’s most hunted accused terrorists. The tangle also includes a duel between rival builders of a prospective pipeline from Central Asia’s landlocked oil wealth to the sea. Although no direct ties were found between the Taliban and U.S. spy services , the group has enjoyed the full backing of Washington’s two main friends in the region, Islamabad and Riyadh. But it has evolved into a force that answers to no one outside a small, secretive clique of theocratic Afghans, led by a reclusive mullah named Mohammad Omar.

So far Washington has withheld recognition of the Taliban government. Despite official contacts, including by the then assistant Secretary of State Robin Rafel and others, business executives have served as the main conduit between Washington and Kabul. The U.S. firm Unocal is determined to build a $4.5 billion set of pipelines to carry oil and natural gas from Turkmenistan into Pakistan via Afghanistan; last week it announced plans to begin training Afghans for the construction job. The Argentine company Bridas is racing for control of the project. Both corporations have hired Saudi firms to help them deal with the Afghans - and both have hired former U.S. diplomats to work as "consultants" in Kabul and Washington. As things stand, U.S. policy in Afghanistan is likely to be shaped significantly by the dictates of pipeline politics. - Newsweek, October 13, 1997; Helping Hand: Where did the Taliban come from? How did they finance the drive to impose an Islamic state? A special Newsweek investigation. By Steve LeVine


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